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COA Response to COVID

July 16, 2020: A Special COVID-19 Message from Rabbi Ettman

Dear Friends,
 
“Saving one life is like saving the entire world,” our Talmudic tradition teaches us.  This is what this special letter and message to you is all about.  How we can strive to be safe, be holy, be authentic, be relevant, and be Or Ami.  Jewish tradition can teach us how to live in the time of COVID-19 because, above all else, it provides us with the imperative to keep us safe.  Which is a way towards creating a pathway to peace.

In March, we made the very difficult, but necessary, decision to close our physical building.  Immediately, our staff pivoted our programming and created online and virtual experiences.  From Religious School and the ECEC zoom sessions, to my daily check-ins (all 100 of them are archived on our Or Ami website), to Cantor’s “Cantor in Confinement” song sessions, to our very well-attended Facebook Live Shabbat services, we have never closed, or ceased being, Congregation Or Ami.  We have made it this far dealing with the COVID-19 challenges.  The idea that saving a life is like saving the entire world is indeed powerful and profound.  But the Talmud teaches that its inverse is also true – that to destroy a life is like destroying the entire world.  And in that regard, we must work to remain safe, ensure each other’s healthiness, and strive to come together for the bigger purpose of what Or Ami is.

In the coming weeks, we will be continuing to update our plans for a smooth reopening.  Already on our website are our most current COVID-19 responses and plans. 

Since April, we have been working with an incredible group of congregation members in our newly-created “COVID-19 Taskforce.”  Spearheaded by our most immediate past presidents, Heather Fritts and David Cohen, this task force has been tirelessly addressing the issues related to programs, opening our space, and being safe, all the while maintaining the sanctity and safety of our community. And our plans, as they are unveiled are amazing – with the overarching goals of being safe, meaningful, authentic, and relevant.   

One of the biggest decisions that we have made concerns the High Holy Days.  It is one of the most vibrant, inspiring, and fulfilling moments of the year.  And this year will be no less vibrant, inspiring or fulfilling; however the services themselves will look different.  We have decided that, to ensure safety and sanctity, the High Holy Days will be entirely virtual.  Cantor Franzel, our musical accompaniment, and I will physically be in the Sanctuary, live streaming our services out to you.  Services will be virtually interactive.  They will be relevant.  They will include ways to show our strength as a community.  And they will be a great way to begin our year.  

In the coming weeks, you will be getting more information about what the specifics of the High Holy Day experience will look like and how you can be a part of it.  We are planning for a “High Holy Day Prep Parade” where you and your family can drive through the parking lot, be greeted distantly by myself and members of our leadership, and receive your High Holy Day package, which will include your very own Mahzor/prayer book for the High Holy Days, as well as some other blessings of sweetness and hope.

It is hard to look out at the world right now, even as it changes by the minute, and begin to chart where we are going and how we are going to get there.  But it is imperative to remember two things.  The first is that we, as a community, have never closed.  We have always been here and have always been bringing the best of ourselves out to you.  And the second thing to remember is that we are stronger together.  And even stronger when we come together.  This time in the life of our community is crucial. We need you.  And we need your commitment, compassion, and collective spirit to know that we can continue.  Faith is the courage to continue to create, and these unprecedented times gives us the chance to do so.
I miss you all.  And some time soon we will all be together, physically, again.  But for now it is our goal to come together spiritually and strengthen each other emotionally as we boldly move forward collectively. 

And so my prayer for each of us is this:  May we remember that when we save one life, it is as if we are saving the entire world, so be safe and wear your mask.  May we have the strength to know that Or Ami is strong but we need you to help us be even stronger.  And may we know that we are all in this together.  I do not despair and neither should you.  We are Or Ami strong and I am proud to be your Rabbi through all these times – the good ones and the challenging ones.

