Thursday, March 12
16 Adar 5780
 
Dear Tikvat Israel Family,
 
As a Jewish community, we believe that  pikuach nefesh  (saving a life) or even  safek pikuach nefesh  (the possibility of saving a life) takes priority over any other mitzvah. We also believe in the power of  kehillah  (community), especially when facing difficult times. Our challenge today is that these two important values may be in conflict when it comes to novel coronavirus, which is why we are told that  pikuah nefesh  takes precedent.. We will continue to do everything we can to maintain our sense of  kehillah , but if there is even  safek pikuach nefesh  by gathering together, we will need to find ways to support one another communally even if we can’t do so in person.
 
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and there are now multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montgomery County. In determining  safek pikuach nefesh , we are taught to turn to the experts and follow their advice. Therefore, we actively seek the advice of the Centers for Disease Control, along with the state and county health departments, and make our plans accordingly.
 
In keeping with the recommendations of the CDC and for the safety of everyone at the Tikvat Israel, we have made and and are in the process of implementing and reinforcing the following steps to provide the safest possible environment and to help prevent transmission: 
  • We have posted handwashing guidelines in all restrooms throughout the building. 
  • We have purchased several motion-activated hand sanitizer dispensers that will be permanently installed at key locations in the building on March 20. Rabbi Israel has given permission for these battery-power devices to be used on Shabbat. In the meantime we will make every effort to supplement our supply of public hand sanitizer bottles and wipes.
  • We will continue to perform frequent disinfection of surfaces in our Early Childhood Center and around the building, including door knobs/plates/push bars and light switches, as well as the handles to the aron (ark) and the reader’s table in the Sanctuary and Chapel.
  • We will be requiring more frequent handwashing of all staff and children in the Early Childhood Center (we do not use hand sanitizer with preschool students).
  • Our daily minyan will meet in the Sanctuary to allow for ample space between attendees.
  • We are evaluating each event and program to determine if it should be held, postponed or cancelled. 
  • We will continue to take strong sanitary measures in the kitchen when preparing food. 
 
This Shabbat, and moving forward, we will have people wearing gloves who will serve all food to prevent communal contact with food. We need volunteers to help make this possible. Sign up at  tikvatisrael.org/kitchenvolunteers  or contact our Food Service Manager Liora Dahan at  liora@tikvatisrael.org . We will also be making other logistical adjustments to make our food service as safe as possible as well as enjoyable.
 
In addition, we are asking that all members, guests, and staff, including our tenants and other organizations that meet in our synagogue:
  • Do not come to Tikvat Israel if you are sick with fever and/or respiratory symptoms or have a family member at home who is experiencing fever and/or respiratory symptoms. 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then drop the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your, and your child’s, hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Use paper towels to dry your hands and make sure that the wet towels are dropped into the trash can.
  • Avoid touching your face even if your hands are clean.
  • Do not share cellphones, tablets, computers, mice and other electronic devices with buttons. Bring your own pen to meetings and for sign-ins.
  • If you have fever, cough or shortness of breath, or have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, seek medical treatment.
 
Effective immediately, we will also be requiring that all contractors, delivery people (USPS, UPS, challah delivery, etc.), salespeople and others who enter our building throughout the day and evening follow these guidelines. Outside groups that use our facility in the evening will be required to wipe down tables and chairs with disinfectants before leaving. 
 
The uncertain nature of this event can make us feel afraid and powerless. These are difficult feelings that many of us have experienced over the past few weeks. But we are not powerless. Megillat Esther teaches that even in the face of uncertainty and vulnerability, each person still has agency. You can take action on behalf of yourself and your community today and every day. 
 
Prepare your home and stay informed with reputable information sources, but also take measures to reduce your anxiety and that of your family. Be kind and patient with one another and check in on each other, especially with friends who may be home-bound. 
 
Events like this remind us that we are truly all in this together.

Rabbi Marc Israel
Cantor Rochelle Helzner
Sam Freedenberg
Sheri Brown
Warren Berger
Jim Perlmutter
Tikvat Israel …
A Friendly, Participatory, and Egalitarian Conservative Synagogue where everyone has something to teach,
and everyone has something to learn.