Local Jewish institutions scramble to contain exposure to Coronavirus
State & Local

Local Jewish institutions scramble to contain exposure to Coronavirus

Nineteen students from the upper school of Golda Och Academy in West Orange are in self-quarantine through Sunday, March 8.
Nineteen students from the upper school of Golda Och Academy in West Orange are in self-quarantine through Sunday, March 8.

Yeshiva University (YU), which closed its Washington Heights campus and its affiliated boys high school yesterday because a student there had been diagnosed with Coronavirus, announced today that two students had tested negative for the disease.

“Some good news. Two tests of students who were considered at risk due to proximity [to the infected classmate], including roommate, came back negative,” Rabbi Ari Berman, YU president, stated in a Twitter message.

The student who had tested positive for Coronaviruswas part of a New Rochelle, N.Y., family, several members of which are in quarantine because they too tested positive.

In Elizabeth an Orthodox leader announced that a member of the faculty of the Jewish Educational Center (JEC) attended the Feb. 23 funeral that members of the Westchester family also attended. The faculty member will not return to school until after a quarantine period, Rabbi Pinchas Shapiro, executive vice president of the JEC, wrote in an email.

In addition, Shapiro wrote, a number of members of the Elizabeth Orthodox community attended a bat mitzvah on Feb. 23 where members of the Westchester family were also in attendance. “None of these individuals have presented with symptoms and none have exhibited any signs of illness,” wrote Shapiro, adding “they are considered low-risk. There is no reason at this time to assume that there has been any exposure or risk as a result of contact with these individuals.”

Nineteen students from Golda Och Academy in West Orange attended the Jewish Canadian Youth Model UN in Montreal March 1-3, which included a delegation from the Salantar Akiba Riverdale Academy in Riverdale (SAR), the school that the 14-year old daughter of the New Rochelle family attends. The Golda Och students are in self-quarantine and will not be allowed to return to school until March 9th, pending test results of potentially exposed students.

In an email sent to members March 5, JCC MetroWest said it’s “requiring” staff, members, and visitors who have traveled to a country listed by the CDC with a Level 2 or 3 advisory to “self-quarantine for 14 days even if you are asymptomatic.” So far, those countries include China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, and Japan. The restriction applies to the traveler’s family members as well, according to the email.

Anyone who has been in physical contact with travelers to those countries are asked not to enter JCC MetroWest. “Our one and only goal is to keep our JCC MetroWest community as safe and healthy as possible,” wrote CEO Stuart E. Raynor.

In addition, Rutgers Hillel and Rutgers Chabad sent a joint letter urging Rutgers University students not to host students from Yeshiva University over Shabbat for the weekends of March 7 and 14.

The Anti-Defamation League, which warned last month about the spread of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories related to the virus, repeated the alert this week after the father of the Jewish family in New Rochelle was hospitalized with the disease and various Jewish institutions closed down as a result.

“We’re seeing stuff online,” Evan Bernstein, vice president of the ADL’s Northeast Division, told LoHud.com. “We’re getting more and more reports of those comments. People want to put the blame on minority groups.”

A 32-year-old resident of Fort Lee became the first New Jersey resident to test positive for the Coronavirus. State officials hadn’t determined whether the New Jersey man’s illness was linked to any of the cases in New York. And this afternoon, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver announced a “second presumptive case,” a 30-year-old male who is in stable condition at Englewood Health Hospital. State officials said that the individual is not believed to have had any direct or indirect connections to the family in New Rochelle.

Meanwhile, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said some attending its policy conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this week were “potentially in contact prior to the conference with an individual who contracted coronavirus.”

“The group has been added to the self-quarantine list,” AIPAC said in a notice sent to the 19,000 people who attended the conference at the Washington Convention Center. “We have been told by the DC Health Department there is no reason to sound the alarm … To our knowledge, no one who attended the conference has tested positive for coronavirus at this time.”

At least three Passover travel programs — two in Italy and one in Thailand — have been cancelled because of concern over the virus, JTA reported. Others are keeping a wary eye on the situation.

Nefesh B’Nefesh, which promotes immigration to Israel, canceled a March 15 aliyah fair in Teaneck, citing general concerns, and Jewish Insider reported that a Jewish school in Baltimore sent home three students who may have had “indirect contact” with a member of the Westchester family.

