COVID-RELATED INFORMATION

CURRENT COVID POLICIES (last updated March 25, 2022):

 

After receiving guidance from Harvard, input from members of our community, and within Cambridge's COVID guidelines, masks are now optional at the Orthodox Minyan at Harvard Hillel.  

Vaccination continues to be required for everyone who is eligible, attendance is still at your own risk, and those who test positive for COVID are still required to follow CDC guidance. Advance signups are not required to attend services.

 

We are still encouraging mask wearing. Additionally, the last four rows on both the men's and women's sides of the mechitza will be masked sections for those who prefer to sit there.  If you see someone unmasked in those rows, please assume good intentions and gently inform them they are in a masks only section. 

 

We will continue to have kiddush outdoors when the weather allows. 

Please contact us with any questions.

ANNOUNCEMENT AND POLICY ARCHIVE:

MARCH 7, 2022

We are grateful to have gotten through the Delta and Omicron waves of COVID while safely meeting for services together as a community. As you may have heard, both the City of Cambridge and Harvard University will be lifting their indoor mask requirements early next week (3/14). The administration of Harvard Hillel is in the process of deciding if masking will continue to be required to some degree in the Hillel building, and we will communicate that decision when it is available. In the meantime, we wanted to inform the Orthodox Minyan community that we will continue requiring masks at least through Purim, to ensure that as many members of our community as possible are comfortable attending Megillah readings in-person. We will also continue requiring advance signups at least through Purim, and our vaccination requirement (including a booster if eligible) will remain in effect for now. Attendance is still entirely at your own risk, and those who test positive are still required to follow the guidelines listed below.

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022

With the rise of the Omicron variant and changing governmental and Harvard guidance, we have again updated our COVID policies. As before, adherence to our policies is required at all times for attendees at Orthodox Minyan services and events. Notable updates from our last set of policies are italicized. If you have any questions about these policies, please contact us.

  • Attendance at services and in-person events is entirely at your own risk.

  • Masks are required at all times in the building for all attendees over the age of 2 (other than Harvard students in certain locations in accordance with Hillel policy). We encourage the use of high-quality disposable masks, worn in a way that minimizes air gaps around the edges. A surgical-style mask or a cup-style protective mask such as KN-95, layered under a form-fitting fabric mask, can ensure good filtration as well as an effective seal. ASTM- or FDA-accepted masks offer greater assurance of filtration quality. Kiddush, Seudah Shlishit, and other events that involve food will be held outdoors for the foreseeable future, and masks should be worn when not actively eating/drinking.

  • All those eligible to be vaccinated (5 years and older) must be fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved or authorized vaccine in order to attend services or in-person events. Those who are eligible to receive a booster dose according to CDC guidelines must have done so in order to be considered fully vaccinated. There are no exceptions to this rule.

  • Advance signups are required for all attendees at services and in-person events.

  • Social distancing is not required indoors. We will do our best to ensure that there is sufficient space available for those who want to socially distance. At Kiddush, Seudah Shlishit, and other events that involve food, attendees should maintain at least 3 feet of distance between households while unmasked.

  • Those who (1) have tested positive for COVID-19, (2) have been instructed by a healthcare provider or required by a governmental authority to quarantine, and/or (3) have any COVID symptoms not clearly attributable to other causes may not attend services or other in-person events. Infected individuals who have no symptoms or whose symptoms are resolving with no fever may end strict isolation after 5 days but must wear a mask at all times (including at kiddush) until after 10 days. If possible, they should test negative on an antigen (rapid) test after day 5 before coming to services/events. Those who have not yet received a booster dose (practically, children and others not yet eligible) must quarantine for 5 days following a known exposure to COVID.

  • Anybody who tests positive for COVID within 5 days of attending an in-person service or event must inform us for contact tracing purposes (email danipassow@gmail.com).

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER 2021

We are excited to again be able to welcome both locals and visitors to in-person services and events. Adherence to our policies is required at all times. If you have any questions about these policies, please contact us.

  • Attendance at services and in-person events is entirely at your own risk.

  • Masks are required at all times in the building for all attendees over the age of 2 (other than Harvard students in certain locations in accordance with Hillel policy). Kiddush, Seudah Shlishit, and other events that involve food will be held outdoors for the foreseeable future.

  • All those eligible to be vaccinated (now 5 years and older) must be fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved or authorized vaccine in order to attend services or in-person events. As of 12/31, those who are eligible to receive a booster dose according to CDC guidelines must have done so in order to be considered fully vaccinated. There are no exceptions to this rule.

  • Advance signups are required for all attendees at services and in-person events (for Shabbat signup information, please join our mailing list or contact us). For weekday services, please sign up at tiny.cc/minyan.

  • Social distancing is not required either indoors or outdoors. We will do our best to ensure that there is sufficient space available for those who want to socially distance.

  • Those who (1) have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with a COVID-positive individual in the last 10 days, (2) have been instructed by a healthcare provider or required by a governmental authority to quarantine, and/or (3) have any COVID symptoms not clearly attributable to other causes may not attend services or other in-person events.

  • Anybody who tests positive for COVID within 10 days of attending an in-person service or event must inform us for contact tracing purposes.

AUGUST 29, 2021

We have officially reopened! All attendees who are eligible to be vaccinated must be fully vaccinated, and masks will be required for all indoor services. Additionally, advance signups will be required for all services. Please join the "or-minyan" mailing list for signup information for Shabbat services. Please use the weekday minyan spreadsheet to signup for weekday services.

To sign up for high holiday services, please fill out this form (by 9/2 at 10pm for Rosh Hashanah and by 9/12 at 12pm for Yom Kippur).

