An Important Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 3.12.20


The Coronavirus situation is evolving at such a speed that we are constantly reevaluating our response. As of this morning, we are making the following announcement:

Starting today, and until further notice, EMJC’s doors will be CLOSED FOR RELIGIOUS SERVICES, SYNAGOGUE CLASSES, AND CULTURAL EVENTS. DO NOT COME TO SERVICES THIS SHABBAT! We are making this decision particularly to protect the older members of our community:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging older people and people with severe chronic medical conditions to “stay at home as much as possible…”

The CDC guidance comes as two top infectious disease experts with ties to the federal government have advised people over 60 and those with underlying health problems to strongly consider avoiding activities that involve large crowds.

AS A RULE, WE ARE STRONGLY URGING MEMBERS OF OUR COMMUNITY WHO ARE ELDERLY, FRAIL, OR IMMUNO-COMPROMISED TO PLEASE STAY HOME FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY! As a general rule, we should ALL be avoiding crowds or enclosed spaces and should be taking all the precautionary measures that we have been reading about.

We are exploring the possibility of live-streaming Shabbat services. If we are able to live-stream, 10 people will be selected to make a minyan so that we can have a quorum for all the statutory prayers. This means that if you have a computer or smart-phone and an internet connection, you should be able to join services from home. If you are Shabbat observant, you may turn on the stream before Shabbat.   


If you are saying kaddish, it is permissible to do so over the internet as long as there is a minyan in the room where services are being performed. In other words, as long as there are 10 people in the minyan at EMJC, you may “attend” services from the comfort and safety of your home and fulfill your obligation to recite kaddish for your loved ones.  

We all hope and pray that this health crisis will pass speedily. In the meantime, we must take the utmost care to protect the precious lives of our members. This is, and must be, our main concern, and it is a profoundly Jewish ethic. The Sages (z”l) said piku’akh nefesh dokheh Shabbat: Saving a life overrides the observance of Shabbat, as well as the performance of nearly every other mitzvah.  As we read in the Talmud (Yoma 85b), The Torah states: “Keep my decrees and laws, which a person shall do and live by; I am the Lord” (Lev. 18:5). The sages expound: “’live by’ – and not die by;” the mitzvot of the Torah were given so that people may live by them, not die to fulfill them. (Melamed, Laws of Shabbat, v. II, 235).

The prudent thing for us all to do in the midst of this crisis is self-isolate. If you need help with securing meals, shopping, or any other needs, and are unable to get help from family members, friends, or neighbors, PLEASE CONTACT THE SYNAGOGUE AND WE WILL MAKE ARRANGEMENTS TO HELP YOU! We will be checking messages regularly, so please leave a message if you cannot reach someone directly and we will get back to you. The office number is 718-338-3800. You may also email the office at

We will keep you apprised of changes as they happen. Please contact the synagogue if you need any more information. You may also check the website for updates about events and programs.

With blessings for health, healing, and a Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Sam Levine

Michael Schwartz, President