Jewish Institutions Batten Down as Wife, Kids and Neighbor of New Rochelle Man Test Positive for Coronavirus


Yeshiva University closed its Washington Heights campus and affiliated boys high school after a YU student was diagnosed with coronavirus.

The student, 20, is the son of an attorney from New Rochelle, who works in Manhattan, who tested positive for the disease and is in serious condition at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, at a news conference Wednesday, said that in addition, the man’s wife; his daughter, 14, a student at the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy; and a neighbor in Westchester County, who drove the man to the hospital, were all confirmed cases.

The identity of the family – members of Young Israel of New Rochelle, which was ordered closed for the foreseeable future – was not identified.

The news of the family’s illness sent waves of fear and caution through the metropolitan Jewish community. The Riverdale Mikvah in the Bronx urge women showing symptoms associated with the disease caused by the virus, Covid-19, not to come to the facility. Although regular immersion in a ritual bath is required of observant women, individuals “may not break quarantine to immerse in the mikvah, as this is a situation of pikuach nefesh, and is forbidden,” citing the rabbinic principle of saving a life.

Also, Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck, Westchester Torah Academy in White Plains, and SAR Academy and SAR High School in Riverdale, Bronx were closed on Wednesday for the second day; all are associated with the New Rochelle cases, which is in Westchester County.

Some congregants of Young Israel of New Rochelle have been ordered to self-quarantine due to possible exposure to coronavirus.

The father, said Cuomo, had an underlying respiratory illness.

YU classes were canceled as a “precautionary step,” according to a statement from the university, while dorms and food services remained open.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, told The Jewish Week Wednesday morning that member congregations “are evaluating essential and non-essential programs. People are coming to bar and bat mitzvahs despite everything.”

His called his current motto: “Prayer and Purell.”

“People are not going to stop praying and having celebrations, but be cautious in public gatherings,” Rabbi Potasnik said. People are still attending shiva minyans, the rabbi said, adding, “The worry now is about Passover seders with large gatherings.”

As of early March, at least three kosher Passover travel programs — two in Italy and one in Thailand — have been canceled because of the virus, JTA reported.

Meanwhile, the Luria Academy, a private K-8 Jewish day school in Brooklyn, announced that while it has “[no] plans as of now to cancel school,” its teachers are preparing “one month of lessons for students to be able to complete at home” in case the school has to close. “Lessons would be emailed at the start of each week, with instructions for parents to support the learning,” the school announced. “For our older students, they will email work to teachers to review and teachers will email back comments. Primary parents would also receive materials to work on with students. We are also putting together schedules for online lessons.”