With peace and prayers for safety,
Rabbi Glenn Ettman 


JULY 2, 2020: ECE CENTER AT CONGREGATION OR AMI

Dear Parents,

It is so hard to believe that it is already July!  I hope that everyone’s summer has gotten off to a safe and relaxing start.  I wanted to touch base now that the 2019-2020 school year has been completed.  I wanted to reiterate that we have all been working hard on the re-opening of the ECE Center, which is an on-going process that involves a great deal of scenario planning, adaptability and flexibility.  As of July 1st, Carly and I have been allowed limited access to the building which is a big step in enabling us to continue working on the re-opening.

As previously shared, I have familiarized myself with, and continue to monitor, any ongoing changes to CDC and PA State licensing guidelines which will govern the way that our return to school will look.  At the bottom of this email, you will find a complete list of resources that have been and will continue to be used to create our daily routines and protocols.  These guidelines may change between now and the start of school and we will continue to adapt as necessary to keep your families, your children and our staff safe and healthy.

Our COVID Taskforce and Subcommittees have been working for months in preparation for our re-opening in the fall. The Taskforce is comprised of Congregation Or Ami leadership, medical, mental health and legal professionals, in addition to current and former ECE Center parents and other professionals in the risk management field.  I am grateful for the strong team that has been created to assist with both the re-opening of the ECE Center and the COA building.

I know that everyone is anxiously anticipating our return to school and we will provide more specific information as it becomes available over the next few weeks and sooner if possible.  I know that all of you have questions about what lies ahead.  In an effort to help guide your decision making process as it relates to returning to school, and to keep you informed, I am happy to say that I am now able to share an overview of some of the new policies and protocols that are being created for the ECE Center.  Please remember, that these are subject to change based on guidance and direction from the CDC and state and local agencies.

As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns and be on the lookout for more information to follow.

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 Daily Operation

1.     Drop-off and pick-up time slots will be assigned based on responses to re-opening survey (coming soon).

2.     Children who are late for school will need to wait in the car with their parent/caregiver. Parents will be asked to stay in their vehicle and call a designated phone number to announce their arrival. They will be given instructions about where to take their child to meet a staff member who will perform the daily check-in procedures and triage their child for entry.

3.     Parents will not be permitted to enter the building.

4.     Parent’s/caregiver’s, children’s and staff temperatures will be checked and logged at drop-off.  Any temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above, will require the child to be sent home until the temperature is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit without the use of fever reducing medication for a minimum of 72 hours.  This temperature protocol also pertains to any household members of the registered student(s).

5.     Parents and staff must complete and submit a daily COVID-19 Health Screening Form prior to admittance.

6.     Children may not bring backpacks or lunchboxes into the building. No toys from home will be permitted. All lunch items must be packed in disposable bags and then placed into a LABELED large Ziploc bag or a brown paper bag.  All items will be disposed of following lunchtime. Parents are responsible for providing lunch daily for their child.

7.     Snack, lunch and table activities will be staggered to allow for extra space at the tables. Staff will wear gloves when serving food to children.

8.     Children who nap at school will be required to take home bedding daily for laundering.  All bedding brought to school must be freshly laundered EVERY DAY. Parents must also supply a spare sheet and blanket in case of emergency to be kept in school.

9.     Parents must provide “school shoes” that remain at school to cut down on possible viral particles being brought into the building daily. ALL CHILDREN MUST WEAR SOCKS DAILY.

10.  Classroom “pods” will be established to allow for the same children and staff to remain together throughout the day per CDC guidelines. Social distancing in early childhood education centers means keeping children in the same group all day and assigning the same staff members to the group every day.

11.  Children over the age of 2 will be encouraged to wear masks while in the building. Teaching children over the age of 2 to wear a mask is beneficial, but mask wearing is not required.

12.  Staff will wear masks while working in the classroom. Staff will change clothing if they come in contact with any bodily fluids from children (i.e., tears, mucous, blood, saliva, vomit, urine, etc).

