COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance
from the Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America
This is shared based on the guidance of our poskim, Harav Hershel Schachter, shlita and Harav Mordechai Willig, shlita with the support of Harav Dovid Cohen, shlita.
Halacha obligates us to care for our own health and to protect others from harm and illness. In addition, Halacha directs us to defer to the consensus of medical experts in determining and prescribing appropriate medical responses to both treating and preventing illness.
There has long been an almost uniform consensus among leading medical experts that vaccines are an effective and responsible manner of protecting life and advancing health. For over two hundred years vaccinations have been responsible for the dramatic reduction of many terrible diseases and have significantly improved public health in our country and around the world. For this reason, the consensus of our major poskim (halachic decisors) is to encourage us to use vaccinations to protect ourselves and others from disease.
While this guidance of our poskim has addressed vaccine usage generally, the introduction of the novel COVID-19 vaccines required specific reconsideration. The poskim recognize that the COVID-19 vaccines have been developed with unprecedented speed and are expected to be made available under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). In addition, the two currently leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates are mRNA vaccines which employ a new vaccine technology.
Notwithstanding these factors, the conclusion of our poskim is that, pursuant to the advice of your personal health care provider, the Torah obligation to preserve our lives and the lives of others requires us to vaccinate for COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine becomes available.
Click here for the full document
August 2020 Update
Dear Kol BeRamah community,
It has been nearly five months since we had to close our shul down for in-person services and events. Way back in mid-March, we rapidly transitioned to online learning via Zoom. Since then, our Rabbi and Rabinessa have been working tirelessly to connect and reach community members. Rabbi Kelman teaches at least one class every single day except Shabbos, and sometimes 3 or more! Topics have ranged from how to run your own Seder, to halachic aspects of the Titanic disaster, to vegan and vegetarianism in the Torah; from Hebrew calligraphy to a rollicking kids’ class (I couldn’t tear myself away from all the terribly hilarious puns!) to Talmudic discussions.
Rabbi Kelman continues to bring his signature warmth to every one of those classes. And the Rabinessa is cooking up a storm, as always, with a Jewish cooking, history & cuisine class. In addition, she is constantly reaching out to everyone with her delicious Shabbos treats, and has teamed with the Food Depot, along with some amazing KBR volunteers, to help needy congregants access kosher food during these challenging times. At the congregational level, our Passover food store was a great success, and we continue to stock kosher meat and cheese for sale at Kol BeRamah (with more coming in before Rosh HaShanah). If you are interested, please contact us and we will be happy to make a socially-distanced appointment.
However, the end of Covid is not in sight. Cases are, devastatingly, going up in New Mexico and throughout the country. We have had the opportunity to join a video call with Dr. Fauci himself, as he addressed Orthodox synagogue leadership across the country. In addition, Rabbi Kelman is constantly in communication with rabbinic leaders — national and international halachic authorities — as well as public health experts. The Rabbi’s decision, supported by our Board, is that, at this time, opening up our shul is an unjustified public health risk, and would potentially endanger our precious community members.
Thank G-d, I have not yet heard of anyone who attends Kol BeRamah having gotten COVID. I would like it to stay that way. We are continually evaluating the situation and considering various options for services and programs, both virtual and — as soon as appropriate — in person. Above all, we are following the Torah precept of “Venishmartem M’od” (guarding our health proactively and zealously). We will keep the community informed as things change; we welcome your thoughts, questions, and feedback.
Finally, I would like to ask our community to consider a few things:
- Please take your health seriously, and also the health of others. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Avoid unnecessary exposures and risks. Minimize outings that would put you in higher-risk settings. Ask us for help with groceries or other items, if you don’t feel safe going out. (We have a group of healthy volunteers that are happy to pick up groceries or drop off items, as needed, while taking strict health precautions for themselves and you.) Consider carefully whether or not you really need to go out: which activities are truly necessary? We have cancelled classes and services, not because they are “non-essential,” but because we are obligated to prioritize our own and our community’s health and safety. Our physical health is necessary for our spiritual health. We encourage you to extend that tenet and guard yourself with vigilance until the risk passes.
- Our shul is likely going to be closed for in-person services for a while, but we treasure our wonderful, warm community, and want to make sure that everyone maintains their connection to their Judaism and their friends. I encourage you to try out a Zoom class! In the coming days, we will be finalizing our Rosh Hashanah schedule. We value your input on what you need to help you get the most out of the Fall Holidays — please email us or call the Rabbi with your concerns or thoughts.
- Please make an extra effort to support this year’s membership campaign. We have taken steps to reduce unnecessary costs, yet our synagogue still faces strong financial pressures. At the same time, many of our regular fundraising activities are not happening. We need your support of our wonderful programming and Rabbi, especially during this difficult time. Every member who renews or joins Friends of KBR will receive a beautiful siddur and a high-quality shofar. And, we encourage you join us for Steve Ovitsky’s class on August 20, which will teach the basics of how to blow a shofar, and to perform the mitzvah on Rosh HaShanah.
- Minyanim are communal activities, and, in times of COVID, have communal consequences. As the Rabbi has determined for our community that public services are not currently appropriate, we ask that if you wish to observe a loved-one’s Yahrzeit, you do so with a special Zoom learning session (we can set it up for you). Alternatively, we can chant the “Kel Maleh” prayer for your loved one on the Saturday night before the Yahrzeit, during our weekly Zoom Havdalah ceremony. Not only are these both time-honored ways to mark the anniversary of a loved one’s passing, but you will be protecting your community as we join with you in your mitzvah.
Thank you so much for your support — I miss you all, and truly hope it is not too long until we can all celebrate Shabbat, holidays, and joyful occasions together!
Naomi Israel, President
Do something for yourself & the world during the pandemic.
Pirkei Avot 1:2
עַל שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים (הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֶד:) עַל הַתּוֹרָה, וְעַל הַעֲבוֹדָה וְעַל גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים.
On three things is the world sustained: learning Torah, prayer, and acts of kindness.
“Ein Segulah KaTorah” – there is no segulah as great as Torah learning. During troubled times, people often look for segulos – spiritual shortcuts – of all kinds, or simply feel completely powerless and depressed, shut in at home. But actually, we can all make a difference. Harness the powerful merit of Torah study for yourself, a loved one, or the world at large. While we know that it is hard not to remain glued to the news during this crisis, we encourage you to take a moment, to do something to elevate yourself, and the entire world!
Upcoming Online & Phone-In Learning
Pick up that Siddur you as a Friends of KBR member received last summer! Try a little of the morning services. Say some Psalms. Join the Orthodox Union community for the recitation of Tehillim (chapters 20, 27 and 130) and divrei chizuk (words of inspiration) from our rabbis each afternoon at 11:00 Santa Fe Time. Today’s divrei chizuk will be shared by Rabbi Chaim Marcus of Congregation Israel in Springfield, NJ. To participate, dial 773-377-9170.
Acts of Kindness
Call a friend. Call a family member. Check in with your neighbors. Join KBR Membership for a Virtual Community-Wide Meeting — we want to hear from you, and want to help you at this time, and we need to build our community connections even at this time of physical distance! Wednesday afternoon, 6pm on Zoom