AUGUST 5, 2021

Reopening update:

 

After nearly 18 months apart, we are thrilled to announce that we are planning to officially reopen next month for the High Holidays!

In order to keep density down and to help ensure the safety of attendees, Harvard Hillel has generously decided to rent space at Tremont Street Shul (TBS), and we are planning to run parallel services there and in Beren Hall at Harvard Hillel. We are also exploring the possibility of an outdoor option (if you are interested in attending but would only do so if services are outdoors, please indicate that fact on the survey linked below). We also expect to resume Shabbat and weekday services at Hillel in the coming weeks (stay tuned for more information soon).

We have created a survey to gauge interest and get a sense of numbers for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (this survey is NOT a signup form). We will accept responses until next Thursday, 8/12, at 5pm. In the third week of August we plan to release a signup form. All attendees will be required to sign up in advance in order to attend. Individuals will be assigned to daven either at Hillel or at TBS based on numbers.

Everyone (with the exceptions noted on the form) who is attending our services on Rosh Hashanah and/or Yom Kippur is required to purchase tickets through Harvard Hillel (https://hillel.harvard.edu/high-holidays). If you expect this requirement to cause an undue financial burden, please follow the appropriate instructions on Hillel's website. Nobody will be turned away for financial reasons.

Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. We look forward to seeing you in person again!

JUNE 19, 2020

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, the Orthodox Minyan at Harvard Hillel will not be able to operate again for the foreseeable future. A group of local Jewish leaders is now organizing outdoor minyanim with strict social distancing guidelines for the broader Cambridge Jewish community. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

JUNE 5, 2020

It has now been nearly three months since we last came together in person. These have been trying times for all of us, and we are cautiously optimistic that the impact of COVID-19 on our lives will continue to lessen over the coming weeks and months. In consultation with public health experts and other rabbis in the area, we are hopeful to begin reopening soon. 

While present realities unfortunately dictate that we will not be able to meet as we usually do for the foreseeable future, we would like to gauge interest in outdoor minyanim for our community's first stage of reopening. If you are currently in the Cambridge/Somerville area (or will be at any time this summer), please fill out the survey that went out over our email lists, regardless of your interest in outdoor minyanim. It should take less than 5 minutes, and answers are requested by Monday morning at 9am. The results of this survey will be used to help Rabbi Passow, the board, and Harvard Hillel determine next steps.

We have not yet finalized a location for our outdoor minyanim, should we choose to move forward with this plan, but it would most likely be a space within a 10 minute walk from Hillel.

Based on the advice of public health experts, capacity at these minyanim would be limited, and participants would be required to wear face coverings and to strictly maintain 6 feet of distance from others. We are committed to ensuring that as many people as possible, both men and women, are able to attend should we decide to move forward with outdoor services.

Please be in touch with any questions.

MAY 22, 2020

Reopening update from Rabbi Dani Passow:

 

Let me begin with warm wishes for health of mind, body, and soul.

As we approach the conclusion of another week and another Shabbat, I continue to find myself in disbelief that there is no communal davening.  Of all the possible situations I could have imagined, this was one that never crossed my mind.

I am sure many of you join me in being eager to once again come together in tefilah.  Alas, it will likely be quite some time before we are able to do so in a fashion similar to before coronavirus.  Nevertheless, I am hopeful that some kind of minyan will be possible in the near future.

The Orthodox Union issued guidelines for reopening which you can find here.  Though our community is unique and our plan may differ in some specifics, this document provides a good framework.  Of most immediate relevance is point 1, "The resumption of communal prayer and other communal activities should not be considered until – at the very least – the successful and verified safe completion of the local government’s first stages of communal reopening, i.e. at least two weeks after the local governments have allowed public gatherings of more than ten persons, and have not seen upticks in disease."

I want to stress that these words not only inform good policy for us a community, but are also important concerns on an individual level.  While some may be interested in forming private minyanim, or while some other shuls may already be open as they are legally allowed to do so, such decisions are dangerous and contravene the halakhic imperative to safeguard life.

It is both too early to make a decision and, with many changing variables, coming up with a precise plan for the future is impossible.  I am in consultation with infectious disease experts and other area rabbis about how we can create tefillah b'tzibbur.  Ultimately, all final decisions as pertaining to Harvard Hillel will have to be approved by our executive director Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, who is also in consultation with Harvard University.

Lastly, any reopening must be done only when there is capacity for women to be part of the davening.  I do not believe this will be much of practical concern since minyanim are likely to be outdoors and with less of a need to restrict to 10 people, but want to allay these concerns for those who have them and reaffirm that men and women are integral to our community.


Shabbat Shalom,
Dani

MARCH 30, 2020:

In response to questions we've received about Pesach in the time of COVID-19, we've put together a list of FAQs with practical and halachic guidance for our community. You can view it online here.

MARCH 15, 2020:

Given the uncertainty surrounding the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, we are recommending that everyone begin preparations for Pesach earlier than usual this year. Additionally, fewer people will be attending "Pesach programs," so there will likely be increased demand for products in local stores.

Pesach begins the evening of April 8 and concludes the evening of April 16th. 

To ease preparations, we have put together a guide.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to Rabbi Passow with any questions or concerns.

MARCH 12, 2020:

Due to the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19, the Orthodox Minyan at Harvard Hillel has decided to close until further notice to prevent the spread of illness in our community and in society at large. This decision was made in conjunction with other Jewish communities throughout the Boston area. Everyone is encouraged to daven on their own and to read the weekly parshah and Parshat Parah from a chumash.

We understand that this is a difficult time for many members of our community. If you are struggling with anything due to COVID-19 (financial issues, food insecurity, job insecurity, housing, mental health, etc.) please do not hesitate to reach out to our Chessed Chair, Miriam Renz.