Welcome to our Covid Page for continuously (keep checking back as we update it!) updated information on what services and programs we may (or may not) be able to offer during this unusual semester, and what conditions and specifics would be involved, see below.
The goal is to provide as much as we possibly can under these circumstances, in a responsible and safe manner, following the guidelines and recommendations. Thanks to all who have contributed to help purchase equipment and supplies to enable this current temporary transition.
The hope is that we can do what we do best: foster a sense of Jewish campus community, be there for students, create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, experience Jewish life together in meaningful, engaging, joyous, fun ways. Obviously, it won’t be the same this semester, but together we can make it the most it can be under the circumstances, and sometimes that itself can create something special, something unique, a silver lining, perhaps it will turn into a hidden unexpected blessing!
Stay tuned for continued updates to this page as the (and our) situation evolves and develops. We have to adapt and keep flexible during this time. Everyone’s cooperation and sense of personal responsibility and respect for others will keep it safe and enjoyable for all.
BY RSVP ONLY click on “This Week” Tab for more info)
This is a big shift for Shabbos House’s open-door welcome, but it is needed for this current temporary Covid situation. Shabbos House (hopefully with the help of Chabad on Campus) will be setting up a robust online reservation system. All students will have to register and prior RSVP for all programs, especially for Shabbat. This will help with crowd-size (as we will do two shifts as necessary – as we have always done for Torah-Tuesday) and provide the required tracing should that need arise. Of course, as students register they should confirm that they will adhere to whatever guidelines (masks, distancing etc) that are in place and also that they are not experiencing any Covid symptoms and have not been recently exposed to someone testing Covid-positive which would preclude their coming to Shabbos House for that duration.
The current plan is to begin with most events outdoors, especially anything with food, when masks aren’t a protection, as there is less risk for Covid transmission outdoors. We purchased and erected a 20×40 tent at the end of the parking lot and will also use the back (Sukkah) deck. Between the tent and deck we can accommodate a maximum of 44 people seated social-distancing. Most events this year will be smaller than that. If shifts are needed for Shabbat dinners we will do so, all via the RSVP system. Even outdoors we must adhere to social-distancing guidelines (limited, distanced seating) and mask-wearing (aside for when eating at a table) to minimize the risk. Note about parking: the tent eats up a chunk of the parking area, plus takes away turnaround space, so parking is going to be super limited and best that people park on Dutch Quad in the few rows closest to Shabbos House. Yes, Albany gets cold, but we should be able to get through Sukkot-time, mid-October and for that last month of the semester until Thanksgiving, we’ll cross that bridge then.
COMFORTABLE WITH MASKS
Mask-wearing will be required on campus and at Shabbos House as well, even at our outdoor event venues. We ordered custom Shabbos House masks as this year’s giveaway, but being that mask-wearing will be a big part of our lives for the coming months, please find the masks that are most comfortable for you to wear long term. It may take trying a few types to see what works best. Mask-wearing has been proven to be the single most effective and efficient way to keep Covid from spreading, so we just gotta do it, its an inconvenience we have to live with for now.
FOOD AT SHABBOS HOUSE
We’re going to to do all meals individually prepared for each student at Shabbat, Torah Tuesday, Minyan Brunch etc. Some meals (aside for on Shabbat or holiday) will also or only be available to-go for pickup and sometimes also dropoff. This style will be much more labor-intensive and has a whole host of challenges (extra cost, less choice and environmental issues etc) but it is recommended to be the safest approach in this current circumstance. Students will have to sit in a distanced manner and wearing masks at all times aside for when eating. It is still possible to possible to have a sense of community even when seating distanced, we will try to create atmosphere despite this challenge.
This may be the easiest arrangement actually. We will either pray outside or inside (with windows opened), wearing masks and seating distanced. We have smaller groups for davening so this should work fine. We hope and look forward to keeping up Shabbat and Sunday Minyan prayer services as we have always had at UAlbany. We will follow other synagogue’s protocols regarding things like Torah reading etc and adjust accordingly. We may abbreviate the service somewhat to keep it shorter duration (especially since people are in masks). Also, sadly, we’ll have to keep singing (a big spreader risk) in check until we can find a good way to do it in a limited fashion.
