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March 12, 2020 1:38 pm
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Rabbinical Council of Bergen County, New Jersey, Closes Synagogues Due to Coronavirus

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A TSA officer wears a mask and gloves, amid the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, March 11, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Brian Snyder.

The Rabbinical Council of Bergen County, New Jersey, is closing all synagogues, forbidding public celebrations, and recommending against home minyans, shiva visits and large gatherings for Shabbat meals.

The Council said in an open letter to the Jewish community that it had met with local government representatives and medical experts and the “message from the health care providers was clear. They need our help to slow the spread of the disease before their resources are overwhelmed.”

“We have therefore made the very difficult decision to adopt the following policies of social distancing in our community. … We collectively agree to abide by the decisions reached by our lay, educational, and rabbinic leadership on the basis of expert medical advice,” the Council stated.

The letter contains 10 recommendations, including that all community members should work from home and due to school closures “there should not be playdates between children of different families.”

Most importantly, the Council said, “Shuls will be closed for all minyanim and shiurim effective Friday morning, March 13. There should be no house minyanim. All of the rabbis will be davening alone in their homes. Please daven at home, individually.”

It also recommended “no public celebrations for smachot. People should not have gatherings for Shabbat meals. Shiva visits should be replaced by phone/video calls. Levayot should be restricted to a small group of family members and a minyan.”

Mikvahs will remain open, but those under quarantine or showing “symptoms of illness” are forbidden to use them.

On a secular level, the Council recommended that contact sports and restaurants be avoided.

“Please take these days as a critical opportunity to intensify our tefilot to the Rofeh Ne’eman that all those ill will be healed and that our community will be shielded from any further harm,” said the Council.

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