Yeshiva in Queens Reports 13 Covid-19 Cases


Story updated at 12:00 pm on Sept. 15, 2020.

Students at Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway will temporarily transition to virtual learning after at least 13 students tested positive for Covid-19, a school administrator told The Jewish Week.

“We are in discussion with the department of health but we are not shut down yet,” a school administrator, who requested not to be named, told The Jewish Week by phone on Tuesday morning.

Members of the de Blasio administration suspended in-person learning at the school after over a dozen students tested positive for Covid-19, according to Politico.

“Following discussions with senior City Department of Health officials and the yeshiva leadership, we have proposed moving the school to remote learning for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to complete a health investigation and protect students and staff from COVID transmission, given evidence of cases across multiple age levels,” mayoral spokesman Bill Neidhardt in an email, Politico reports. “The school has significant experience with virtual learning from earlier in the year, and we believe this is the safest approach to track down the cause of over a dozen lab-confirmed COVID cases across the school.”

An email sent out to the student body Tuesday morning clarified that the yeshiva has not been “shut down.”

“Yeshiva Darchei Torah remains in contact with the Department of Health and we are confident that together we will come to a reasonable and amicable resolution that will keep the interests of the children at the forefront,” wrote Rabbi Yaakov Bender, the yeshiva’s head rabbi, in an email. “We are working feverishly to resolve any issues and will keep you updated.”

The lead rabbi of another yeshiva in the neighborhood — Yeshiva Derech Ayson in Far Rockaway — circulated a letter among community members admonishing members of the community who are not following strict safety guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Infection rates are rising in our community,” reads the letter by Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchak Perr. “Those who did not become infected in the spring are being infected now…If you do not comply with the masking rules, you are responsible for the deaths of older relatives of those whom you infect.”

The all-boys Darchei Torah joins two other New York and New Jersey yeshiva high schools that have partially closed due to students testing positive for Covid-19.

Ramaz Upper School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side sent out an email earlier this week informing families that four high school students had tested positive for the virus. Students from the junior and senior grades will quarantine for 14 days, according to the email. Out of an “abundance of caution,” the Upper School building is currently closed as a number of freshman and sophomore students displaying virus symptoms await test results.

Another yeshiva high school — Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) in Teaneck, NJ — sent out an email yesterday confirming an infection in the junior class. (An email sent on Saturday night informed families that two eleventh grade students “are showing COVID symptoms and are awaiting test results.”)

“It’s not the school’s fault at all but I definitely feel resentful,” said Lori Brauner, whose son is a junior at TABC and now must quarantine for a total of 14 days. “My son can’t even go out for a walk. It’s hard because in the community, we definitely see neighbors who are not fully complying with social distance guidelines.”

With the Jewish High Holidays beginning later this week, Brauner has had to cancel all plans. “It feels like Rosh Hashanah is ruined,” she said.

A statement sent out this morning by Agudath Israel of America, the largest charedi Orthodox umbrella group, reminded community members to “remain vigilant” over the upcoming high holidays while attending in-person services.

“Some medical experts see the slow rise in cases now in our community as echoing what we experienced in early March and are concerned that we may be at the cusp of an exponential rise,” the statement reads. “This is especially so in the context of the Yomim Noraim [High Holidays], when we spend additional time together in shul.”