Current Covid-19 Statement from the Leadership of Congregation Etz Chaim
WHEREAS, on March 9, 2020 Governor Mike DeWine declared a State of Emergency saying “COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that can result in serious illness or death, is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a new strain of coronavirus that had not been previously identified in humans and can easily spread from person to person. The virus is spread between individuals who are in close contact with each other (within about six feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may be possible that individuals can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes;” and
WHEREAS, on March 9, 2020 when Governor Mike DeWine declared a State of Emergency the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed “over 79 countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The CDC reports over 98,000 diagnosed cases worldwide with 3,380 deaths reported worldwide. The CDC has announced 164 confirmed and presumptive positive cases, with eleven deaths reported from the disease in the United States;” and
WHEREAS, On May 12, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now lists over 200 countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The WHO reports over 4,088,848 diagnosed cases worldwide with 283,153 deaths reported worldwide. The CDC has announced 1,342,594 confirmed and presumptive positive cases, with 80,820 deaths reported from the disease in the United States; and
WHEREAS, On March 22, 2020 a STAY at HOME ORDER was issued stating “All public gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited.” With exemption made for weddings and funerals; and
WHEREAS, On April 30, 2020 a STAY SAFE OHIO ORDER was issued which exempted religious organizations from the order but stated “Elderly people and those who are vulnerable as a result of illness should take additional precautions. People at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including elderly people and those who are sick, are urged to stay in their residence to the extent possible except as necessary to seek medical care. According to CDC, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 including people who are sixty-five years or older and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
a. People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma;
b. People who have serious heart conditions;
c. People who are immune compromised;
d. People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher);
e. People with diabetes;
f. People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; and
g. People with liver disease.”; and
WHEREAS, On January 17, 2020 a congregational analysis was conducted that found that a significant percentage of our membership is age 65 or older;
THEREFORE, We, the leadership of Congregation Etz Chaim, put forth the following statement:
In accordance with science, research and leaders in local, national and global health organizations, we know that temporarily closing our doors is the correct and necessary action. The decision came with ample discussions and consideration and while it did not come easily, we know that it is the right thing to do.
At Congregation Etz Chaim, we have always strived to do what is in the best interest for you, our congregants: spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. This holistic approach of serving our members, is what has given us the reputation as the “hamisha shul” and made the support we’ve offered congregants through trying times what we have become known for.
Now more than ever the Talmudic concept of “Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh” – “All Israel is responsible one for another” guides our hands and our hearts. Congregation Etz Chaim will not risk the safety of our members, their families or friends. With no treatment or vaccine, with limited testing and contact tracing, the situation remains dire and nothing supersedes the desire to keep our congregational family safe.
Rabbinic leaders across the Jewish spectrum have declared this situation a “Sha’at Hadehak” a “crisis situation” (literally a time of duress). They continue to work to address how we can practice Judaism in new ways during this pandemic. We are in close communication with them as well as other local synagogues and Judaic leaders. We have and will continue to endeavor to find safe and meaningful ways to connect with our congregants during these unprecedented times.
As restrictions to stay in place are lifted, we will continue to evaluate and reevaluate the data and the risk-to-benefit ratio of reopening.
While some might be tempted to say “let people make their own choices”, “health is personal” or “my rights shouldn’t be affected by someone else’s issues” these perspectives are not in line with Jewish traditions and values.
We are operating under the mitzvah of “Pikuach Nefesh” – the Jewish value of saving a life. In order to save a life, almost any other commandment can be cast aside in order to protect even one life. Our tradition teaches that saving just one life, is equivalent to saving the entire world. By performing social distancing, not holding in person services and events, and following the recommendations of health officials, we are helping to flatten the curve and to indeed save lives. While the commandment of pikuach nefesh usually has an imminent nature, there has never been a more emergent situation for American Jewry than this current pandemic and making responsible choices is what pikuach nefesh looks like in 2020.
May we merit to understand the words of Kohelet and experience the cyclical nature of the world, quickly transitioning from “a time to refrain from embracing” to a “time to embrace.”