13.  No mixed group activities will take place during the day.

14.  Access to the building will be restricted for visitors. 

15.  Contracted therapists will follow our arrival protocol as well, including temperature check and completion of COVID-19 Health Screening prior to admittance.  They will then be required to use hand sanitizer and to wash their hands upon entering the classroom. It is recommended that therapists work individually in a large empty classroom when available and appropriate.  All therapists must wear masks while in the ECE Center.

16.  All students must have an up to date Health Assessment Form on file that includes currently recommended immunizations. The health examination must be current per instructions in the Parent Handbook.

17.  Classroom toys will be sorted to remove all soft or porous items.  Only hard toys and surfaces that can be fully cleaned and disinfected throughout the day will be utilized. Toys that are mouthed will be immediately removed to a bin designated for this purpose so that they can be cleaned and disinfected.

18.  Children and staff will be advised and reminded to cover their cough or sneeze with either a tissue or with their elbow.  Dirty tissues will be immediately disposed of and the affected person will wash hands according to protocol (20 seconds with soap and water).

19.  Increased handwashing and handwashing instruction will take place throughout the day.

20.  Increased disinfection of high touch areas will take place every hour. 

21.  When possible, windows will be opened to provide ventilation. Outside playtime will be encouraged.  Use of playground equipment will be limited to prevent the potential spread of illness.

22.  Any student or staff member who is found to be sick during the day, will be masked, triaged and moved to a designated area until their departure.  All sick students must be picked up within 1 hour of parent/caregiver notification.

23.  Any confirmed cases of COVID-19 must be reported to the Department of Human Services and the Montgomery County Department of Health. Department of Health personnel will advise on necessary measures to be taken in the ECE Center.

24.  Parents will be notified of confirmed COVID-19 cases and other communicable illnesses according to previously established ECE Center Health Policies.

Sources of Recommendations

Centers for Disease Control Guidelines for Child Care

ECELS Website – Early Childhood Education Linkage System – Healthy Child Care in PA

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

First Up (formerly DVAEYC) – Southeastern PA’s oversight network for early childhood educators and professionals

OCDEL – Office of Child Development and Early Learning – PA Childcare Licensing Office

PA Keys (formerly Keystone STARS) – administers OCDEL regulations

Department of Human Services

ELRC-17 – Montgomery County Early Learning Resource Center

PA Department of Health

SEPECC – Southeastern PA Early Childhood Coalition

Caring For Our Children – National Health and Safety Performance Standards for Children

Managing Infectious Diseases in Childcare – AAP source for childcare programs

Jewish Learning Venture


Best regards,

Michelle



April 20, 2020: A Very Important Update from or Ami

Dear Congregants,

We hope that all of you are doing well during these challenging times. We also hope that you have been taking advantage of all of the support that our clergy has been providing through Facebook and Zoom. We have been very glad to see so much online participation from so many of you lately, during this time in which we've needed to connect with each other the most. Rabbi Ettman has regularly shared with us throughout the past month that we must first find the strength in our community and in turn, we will be strengthened together. This is where we need your help.

While we started off this fiscal year financially strong and have successfully maintained a balanced budget throughout the year, the COVID-19 crisis has significantly disrupted our financial stability. We have recently lost a substantial amount of income from the loss of ECE Center tuition due to the mandated school closure that has taken place as a result of this pandemic. We also have not had the opportunity to hold a spring fundraiser this year, and we have not collected any camp tuition due to the uncertainty regarding our plan for this summer. We have applied for the PPP loan through the CARES Act, however, these funds have not yet been received and this amount will not be sufficient in order for us to financially survive and to maintain all of our staff for the remainder of the fiscal year. While our building is currently closed, we are taking every possible measure in order to reduce any expenses that we can, but there are still expenses that we are required to cover in order to ensure a safe, secure, and properly maintained environment for us to all return to when this is over.

