GJC and Coronavirus (COVID-19)


3/10/20 Dear friends,

With the announcement today of the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the city of Philadelphia, things are changing rapidly.  So we wanted update you about what we are doing right now and about contingency plans we are putting into place should they become necessary.

The situation

  • The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is now recommending that city residents–especially those who are elderly or who have chronic health conditions–consider not attending public gatherings with more than 5,000 expected attendees.
  • There have been no recommendations or orders to limit or cancel religious services in our area.
  • According to the CDC, the risk to most Americans remains low.

What we are doing right now
We continue to urge our staff and members to follow the common-sense precautions recommended by the CDC, including:

  • Wash your 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.  If soap and water are not easily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead.Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, which can spread infection.  Also use non-contact means of greeting, such as elbow bumps or waves.
  • Stay home when you are sick, and keep your children home if they are sick.

In addition:

  • Shabbat morning services will continue as usual for the time being, with our diverse array of services taking place in their usual spaces.
  • All Friday night services will now take place in the Charry Sanctuary to enable those who would like to participate remotely to do so.
  • Live streaming audio is available for all services that take place in the Charry Sanctuary.  You can find our audio stream here as well as at www.germantownjewishcentre.org
  • New procedures for catered kiddushes are being instituted by Centre Catering’s staff to prevent the spread of disease.  We ask that you abide by the rules or restrictions that the catering staff ask you to follow; they are for the sake of your health and the health of the community.
  • Adult education programs will be moved to a virtual format when feasible, so that they remain available to all.  Details will be shared as programs are publicized.

What we are planning for

  • Religious School:  Our Religious School remains open at this time.  If we reach the point at which we determine we will not hold classes at GJC, Education Director Ben Rotenberg and our teachers are in the process of planning lessons that can be delivered remotely through various means.  If we should have to put this plan into action, Religious School parents will receive detailed information from Ben about how your children can participate.
  • Early Children Program:  Our ECP remains open as well, with our staff instituting extra cleaning protocols.  We are putting plans in place to maintain our mandated ratios in the event of staffing shortages due to illness.
  • Celebrations and Kiddush:  We are in discussion with families with upcoming simchas as well as with the leaders of our prayer communities about how to safely provide Shabbat kiddush, particularly if the situation worsens.  This may involve having caterers provide and serve food rather than participants, and we may even reach a point at which, regrettably, the safest thing may be to not provide kiddush.  Again, we will share information about this as soon as we can.
  • City of Philadelphia guidance:  Rabbi Zeff and Nina will be on a call with the Office of Emergency Management tomorrow and will be attending a 3.5 hour meeting with the Department of Public Health on Monday to receive their guidance on preparing contingency plans.

This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we are doing our best to evolve with it.  We ask for your patience and understanding as we evaluate day by day, Shabbat by Shabbat, and event by event.  We will continue to keep you informed about further developments as we move through this as a community.