HIGH HOLIDAY SERVICES
Many students and parents have asked about this: Yes, we hope and plan to provide in-person High Holiday services. For Rosh Hashanah the plan is to have different prayer service options: full-davening (prayers), an abbreviated davening, and just Shofar (this year only on Sunday) to provide access for various people’s needs and keep the crowd size manageable and distanceable at each. Students will choose ahead which type and time of service works for them. Regarding holiday meals, we will probably keep it simple, do the traditional, do it similar to Shabbat, distanced, outdoors, and in shifts if necessary. For Yom Kippur we also plan an in-person traditional service, but also likely to be divided between full prayer services and abridged services for shorter duration. And yes, we look forward to Sukkot with meals in the Sukkah, following similar protocols and guidelines. Yes, also to Simchat Torah but not sure yet what will be advisable regarding dancing and singing (which are major spreader concerns), stay tuned for a creative alternative!
In addition, if we are able to juggle all this, we may also provide Holiday-To-Go packages for students to do many of the holiday basics on their own. We did suspend Shabbat-To-Go for now but will revisit that option once we get a feel for what the semester will be like and how much work it will entail and we can handle.
Yes, we plan and hope to have weekday events both virtually and in-person such as Girls Nite In and Torah-Tuesday classes, outdoor movie-nights, distanced or virtual game-nights and more. For those events that are in-person we will prepare individual (non-shared) supplies as needed. We recognize the need and hunger to get back to a sense of actual community, as wonderful as the digital connection is – and the importance to keep it limited and safe. Most of our weekday events are smaller, so this should be feasible, providing all students cooperate with RSVPing, masks, distancing etc. And we will do as many virtual options as possible to accommodate students who are more comfortable that way and those who stayed home for the semester.
We will provide a spectrum of both in-person and online Torah study opportunities, including Torah-Tuesday in shifts, study in smaller groups or one-on-one. Of course, most learning can take place virtually as well.
KOSHER DINING ON CAMPUS, please note!
Due to Covid, much of UAlbany Dining will be more to-go take-out style, and Kosher is also changing in that direction. They are eliminating the Kosher Dining this year and substituting with prepared meals – we still don’t know details about this, we are trying to find out more. Parents should please contact the University directly if they have concerns. We sure hope this won’t be airline-type meals, that’s a point we drove home repeatedly to dining services. They are hopefully exploring an option via Kosher Price Chopper – really hope that can work. See this link for more info https://ualbanydining.com/dining-near-me/kosher-kitchen Also because there will be an order form this year to pre-order your specific meal preference for that day or week etc, Kosher-interested students should please email IDCARD@ALBANY.EDU as soon as possible and clearly let them know that they would like to get meals at the Kosher Kitchen this semester. Writing this email will then give them access to the Mobile ID Order Form and Instructions. There are various options on how to use this depending on your meal plan. There are also limited subsidies available through the Vaad for students who need help in upgrading to Kosher for $100 from a regular meal plan (and please consider this as this upgrade is very helpful to the viability of Kosher on campus). In general, in this current situation, if there are gaps and needs for Kosher-observant students, Shabbos House will try to do extra help to fill those gaps.
Note for that some meals (Shabbat, Jewish holidays, Sunday brunch) the only campus Kosher availability will be at Shabbos House.
Overall, good to keep in mind: THIS TOO SHALL PASS! But in the meantime, let’s get through this together in the best way possible. The ability of Shabbos House to provide programming in a time like this is highly dependent on everyone’s cooperation and mutual respect and responsibility, and a need to be adaptive and flexible (and creative!) as needed during this uncertain and unusual period.
This most unusual Fall 2020 semester is over. Hard to believe we are at this point! Most of it was in-person (until UAlbany went on pause near start of November) for those students up here. Despite all the Covid limitations and restrictions or maybe because of it, it was quite memorable, better than we expected.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Whether you will be celebrating with friends or family in-person or more virtually, may it be meaningful, memorable and enjoyable. May each and all of us recognize the many blessings in our lives and be grateful for them always.
We’re going to do some Shabbat-To-Go packages or possibly even some small in-person Shabbat dinners for students up here over the long extended winter break (between Thanksgiving and February 1st). Stay tuned for updates on that.