Coronavirus Update #44: Simchas Beis Hashoeva, Crown Heights Under Scrutiny

Coronavirus update for the Crown Heights community, from the Gedaliah Society and Dr. Eli Rosen concerning Simchas Beis Hasho’eva, and our schools are at risk of being ordered closed.

Gut moed. Currently, nine of our neighboring zip codes are scheduled to have their schools and non-essential businesses closed, pending approval from the governor; many other zip codes, including 11213, are being watched closely. 

Regardless of one’s political beliefs or leaning, it’s clear that with respect to Covid, we as a community have two primary goals: 1) Avoid serious illness, and 2) Keep our schools open

There is still a risk of serious illness from COVID. In addition, it has become increasingly clear that our schools may close if we’re not more careful.

Our greatest chance of avoiding serious illness and keeping our schools open depends on our ability to unite as a community and take COVID precautions seriously. This is all the harder now, during Sukkos and approaching Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, typically a time of widespread communal rejoicing. Nevertheless, preservation of life and the chinuch of our children are considerations which ought to supersede all others. 

As we address the above, we must make the painful medical recommendation that the crowded dancing of Simchas Beis Hasho’eva, with people from other neighborhoods and those of all ages and conditions, not take place this year in the usual manner, due to the risk of spreading the virus. Similarly, the crowded indoor nature of Hakofos risks spreading the virus; other ways of conducting Hakofos, such as outdoors and with precautions, are recommended. In addition, given the fact that many of our neighboring communities have outbreaks, bochurim going on Tahalucha to the neighboring communities involves the risk of spreading the virus between our communities and should be avoided as well.  

The preceding paragraph contains our medical recommendations, and we await psak from the Rabbonim and input from the Mashpiim on these issues.

We feel it is important to openly address a question that has crept up: Why should those with symptoms get tested at all, if doing so could increase the “positivity rate” and put our schools in jeopardy? 

This is a dangerous gamble. Without positive proof of the virus, many of those with only mild symptoms may not isolate for the required time, and their close contacts (without positive proof of exposure) will not appropriately quarantine.  Practically, this approach carries the risk of COVID running unchecked in our community and spreading in high risk circles G-d forbid. In a halachic system that places supreme value on human life, not testing in an open society (where there is daily interaction between those who are vulnerable and others) is a high risk strategy that we cannot follow. Those that are sick must get tested, and as a community we should follow the isolation and quarantine guidelines laid out in update #42.

The 2 following oft mentioned behaviors cannot be stressed enough.


IYH we will get through these next few weeks together as a community, and accomplish our goals of avoiding serious illness and keeping our schools open.  

  • The Gedaliah Society, in conjunction with Dr. Rosen

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