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TA Announces Comprehensive Yom Tov Guidelines for Its Families and Distance Learning For One Week After Succos 

updated: 09/24/2020 3:57 PM

The following emails were sent to TA staff & parents this morning:

September 23, 2020

Dear Rebbeim, Faculty and Staff, 

We want to begin by wishing all of our families a Gmar Chasima Tova, and our wishes for a year of hatzlacha and bracha. As the Yom Tov season of Tishrei is upon us, we find it necessary to share the following with our entire TA family.   

As you know, we have had cases of COVID in TA. It is important that you know that despite the administration and staff’s best efforts and considerable time spent to develop safe plans for the reopening of our Yeshiva, some of the COVID spread that we have experienced happened within the walls of TA. We have analyzed and identified exactly what took place and have taken immediate steps to adjust some of our policies, protocols, and schedule, to try and prevent a future outbreak. We have also been working with the Baltimore County Department of Health to ensure that we are following every recommended protocol to the best of our ability. 

However, this effort does not fall upon the Yeshiva alone. We are in a partnership with you to keep our homes, schools and community safe. As you may be aware, cases of COVID-19 within our community are largely being spread by simchas, gatherings, and other “super-spreader” type events. The best protocol in the world will only go so far if students and their families are not taking the steps they need to as well to keep all of TA safe and open.  

The Baltimore County Health Department has specific guidelines about when closures must take place and are in touch with us daily.  In order to keep TA open, we must prevent COVID-19 from entering the Yeshiva in the first place.  We know that you want to keep the Yeshiva open as much as we do. We know the zoom classes are not ideal and that our talmidim must be able to remain in the classroom. But if we collectively do not adhere to proper COVID protocols, both in and out of Yeshiva, it will be extremely difficult to keep our talmidim fully in school for any length of time.   

The Tishrei Yom Tov season presents many challenges in this regard. Yom Tov is a time of togetherness and a time when family and friends often join in meals and festivities, chol hamoed trips and simchas Beis Hashoevas, and travel is common. And that is the way Yom Tov should be celebrated!  However, many of these Yom Tov elements can be associated with an increased risk of virus transmission. With our entire TA family celebrating Yom Tov, with the higher potential for COVID spread, how do we ensure that TA can reopen after Yom Tov safely, without reintroducing COVID into the Yeshiva, causing a widespread shutdown of various classes and divisions? 

After much thought and discussion, we have decided on the following two-pronged approach to balance the proper celebration of yom tov while doing our greatest hishtadlus in reopening safely after Yom Tov: 

1. Beginning on Tuesday, October 13th for Lower and Middle School, and Wednesday, October 14th for Mesivta, distance learning will take place for all applicable classes (K-12).   All students will not return to campus until Monday, October 19th. This small delay in returning to campus will give some time for families to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 after Yom Tov, and for us to get a feel as to the extent of the spread within the community. While we realize that delaying a return to learning on campus is not ideal, we feel that it is the best option for keeping Yeshiva open as much as possible. 

2. We all desperately need Yom Tov, and must celebrate it in a way that is as close to normal as possible.  Proper simchas Yom Tov and time spent with family are critical components of how we bring the Kedusha of Yom Tov into our lives.  At the same time, it is important that we do so properly and responsibly, so that our celebration of Yom Tov does not come at the expense of school opening and the limud Hatorah that comes along with that.  It is with that in mind that we ask our faculty, staff, and students to abide by the following Yom Tov safety policies:

•             Hosting guests from out of town should be done only after very careful consideration, especially if the guests are coming from a higher risk area. If one chooses to host guests, please do so ONLY after inquiring as to their health and wellness, and possible exposure to COVID -19.

•             Any guests who are not feeling well or who have had possible close contact to someone with COVID-19 should not be hosted.

•             These same policies apply to guests for a Yom Tov meal.

•             Travel should be minimized whenever possible and done only after understanding the risks involved in travelling to the particular community that you are visiting. Per Yeshiva guidelines, if a faculty member or student travels to a location where State of Maryland mandates quarantine upon return, the quarantine period will be required.

•             Many gatherings have been shown to provide opportunities for “super-spreader” situations, and are considered very high-risk activities. A gathering under TA’s policy is defined as the mixing of 20 or more people not from the same family, and not socially distanced, whether indoors or outdoors. The policy for attending a gathering is as follows: 

•             Attendance at gatherings should be limited to only those in which all participants are masked. 

•             No one should attend any gathering while unmasked for any amount of time. 

•             No one should engage in any dancing that is not social distanced or have any other close physical contact with a non-family member, even while masked. 

•             No one should attend a non-masked gathering even while masked, for 15 minutes or more. Attending such a gathering for less than 15 minutes is acceptable.   

While these policies will no doubt affect the ways in which we physically celebrate Yom Tov this year, which events we attend, and how we conduct ourselves on Simchas Torah, we urge all of you to fully embrace the simcha, honor, and enjoyment of Yom Tov in a way that is proper and befitting for it.  

At the end of Yom Tov, each family will be sent a survey to determine that all members of your family are healthy and symptom free, and to affirm that these Yom Tov safety policies were kept in good faith.  Depending on the results, and if there is increased incidence of the virus, additional delay in returning to Yeshiva may be warranted.   

It is our fervent tefillah that the circumstances which we find ourselves in come to an abrupt end, and that we can return to the days where Yom Tov can be spent together with all of our friends and family, with great simcha and fanfare, dancing and singing, and achdus for all of Klal Yisrael.   

Letter to parents:

 Dear Parents, 

We want to begin by wishing all of our families a Gmar Chasima Tova, and our wishes for a year of hatzlacha and bracha. As the Yom Tov season of Tishrei is upon us, we find it necessary to share the following with our entire TA family.   

