by Adam Grobman
The month of March saw COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) take over the minds of the lucky and the bodies of the less fortunate.
As the disease spread across the globe and large-scale events, such as Austin’s SXSW and the NCAA Tournament, were postponed or cancelled, it was only a matter of time before the Harrisburg Jewish community began to take precautions to ensure community safety.
On March 16, 2020, the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg made the decision to close the Harrisburg JCC building through at least April 1 and cancelled or postponed all major events for several weeks after, following similar decisions by synagogues throughout the region to heed CDC and Department of Health guidance in avoiding large gatherings and unessential meetings.
“Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who may have a contagious disease,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, PA Secretary of Health, in a tweet. “Pennsylvanians should know that we are taking every precaution to keep our communities safe.”
Dr. Levine, a leader in Pennsylvania’s efforts to fight the coronavirus spread, spoke to the Harrisburg Jewish community last year in an event presented by Jewish Family Service, entitled Turning Crisis Into Hope: Opioids, Trauma, and Raising Resilient Children.
The Harrisburg JCC and Jewish Federation, with many employees working from home, transitioned to online programming last week. A schedule of meetings and events can be found at www.jewishharrisburg.org/virtual-programming. The new offerings include content for all ages and is mostly being conducted using Zoom, a popular conference calling application.
“Our staff at the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg has worked together to ensure that our community is supported at this difficult time,” said Lori Rubin, Associate Executive Director. “Our goal is to reach each JCC member through online classes, virtual hangouts, and by providing resources to enable everyone from toddlers to seniors to engage with others. No one should feel isolated.”
The Silver Academy also temporarily closed its doors earlier this month, moving to online classrooms in an effort to protect its students and staff.
The Campus of the Jewish Home banned visitation, but requested that community members send cards or notes with an inspirational message to residents to help combat loneliness.
Jewish Family Service remained open as of press time. “JFS has an obligation to serve the most vulnerable in our community, including older adults, children without permanent homes, and families facing financial challenges,” JFS Executive Director Barry Stein said. “The spread of coronavirus further compromises the welfare of these populations and puts them at greater risk.”
The Jewish Community Foundation of Central PA remained in operation remotely, and said in a statement that it is “here to assist friends, donors, and agency and synagogue partners.” It also announced that it was postponing its Donor Recognition Dinner until 2021.
In lieu of in-person synagogue services, many synagogues transitioned to virtual programming.
For further updates and information, visit www.jewishharrisburg.org and contact your desired organization directly.