Welcome to the weekly newsletter of Igud HaRabbonim, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, in which we share news for and about members, including communal news, announcements, publications, Divrei Torah, press releases and media mentions.
In this newsletter:
• Chaplaincy Commission Update
• Divrei Torah: Vayikra
• Publication: Biurim Al Haggadah Shel Pesach
• President Trump and the Coronavirus Task Force Provide an Update to Americans
• Coronavirus Piskei Halacha
• NASCK COVID-19 Guidelines for Chevros Kadisha (Updated March 25, 2020)
• Rav Eli Hecht: The World Suffers in Pain
• How To Kasher For Pesach
• On Pesach, Stay Home; Save Lives
• RAA guidance and important resource for businesses
Please let us know about your family simchos and l"a aveilus, book publications and career changes or milestones, so we can share as chaveirim our life events. Send updates to email@example.com.
Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
By now you have read the major announcement by 5 main orthodox organizations who have joined together – Agudath Israel of America, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, the Lakewood Vaad, the National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America. What tremendous achdus !!! The hope is that the message is conveyed to our communities and taken seriously by those who still are not sure how devastating the Coronavirus COVID-19 can be. One thing is for sure, of how Klal Yisrael has used this challenge to bring achdus, chizuk, Torah learning, renewed strength in our tefilos and unbelievable opportunities of doing wonderful gemilus chasadim in many different ways.
Yes, we could be terrified and panicky day after day. However, with Btachim and Emunah in the Aibershta continuing to be strong and steadfast and the wonderful support system found in so many of our communities , we shall persevere.
In my last article, I included the importance of outreach to those who are homebound due to the Coronavirus, Rabbi Shalom Axelrod of the Young Israel of Woodmere and surrounding shuls sent out a worthy and meaningful survey. With permission from Rabbi Axelrod, I am including the survey for our readers as a suggested means of finding out the needs of those who are homebound
From Rav Shalom Axelrod
Many shuls in our area are organizing volunteers to be available to help people. In the event that you are going to send out a survey to assess the needs of your shul community. Below is a list of questions the YIW sent out for members to fill in. We sent it out just a few hours ago and over 300 hundred families have responded. I am not a tech person but in each of our shuls there are individuals who can assist. We used SurveyMonkey. It can be tailored to the types of chesed you will be able to provide.
Please answer the following questions.
1. How many people live in your household? 1-9
2. Are you or any member of your household currently under quarantine? yes, currently under quarantine
no, not under quarantine
3. If yes, are you under self or mandated quarantine? self, mandated
4. Have any members of your household been confirmed to have COVID-19? Yes, No
5. Do you or anyone in your household have a serious chronic medical condition like immune problems, heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease? Yes, No
6. Are you or is anyone in your household over the age of 65? Yes, No
7. If over the age of 65, do you have anyone (friend, relative) assisting you? Yes, No
8. Have your children expressed any signs of distress due to being quarantined or because of worries related to the virus?
9. Are you in need of assistance due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
If yes, please select from the following areas of potential support.
Medication Pick up Food Other Deliveries Phone call – Checking in Information (communal resources)
10. Are you currently in need of financial assistance due to the COVID-19crisis? Yes, No
11. If Yes, please select from the following Basic Expenses, Shabbos Supplies, Pesach Supplies
Thank you for filling out the survey. Your answers will be confidential.
A volunteer for the YIW Chesed committee will be in touch with you if you answered any questions requiring follow up. If you have an urgent need requiring immediate assistance, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I received from NEFESH International resources that could be beneficial for our members.
Dear NEFESH Community,
There are many resources available to help navigate the coronavirus. Below are links to a number of them which you may find useful. In addition, NEFESH is offering free webinars to those who are quarantined, in order to help pass the time in a productive manner. Please email Alice, at secretary@NEFESH.org to receive a coupon code.
We wish a refuah shelaima to all those who are ill, refuas Hanefesh and refuas Haguf.
A yasher koach to Karyn Feinberg for compiling these resources.
NEFESH International listserv is sponsored by The Meadowglade Mental Health and Eating Disorder Treatment Center. To see the great work MEADOWGLADE does every day, see https://themeadowglade.com/
I received two NEW ads from TTI and YEIP which can be found at the end of this article.
IMPORTANT Please be mispallel for Keila Lutza bas Tziporah and all cholim of Klal Yisrael.
The Vice President stated today, “The President has made it clear that he hopes — in weeks, not months — to be able to open up the country. But let me make one last encouragement to every American: We will get to that day quicker if every American will put into practice the President’s coronavirus guidelines for our nation: “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” If every American will do this, I have no doubt that we will slow the spread, we will protect our most vulnerable, and we will heal our land.”
We encourage you all to continue to put into practice the President’s 15 Days to Slow the Spread guidelines. Additionally, please see the highlights from today’s Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.