We have often been talking about how we are all in this together. This is so true, we really are all in this together, and right now, we truly need your help. If you are currently willing and able to make a tax deductible donation to Congregation Or Ami, it would significantly help us to get through this time, and it would be truly appreciated by all of us. Please visit http://www.or-ami.org/payment.php to make a tax deductible donation online now. We understand that this is a difficult time for everyone, and we want you to know that any and every single contribution that is made will make a substantial difference to us right now.

We look forward to continuing to connect with all of you via virtual communications and services, and we plan to utilize these means to the greatest extent that we possibly can for as long as we need to do so. If you have not seen Rabbi Ettman’s daily check ins, they can all be found here. Cantor Franzel's weekly song sessions can be found here here, and Rabbi and Cantor's weekly Shabbat Services can be found here. There are so many ways that we are bringing Or Ami to you, and we hope that you will continue to stand by us.

We also want you to remember that we are here to support you during this time, and our clergy and Mitzvah Corps are here to help in any way that you need us. Please reach out to any one of us any time if you need or want anything at all. We will always do our best to help you in any way that we possibly can. 

Please continue to stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected with us, because we truly are all in this together.


Thank you,

David Cohen
Co-President

Heather Fritts
Co-President

Susan Michels
Treasurer & Finance Chair

Jenna Hendler
Executive Director

Rabbi Glenn Ettman

Cantor Jordan Franzel


April 6, 2020: Rabbi Ettman and Cantor Franzel's Passover Resources

This Passover will certainly be different than all other ones. That is for sure. But it can be unique, special, creative, and meaningful however you make it. Here are some online resources to use to help you. 

I have heard from many people about the challenges of this year’s passover observance and seders. It is okay to struggle this year. In fact, the major Jewish movements from Reform to Orthodox have given special dispensation to use technology and to keep Passover to the level that is comfortable for YOU. Judaism obligates us to do two things this week, and this is what we must remember. 

  1. We must stay safe and save lives.  The saving of a life, in all manners and ways, supersedes all commandments.
  2. We must tell the story of our community and remember that freedom and hope is possible. 
     

How we do it this year, is unique and challenging for sure. I know that this is the favorite holiday for my wife and me. So we are doing it - just over Zoom. And while that is hard to fathom, it is necessary and will be amazing because we will make it that way. Which is what we need to do - make it meaningful and special.

And here is how. Below are some resources to use and to guide you to find other ways and places that can help us to make this passover not only different from all others, but even more special and more unique. (This is just a small sampling of what is out there, but my suggestions.)

And, as our tradition teaches, "Better, we should have one less-than-ideal Passover so that we can celebrate many Passovers in the future" (Yoma 85b).

May this Passover be one of liberation and hope and love and life.

From Ellie and myself, and our daughter, Shoshana, may you find your own hope and meaning this Passover.

Rabbi Ettman


March 13, 2020: An Important shabbat message from rabbi ettman - In which we do not despair

Dear Friends

I have said if before and I will say is again, I do not despair and neither should you.  This is the time we must come together in spirit and love.  This is the time we must spread the connection of family, and friends, and compassion that makes Or Ami so special.  And this is the time we must work together, pray together, cry together, be flummoxed together, scream out together, and mostly hope together.  Each week, I try to share some words of comfort and inspiration to help us prepare for Shabbat.  Each week I hope that there is a least one nugget of inspiration that can help you frame your Shabbat and prepare you for your weekend.  This week is no different but added to this message is that of compassion and caring. And the reminder that we make it through this.  Shabbat reminds us that there is hope amidst the clouds of uncertainty.  I am not naive to the fact these times are, as everyone says, “unprecedented,” but our togetherness is what will carry us through and keep us safe. 

Last night I sent a voice message to you all.  I referenced the great Jewish teaching and saying that reminds us to CHAZAK CHAZAK V’NITCHAZEK - “be strong and in turn we will be strengthened together.”  I love this idea because it reminds us that we are not alone.  It reminds us that together we can overcome.  And it reminds us that strength is contagious in a good way - that we can spread the seeds of hope even while we safe guard ourselves from germs and sickness.

