308 East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022

Services Cancelled Through March 31, 2020

Dear Or Olam Community:

As a result of the latest developments with the Coronavirus, and out of real concern for the health of our congregants and friends, and the community at large, we have decided that we have no choice but to cancel all of our programming and services through March 31. We will continue to monitor the situation, and we will keep you apprised going forward.

Please rest assured that this was not a decision made without serious thought and discussion among the Rabbi, the Cantor and the leadership of Or Olam. We considered many lesser options, but out of an overwhelming belief that we have an obligation to do all that we can to try to protect the health of everybody, we believe that it is our responsibility to the Or Olam family and the community at large to take this step.

In lieu of services, we ask that each of us take the meaningful and spiritual steps of looking out for each other. We have organized volunteers from the shul to help if you need assistance in any way. Please check in on your friends and neighbors. Please feel free to leave emergency contact information at the office.   It is both ironic and uplifting to know that all of us acting together as a community is the best antidote to this worldwide pandemic.

Rabbi Wernick can be reached at any time by email at ewernick18@gmail.com, by phone at home at 212.679.1837 and on his cell at 215.990.1545. Ken Adelsberg can be reached at any time at kadelsberg@me.com and on his cell at 917.863.5478.

Now is the time for all of us to express our love to each other as we find ourselves physically distanced from each other. But through prayer and diligence we believe that our commitment to each other will only grow stronger.

Gene Wernick, Rabbi

Ken Adelsberg, President

More Information

We will continue to take commonsense precautions to do what we can to minimize the risk of infection. Consistent with the recommendations of the CDC, we will be taking the following steps and have the following recommendations:

  • We will be disinfecting doorknobs, faucets and other surfaces throughout our building and at regular intervals.
  • Greet each other with an “elbow bump” rather than a handshake, kiss or hug or other form of greeting that does not involve bodily contact. 
  • All of our services where we expect a larger group will be held in the main sanctuary so as to allow us to keep a distance of 6 feet between as recommended by the CDC.
  • During the Sh’ma, to avoid touching your face, simply close your eyes.
  • Instead of touching and kissing the Torah for an Aliyah, simply touch the Torah with your tzitzit (fringes) and refrain from kissing them.
  • During the Torah processional, please do not touch or kiss the Torah; rather, you might reach your hand toward the Torah and then touch your heart or engage in other indicia of honor and respect.
  • Remember to frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap (feel free to take advantage of the many dispensers of Purell that we have in the synagogue).
  • If you sneeze or cough, the advice is to use a tissue, instead of the crook of one’s arm.

If you have traveled to any area where we know there to be a wider spread of the virus, we ask that you stay home for at least two weeks (or longer if the CDC changes its protocols). These areas would include China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Italy, and Japan. We refer you to the CDC web page for an updated list of locations (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers).

Those of you who are in a higher risk group regarding exposure to the virus may also want to refrain from joining us out of an abundance of caution.

And, importantly, if you recently traveled internationally to areas of concern and feel sick with fever, cough or have trouble breathing, you should also seek medical care right away. Call ahead and tell them about your travel and symptoms.

Here is the most recent risk assessment from the NY Commissioner of Health (as of 8:30 am on March 8, 2020) as found at the following web page: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus.

  • For most people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. This virus is not currently widespread in the United States.
  • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.

And here is the most recent guidance from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary).

Important Health Information For Those Who Have Recently Traveled Internationally

If you recently traveled internationally to these areas of concern and feel sick with fever, cough or trouble breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Call ahead and tell them about your travel and symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others. Stay home, except for seeking medical care.
  • Avoid further travel until the illness resolves.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


The 2019 novel coronavirus may cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like:

  • cough
  • fever
  • trouble breathing and
  • pneumonia

CDC believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. 

How Does Novel Coronavirus Spread?

Most of the early reported cases had contact with a seafood and live animal market, suggesting an animal source of the outbreak. However, most cases are now likely to be spread from person to person by droplets when coughing. Since this virus is very new, health authorities continue to carefully watch how this virus spreads.


While there is currently no vaccine to prevent this virus, these simple steps can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The Or Olam Leadership Group

Or Olam | 308 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022 | 212-752-1200

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