HIGHLIGHTS | President Trump and the Coronavirus Task Force Provide an Update to Americans
EVALUATING NEXT STEPS
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “I want to thank the American people for the incredible sacrifices that they are making on behalf of our nation and I want to encourage everyone to keep following our guidelines on social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and hand washing and all of the other things that everybody knows they are supposed to be doing.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up to very large sections of our country as we near the end the end of our historic battle with the invisible enemy.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “My first priority is always the health and safety of the American people and I want everyone to understand that we are continuing to evaluate the data. We are working with the task force and making decisions based on what is best for the interests of our fantastic country.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “I said earlier today that I hope we can do this by Easter. I think that would be a great thing for our country and we’re all working very hard to make that a reality.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “We’ll only do it if it’s good and maybe we do sections of the country.”
LEGISLATION TO PROVIDE ECONOMIC RELIEF
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “We are working to pass the biggest and boldest financial relief package in American history. Senators will soon hopefully vote on a $2 trillion bill that will deliver direct cash payments to struggling Americans. No fault of their own.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “The legislation will also include billions of dollars for additional resources for our and really heroic — these are incredible doctors, nurses, brave, and hospitals; as well as support for hard-hit industries, such as the airline industry and cruise ship industry which employ tremendous amounts of people and obviously serves important functions beyond that.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Today, as you probably saw, the DOW surged over 2,100 points. That’s the all-time record history of the exchange. This is very encouraging and I think part of the reason is they are looking at what is close to being passed. And I think a very big part of it is they see we want to get our country open as soon as possible.”
NEC DIRECTOR LARRY KUDLOW: “This legislation is urgently needed to bolster the economy, provide cash injections and liquidity, and stabilize financial markets to get us through a difficult period.”
NEC DIRECTOR KUDLOW: “This package will be the single largest main street assistance program in the history of the United States.”
NEC DIRECTOR KUDLOW: “The total package here comes to roughly $6 trillion. $2 trillion direct assistance, roughly $4 trillion in Federal Reserve lending power.”
MEDICAL EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “The Federal government is using every resource at its disposal to acquire and distribute critical medical supplies.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Through FEMA, the Federal government is distributing more than eight million N-95 respirators, 14 million surgical masks and many, many millions more under order.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “2.4 million face shields, 1.9 million surgical gowns. 13.5 million gloves and more than 4,000 ventilators to the areas of greatest need have already been sent and we have 4,000 being delivered to New York.”
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: “New York state has prioritized three alternative medical facilities and, at the President’s direction, the Army Corps of Engineers is working on plans to build those facilities out. You’ve heard the President speak about the Javits Center, the addition of 1,000 beds.”
PRIVATE SECTOR STEPPING UP
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Private companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the [Defense Production Act] to get them to do what they have to do.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Ford, 3M, General Electric Health are making tremendous numbers. They’ve already started on respirators, ventilators and face shields. They’re working together.”
GUIDANCE FOR NEW YORKERS
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: “For anyone in the New York metropolitan area who has traveled, our task force is encouraging you to monitor your temperature, be sensitive to symptoms, and we are asking anyone who has traveled out of the New York City metropolitan area to anywhere else in the country to self-isolate for 14 days.”
The following are guidelines and precautions necessary to protect chevra kadisha members from possible transmission of COVID-19 as they perform a taharah.
These guidelines were updated on March 25, 2020. Changes are noted in RED
In light of the growing COVID-19 health crisis, and in response to questions from many chevros kadisha, NASCK is suggesting the following set of protocols be followed.
These protocols are based on the best available information from the CDC at this time. NASCK has also consulted with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in NYC and other infectious disease specialists including Rabbi Dr Aaron Glatt, Hospital Epidemiologist and Chief of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau Community Hospital. Rabbi Dr Glatt also serves as the Associate Rabbi at Congregation Anshei Chesed and Assistant Rabbi at the Young Israel of Woodmere.
In addition, these protocols were also discussed with and approved by rabbonim and poskim across the spectrum of the frum community.
This information will be updated as required.
There are two distinct areas of concern with regard to possible transmission of COVID-19
during the taharah process:
a) Potential transmission from the body itself (whether or not the person had tested positive for coronavirus).
b) Potential transmission from the chevrah members to each other because of the close proximity in which they perform a taharah.
GUIDELINES NECESSARY TO PROTECT FROM POTENTIAL TRANSMISSION FROM THE BODY OF THE NIFTER/ES:
1. Strictly follow the list of universal precautions recommended by the CDC and OSHA. These include use of:
Disposable gloves (Nitrile or Latex are recommended)
Full-length disposable gowns that cover the arms to the wrist
Face masks. This is now mandatory. Any surgical mask is sufficient. People with glasses who may find that some masks fog their glasses, should find a mask that allows them to breathe without fogging.
Face shields should be worn either attached to the mask or separately.
Additional personal protection equipment (PPE) is optional, including booties and head covers. If one is wearing open shoes, foot covers (booties) are mandatory.
2. Add Clorox to the water used for the rechitzah (washing of the body). The mixture should be 1 part Clorox to 10-12 parts water. Lemon-scented bleach, if available, is easier to work with.