As you know, we have had cases of COVID in TA. It is important that you know that despite the administration and staff’s best efforts and considerable time spent to develop safe plans for the reopening of our Yeshiva, some of the COVID spread that we have experienced happened within the walls of TA. We have analyzed and identified exactly what took place and have taken immediate steps to adjust some of our policies, protocols, and schedule, to try and prevent a future outbreak. We have also been working with the Baltimore County Department of Health to ensure that we are following every recommended protocol to the best of our ability. 

However, this effort does not fall upon the Yeshiva alone. We are in a partnership with you to keep our homes, schools and community safe. As you may be aware, cases of COVID-19 within our community are largely being spread by simchas, gatherings, and other “super-spreader” type events. The best protocol in the world will only go so far if students and their families are not taking the steps they need to as well to keep all of TA safe and open.  

The Baltimore County Health Department has specific guidelines about when closures must take place and are in touch with us daily.  In order to keep TA open, we must prevent COVID-19 from entering the Yeshiva in the first place.  We know that you want to keep the Yeshiva open as much as we do. We know the zoom classes are not ideal and that our talmidim must be able to remain in the classroom. But if we collectively do not adhere to proper COVID protocols, both in and out of Yeshiva, it will be extremely difficult to keep our talmidim fully in school for any length of time.   

The Tishrei Yom Tov season presents many challenges in this regard. Yom Tov is a time of togetherness and a time when family and friends often join in meals and festivities, chol hamoed trips and simchas Beis Hashoevas, and travel is common. And that is the way Yom Tov should be celebrated!  However, many of these Yom Tov elements can be associated with an increased risk of virus transmission. With our entire TA family celebrating Yom Tov, with the higher potential for COVID spread, how do we ensure that TA can reopen after Yom Tov safely, without reintroducing COVID into the Yeshiva, causing a widespread shutdown of various classes and divisions? 

After much thought and discussion, we have decided on the following two-pronged approach to balance the proper celebration of yom tov while doing our greatest hishtadlus in reopening safely after Yom Tov: 

1. Beginning on Tuesday, October 13th for Lower and Middle School, and Wednesday, October 14th for Mesivta, distance learning will take place for all applicable classes (K-12).   All students will not return to campus until Monday, October 19th. This small delay in returning to campus will give some time for families to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 after Yom Tov, and for us to get a feel as to the extent of the spread within the community. While we realize that delaying a return to learning on campus is not ideal, we feel that it is the best option for keeping Yeshiva open as much as possible. 

2. We all desperately need Yom Tov, and must celebrate it in a way that is as close to normal as possible.  Proper simchas Yom Tov and time spent with family are critical components of how we bring the Kedusha of Yom Tov into our lives.  At the same time, it is important that we do so properly and responsibly, so that our celebration of Yom Tov does not come at the expense of school opening and the limud Hatorah that comes along with that.  It is with that in mind that we ask our faculty, staff, and students to abide by the following Yom Tov safety policies:

•           Hosting guests from out of town should be done only after very careful consideration, especially if the guests are coming from a higher risk area. If one chooses to host guests, please do so ONLY after inquiring as to their health and wellness, and possible exposure to COVID -19.

•           Any guests who are not feeling well or who have had possible close contact to someone with COVID-19 should not be hosted.

•           These same policies apply to guests for a Yom Tov meal.

•           Travel should be minimized whenever possible and done only after understanding the risks involved in travelling to the particular community that you are visiting. Per Yeshiva guidelines, if a faculty member or student travels to a location where State of Maryland mandates quarantine upon return, the quarantine period will be required.

•           Many gatherings have been shown to provide opportunities for “super-spreader” situations, and are considered very high-risk activities. A gathering under TA’s policy is defined as the mixing of 20 or more people not from the same family, and not socially distanced, whether indoors or outdoors. The policy for attending a gathering is as follows: 

•           Attendance at gatherings should be limited to only those in which all participants are masked. 

•           No one should attend any gathering while unmasked for any amount of time. 

•           No one should engage in any dancing that is not social distanced or have any other close physical contact with a non-family member, even while masked.  

•           No one should attend a non-masked gathering even while masked, for 15 minutes or more. Attending such a gathering for less than 15 minutes is acceptable.   

While these policies will no doubt affect the ways in which we physically celebrate Yom Tov this year, which events we attend, and how we conduct ourselves on Simchas Torah, we urge all of you to fully embrace the simcha, honor, and enjoyment of Yom Tov in a way that is proper and befitting for it.  

At the end of Yom Tov, each family will be sent a survey to determine that all members of your family are healthy and symptom free, and to affirm that these Yom Tov safety policies were kept in good faith.  Depending on the results, and if there is increased incidence of the virus, additional delay in returning to Yeshiva may be warranted.   

It is our fervent tefillah that the circumstances which we find ourselves in come to an abrupt end, and that we can return to the days where Yom Tov can be spent together with all of our friends and family, with great simcha and fanfare, dancing and singing, and achdus for all of Klal Yisrael.   

Wishing all of you a Gmar Chasima Tova and a Good Yom Tov, 

Peretz Wertenteil
Chairman of the Board

Shlomo Spetner
Chairman, Vaad Hachinuch

Rabbi Yehuda Lefkovitz
President

Rabbi Yaacov Cohen
Executive Director

Rabbi Nachman Kahana
Menahel, Lower School

Rabbi Yaakov Schwartz
Menahel, Middle School

Rabbi Gedaliah Oppen
Menahel, Mesivta

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Questions? Contact via email at medical@jcovid.com