There is no question we are living in curious times.  The old eastern philosophical adage “may you live in interesting times” is crass and not cool because these times are not just interesting, they are scary, they are soul-crushing, and they are just plain weird.  As I write this message, more news floods my media feed.  But what we must do is to not despair.  What we must do is to find the good in our moments.  What we must do is hold our families closer.  What we must do is laugh - because we would cry our eyes out if we didn’t.  What we must do is cry if we need to.  And above all else, what we must do is to remember that you are not alone.  Even when it feels like that dark comes crashing through, you are not alone.  From the great cultural anthropologist (and a personal hero of mine), Victor Turner, we learn that in times of crisis we crave to find community and look to strengthen those around us; and we always have!  This is what we must do and never lose sight of.  Togetherness, hopefulness, compassion, and love.  These are the things we must spread in the world.

So after you wash your hands, reach out to someone to check in - we are doing that as I am reaching out to those in our community who we know are ill and could us help.  A crisis is only one if you let if define you.  We have been through a lot, both personally and communally, and none of it needs to define you or me, or our families, or our community.  That is why I will not despair, and neither should you.

And so my prayer for each of us is this:  May you purify your heart and soul and know that we are in this together.  May you hold close to hope and find strength.  And may you not despair.  I am here.  All the time, especially through these times - do not hesitate to reach out to my cell phone (760-898-4323) or email (rabbiettman@or-ami.org).

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Glenn Ettman

Please join me tonight on FACEBOOK LIVE at 6:30 because Shabbat will keep us going and prayer can bring us together. 


March 12, 2020: important -- or ami will be closed for two weeks, beginning tomorrow, march 13, 2020

IMPORTANT: 

Or Ami will be CLOSED for two weeks, beginning tomorrow: Friday, March 13, 2020.

This closure includes the synagogue, the ECEC, and Religious School.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly via email at JennaH@or-ami.org, or on my cell phone at 610-996-7501.

Thank you,

Jenna Hendler
Executive Director
Congregation Or Ami


March 11, 2020: Special note from rabbi Ettman during these tough times

Dear friends,

The expression that "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" has never been as important as it is now. I want to assure each and every one of you -- those who read this message and those who I hope will share with others in our community -- that I, your Rabbi, along with our leadership are actively monitoring the situation related to the concerns about COVID-19. We are taking extra precautions in the immediate days and we request that you be vigilant in your hand-washing.

What we must remember is that even at times of scary uncertainty, as the issue of the virus is plaguing so many of us, we must be strong together. We must offer support to one another, together. And we must remember that community comes together -- especially at challenging times. Or Ami is a special place and a holy community. We have the health, safety, and well-being of everyone at heart.

Should you feel the need to talk, vent, or ask questions, please do not hesitate to reach my personally -- by texting or calling my cell phone (760-899-4323), or emailing me (rabbiettman@or-ami.org).

We are all in this together, and I am here for you.


Rabbi Glenn Ettman

March 6, 2020: A message about the health and well-being of our community

Congregation Or Ami wants you to stay well throughout the year. We also want you to know that we are being mindful of the current circumstances and abiding by suggested best practices. We will continue to closely monitor this situation and we will make every effort to ensure the safety and security of our entire Or Ami community.

Below are some helpful reminders, suggestions, and resources for you to consider:

Avoid close contact.
 Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Stay home when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Information and Resources:
For all pertinent and updated information, including travel advisories:
www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html
 
For specific questions, see the CDC's FAQ section:
www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
 
For information about COVID-19 in your state, search your state's health department, which works with the CDC to monitor and implement all recommendations:
www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/healthdepartments.html
 
For up-to-date developments, research, and guidance from government health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO), go to:
www.idsociety.org/public-health/Novel-Coronavirus

Thank you and stay well,
Executive Director Jenna Hendler & Rabbi Glenn Ettman

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781