At last count, 159 people in the country are known to have contracted the virus that has killed over 3,200 worldwide.

The following is a partial list of the various steps several local synagogues, schools, and other Jewish institutions are taking to limit the spread of Coronavirus:


B’nai Shalom, West Orange:

  • Exchange elbow bumps, smiles, and winks instead of shaking hands or giving high fives or hugging the rabbi
  • Hand sanitizer will be available at the entry to the sanctuary

Temple Shalom, Aberdeen:

  • Refrain kissing, hugging, and shaking hands during meetings
  • Challah will be pre-sliced and distributed with food gloves
  • Only give air kisses to the Torah
  • Do not kiss prayer books
  • The congregation is suspending its practice of holding hands at the end of Shabbat services
  • Hand sanitizer will be available outside the sanctuary, social hall, and classrooms
  • There will be increased cleaning of the congregation

Marlboro Jewish Center, Marlboro:

  • No kissing, shaking hands, or giving fist bumps
  • No communal bowls for chips and similar snack foods
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed near food tables for onegs and kiddushes
  • Ensuring a plethora of serving utensils are available to prevent people from touching multiple utensils

Maayan, West Orange:

  • No kissing the Torah or mezzuzot
  • No handshaking
  • Congregation is considering livestreaming the reading of the Megillah on Purim for people in quarantine

Ahawas Achim Bnai Jacob & David, West Orange:

  • All vendors and guests will be asked to confirm they are asymptomatic and have no recent travel history to COVID-19 transmission countries
  • Hand sanitizer and soap will be available throughout the synagogue
  • Sanitizing wipes will be placed in each classroom to clean desks and other surfaces
  • No kissing of the Torah, mezzuzot, or prayer books
  • Purim carnival has been canceled

Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael, Springfield:

  • There will not be face painting or bounce houses at the Purim carnival
  • Congregants are being urged to contact elected officials to pass the emergency spending bill for COVID-19

Congregation Ohr Shalom (Summit JCC), Summit:

  • There will not be face painting at Sunday’s Purim carnival
  • Additional hygienic measures will be taken for cutting challah, such as using pre-sliced loaves to be distributed with food gloves
  • Additional protocols for food handling
  • Additional hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building
  • Congregants are asked to share their travel information if they plan to visit high-risk countries
  • No handshaking, kissing, or hugging
  • There will be increased cleaning of the congregation


West Orange Mikvah:

  • Wash hands before entering the building
  • Individuals feeling ill should consider delaying immersion


Jewish Educational Center, Elizabeth:

  • Additional hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building
  • Cutlery dispensers that distribute forks, spoons, and knives one at a time will be installed to prevent students from touching additional cutlery
  • Staff will consistently clean door knobs, light switches, etc. with disinfectant wipes
  • A standing committee of physicians has been activated to review procedures and make additional recommendations
  • Administrators are considering contingency plans in case the school must be closed at some point
  • All class trips and outings will be reviewed
  • Basketball playoff against SAR will be postponed
  • The junior varsity volleyball championship game against Frisch that was to take place at SAR has been moved to the Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck.
  • This week’s Shakespeare competition that was to be held at SAR has been rescheduled for April

Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, Livingston:

  • A medical advisory committee is monitoring the situation
  • An ad hoc education and leadership committee was formed to explore alternate methods for classroom instruction in the event of school closure
  • Will be a deep cleaning of the building with antiviral soap
  • Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building
  • Sanitizing wipes will be placed in every classroom to clean surfaces
  • Staff will review hygiene with children (while being careful to refrain from make younger students anxious)
  • Athletic competitions will continue with schools that have not been closed in connection with Coronavirus. Athletes and fans are asked to wash hands with soap and water or sanitizer before entering the building

Nursing Homes/Housing:

Daughters of Israel, West Orange:

  • Purim festivities open to the public are canceled
  • Visitors who are sick or suffering from respiratory or other illness are asked not to enter the facility
  • Residents suspected of contracting coronavirus (there were not any as of press time) will be isolated and tested
  • Procedures will be reevaluated daily

Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey:

  • Two Israeli delegations — Diller Teen Fellows and HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir — scheduled to visit in March will be postponed

jginsberg@njjewishnews.com, jweisberger@njjewishnews.com

Steve Lipman is a staff writer for The New York Jewish Week, NJJN’s sister publication.

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