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.
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.