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.
This page was originally written prior to the Fall 2020 semester upon our first return to campus life during Covid. Some of the text may seem to be more relevant then, but we tried to update this page. We feel very blessed to get through a Fall semester safely and happily even with all the restriction and guidelines with a special vibe and atmosphere that we didn’t expect possible during Covid. All the holidays, many Shabbat dinners, classes and events, in-person and to-go, until UAlbany went on “pause” at the start of November and we switched to only to-go. Students who made it through with us – or those who will get through the Spring – got/will get a souvenir glass Kiddish cup with the “Shehechinyanu” blessing, for sustaining us and keeping us to (and through) this time!
UAlbany gave us the go-ahead to host in-person for Spring 2021 using the same guidelines and format we had for the Fall. At the end of the Fall semester, UAlbany President Havidan reached out with a message of appreciation for all that we were able to provide for students during the Fall. We’re going to try to keep this up – with everyone’s participation and assistance
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 and this week’s RSVP form)
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 plan for Fall (and perhaps later Spring 2021) 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.
For Spring 2021 (a misnomer, it is very much winter here!) we are doing all events indoors, but all events will have open windows (we have many windows in the main room) to allow for fresh air circulation as well as heat goes full blast. This won’t be the same as outdoors, but it won’t be a closed room either. We will keep windows open enough for fresh, crisp, wintry air and help reduce the risk of Covid transmission along with other factors.
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.
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. We switched most learning events to online Zoom with various mediums to create a more engaging interactive experience.
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. Parents should please contact the University directly if they have concerns. 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 for that 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.
MID FEBRUARY EVENTS, NOT QUITE YET PURIM:
Here’s the RSVP signup form for this week, from Tuesday 2/16 to Tuesday 2/23 and lots in between. Please note there is a separate signup form below for the Girls Night In.
2/16: TORAH-TUESDAY JEOPARDY
We’ll have Torah Tuesday food to-go (for pickup or delivery between 6pm and 7pm) and we’ll do the class online over Zoom at Zoom ID: 672-547-2221 P: SH320 where we will be playing a Jeopardy game all about 5 of the vessels/equipment of the Mishna/Beit HaMikdash including the Menorah, the Ark, the two altars and the show-bread table. Whether you are very familiar or hardly heard of these things, everyone will come away hopefully learning something new and appreciating the relevance of these ancient objects in our everyday lives.
2/17: GIRLS NIGHT IN – GLASS ETCHING
You’ll need a separate form (click here for it) to sign up for this special program, co-sponsored by UAlbany Hillel and Shabbos House. It will be virtual, over Zoom, but you can pick up or get delivered a complete art supplies package to make this in your own place, guided together over Zoom.
2/19-2/20: SHABBAT DINNER & LUNCH ETC, PLUS SPECIAL TORAH READING
Friday Night may be after yet another bout of snow, but we’ll have good food and warm atmosphere. This Shabbat is the one before Purim, and as such there’s a special daytime Torah reading called Zachor – Remember! Please remember to use the form above for all the events this week, even Shabbat.
2/20: KEEPING UP THE SAT NIGHT PIZZA
8pm at Shabbos House. Informal, tasty, always with Havdalah, sometimes with a movie, too. It’s new for Covid that this is a weekly event.
2/21: SUNDAY’S MINYAN BRUNCH
It’s a good thing, let’s keep it going! Tefillin, Talmud, a little davening and some bagels and such. Starts 11am, ends by 12pm (unless we get too late a start). Can always use an extra guy or two to make the Minyan.
2/23: PRE-PURIM HAMANTASCH BAKING
Torah-Tuesday is going bakery-style. Roll, fill, shape and pinch your own Hamantasch, Covid-friendly and all. Get a nice taste of homemade Purim a couple days before the holiday. Yes, with dairy dinner, and yes, with a little learning, too. Last week we went deep into Hamantachen, this week we’ll do some light exploring of other Purim customs and observances.
Purim will be on the next signup form, look for that email and posts next week. But just a heads-up, Purim begins Thursday night 2/25 (earlier on Thursday 2/25 is the Fast of Esther) and we’ll celebrate here with Megillah, some games and fun, maybe you can come in a costume, and hopefully a special food treat (in addition to a break-fast) that we’re trying to arrange. We’ll have Purim Day Minyan with Torah reading and Megillah at 8:30am, and then a festive Purim meal just before Shabbat begins that will roll right into Shabbat stay tuned for more details on all that.