3. Prepare any supplies you might need for the taharah in advance. This includes Monsel’s Solution in a cup, toothpicks, Q-tips, cotton towels, chucks, etc.
4. Discard all unused supplies that were present at the taharah. Do not put them back with your clean supplies.
5. Before opening the pouch or other body wrap, spray its entire length with sanitizer. We recommend using Dis-spray or a 1 to 10-12 part mixture of bleach and water. After opening the pouch, spray sanitizer liberally along the entire inside of the pouch, along the entire length of the body.
6. When pouring for the rechitzah and the taharah, pour gently in order to minimize any splashing. This also limits the smell of the Clorox.
7. Use of tishah kabin is strongly recommended instead of using a mikvah.
8. To prevent the possible escape of respiratory fluids from the mouth and nose of the nifter/es, pack the mouth and nose with Webril cotton towels for the entire taharah process. These should only be removed once the nifter/es has been placed in the aron.
9. Clean and sanitize all surfaces, including counter tops, doorknobs, spigots, etc, before leaving the taharah room. Clorox bleach is the preferred sanitizer.
10. Anyone who has any symptoms of any illness may not attend a taharah.
11. Make sure your funeral home and chevra are well-stocked with all necessary supplies.
GUIDELINES NECESSARY TO PROTECT FROM POTENTIAL TRANSMISSION BETWEEN CHEVRA MEMBERS:
According to infectious disease professionals, at the moment, this concern is considered greater than concern about transmission from the body.
These protocols aim to accomplish two important goals:
To maintain as much social distancing as possible during the taharah process.
To limit the amount of time chevra members spend in close proximity to each other.
1. Limit the number of people attending a taharah to four.
If at all possible, have one or two core groups of the same four men / four women doing all the taharos in the community during this time.
2. All Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be available in an open area outside the taharah room and easily accessible to the members of the chevra kadisha as they arrive. Chevra members should don and remove their protective equipment at an appropriate distance from each other. They should do so in different rooms or at a distance of at least six feet. This ensures that whenever they are in close contact, they are already fully protected.
3. Traveling to the funeral home is best done in separate cars.
4. Each metaher/es should work separately to set up and prepare for the taharah. This includes:
One person preparing the aron.
One person filling the buckets of water. If you have enough buckets, the taharah water should be filled and set aside in a corner, or in the next room.
One person setting up supplies.
One person preparing the body by opening the pouch, checking for and removing nail polish, cleaning surface blood, packing the nose and mouth, etc.
Two chevra members will have to work together to bring in the meis.
5. Once everything is ready, the meis should be completely removed from the wrapping (sheet, pouch, clothing, etc.) and the rechitzah can begin.
6. When a meis is relatively clean, the rechitzah should be expedited even if it will be more perfunctory, resembling a rinsing more than a full rechitzah.
Follow the usual order of face, right side, etc.
Any blood on the surface of the meis (torn skin, open puncture, etc.) should be cleaned and saved, and Monsel’s Solution used to stop the flow.
Foley catheters should be removed.
Any mucus or fecal matter should be washed away.
Feeding tubes should be knotted, and intra-venal tubes left in.
Packing with Webril should be done when necessary, but no internal cleansing should be done.
Taharah with tishah kabin and dressing in tachrichim should be performed as usual.
7. When the meis is not relatively clean and requires a lot of work, for example:
When an autopsy has been performed
When there are extensive bedsores, surgical wounds, or bleeding
Very heavy cases, especially with skin slippage, etc.
The meis should be placed in the aron and tachrichim laid out on top.
Of course, in these cases, care should be taken to make sure the aron is protected from leaking.
8. Once the meis is in the aron, no more than two people should be working together, and cleaning of the room should begin (see #9 in previous section).
9. The goal is to work quickly, efficiently, and as separately as possible to minimize the time chevra members are in close proximity.
Your funeral director may require that additional guidelines or protocols be followed. If these practices affect the performance of basic taharah procedure and kavod hameis, you may want to discuss it with your rabbinic advisor or posek.
Please forward this to all chevra kadisha members in your community. COVID-19 is a pandemic, and while we certainly daven and hope there will not be a significant increase in cases, r”l, we must be prepared for this eventuality.
In the zechus of our chesed shel emes and all the tefilos and zechuyos of klal Yisroel, may we merit the rachamim of the Rofeh Ne’eman, and the geulah shleimah b’karov.
With best wishes for a Gut Shabbos,
Rabbi Elchonon Zohn
P.S. On a personal note, I must mention that these guidelines are very difficult for me to recommend and distribute. In so many ways, they contradict what I have taught for many years. However, the underlying basis of all we do is Toras Emes and Minhag Yisroel. Torah requires that we react to special times with special rules:
עת לעשות לה’ הפרו תורתיך. תהלים קיט:קכו
I believe it is appropriate to feel pained that we are abbreviating procedures that give kavod to the meis, even though it has become necessary to do so. The feeling of distress on behalf of the meis is a form of kavod hameis on its own. Moreover, perhaps that pain will reduce the possibility that these temporary changes will decrease our sensitivity to the holy work we are privileged to perform.