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FTJC COVID-19 Policies

Community Covenant

Our doors are open and each of us is welcome here.

We care about each other and keep each other safe.

by attending, we affirm:

We are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, if eligible, including boosters.

We wear FTJC-approved masks properly during times of medium, high, and very high community spread:

  • Adults: N95/KN95/KF94 masks (verified, well fitted, good condition)
  • Service leaders may wear a more comfortable mask during times of medium and low community spread in New York City
  • Children 2 and up: any well-fitted masks

We have no symptoms of COVID-19.

We respect each other’s different risk levels and needs for distance.

We use the bathrooms one person or household at a time.

We help children follow these safe behaviors.

We ensure that our guests affirm this covenant.

If we have confirmed exposure as a close contact, or test positive for COVID-19, we follow CDC guidelines for being around high-risk people before returning to FTJC (10 days).

FTJC COVID Mitigation Strategies for Indoor Gathering

As of July 2022, FTJC is tying our indoor mitigation strategies to the CDC COVID-19 by County alert levels. We will make best efforts to adjust our strategies based on the current alert level for New York City, with allowances for timing around Shabbat and holidays. 

Note: FTJC will follow the guidelines for the high alert level for all Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, regardless of the level of community spread at the time of the holidays. 

Covid Exposure: FTJC members should wait 10 days to return to shul after a confirmed exposure to COVID as a close contact. School-age children should follow the NYC DOE guidance for close contact. If a child can test to stay in school, they may test to stay in shul. When in doubt, test. (Guidance on at-home rapid tests on Shabbat and holidays below.)

Masks: Along with vaccinations, masks remain one of the most important mitigation strategies at our disposal. Maximizing the quality and filtration of masks is especially important for many in our community who are at a higher risk of developing a COVID-19 infection, including older adults, those who are immunocompromised, those with disabilities, and children too young to be vaccinated or wear a mask. In order to keep our space as safe as possible for as many of our members as possible, we require all adults to wear a high grade mask (N95/KN95/KF94) at times of medium, high, and very high community spread. We always have a supply available to everyone upon entering our space, and anyone preferring to bring their own may do so, as long as it is verified, well fitting, and in good condition. Kids aged 2+ are expected to wear a well-fitting mask from home. Families will determine what type of masks their children should wear.

At our outdoor events and at times of low spread, masks are optional, but should always be brought along. Please take care to respect each other’s different risk levels and needs for distance. If you are unsure, please ask and communicate freely! If food is being served, please keep your mask on when taking food and take care not to crowd around the table. We hope that everyone, regardless of their risk tolerance, will be able to move around and spread out comfortably when we gather together outside.

Questions? Please email or

Guidance on At-Home Rapid Tests on Shabbat and Holidays

Rabbi Guy Austrian

April 8, 2022

At-home rapid tests for COVID-19 are now more available and affordable and are an important tool to keep ourselves and others safer. As many of our community members get together for Shabbat meals and child playdates–and with the Passover holiday approaching–I’ve been asked to share some guidance about using at-home tests on Shabbat and Yom Tov. 

My intention here is not to write a full halachic analysis with sources and citations, but simply to share broad guidance, with links to resources with greater detail. This guidance is not meant as FTJC communal policy, but only as a framework to help people make their own decisions about private gatherings.

A number of rabbis have recently published responses to this question, including:

Rabbi Dov Linzer (English video)

Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon (Hebrew article)

Rabbi Ethan Tucker (English audio)

Rabbi Mychoel Zylberman (English audio)

All of them take a broadly similar approach, permitting where there is a need relating to physical or mental health or the experience of Shabbat.

There are a number of halachic concerns that the actions involved in an at-home rapid test fall into categories of melachah, activities prohibited on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Among these are:  Tzove’a (dyeing) – When the liquid solution is absorbed into the test strip, it causes colored lines to appear. Sechitah (squeezing liquid from a cloth) – When using certain test kits that involve dipping the swab into a tube with liquid solution, one squeezes to extract as much of the liquid as possible from the swab. Kore’a (tearing) – When opening the packaging, one has to tear the foil wrapper around the cartridge or cardboard that holds the test strip.

Although these actions resemble melachah, many do not actually qualify as the prohibited activity, or don’t involve a core (“Torah-level”) prohibition but only a lesser (“rabbinic-level”) form. Further, some of the actions happen only indirectly, or temporarily, or without wanting to keep the product of the action.

Meanwhile, the purpose of taking the at-home rapid test may be in service of other mitzvot, for example:

  • to protect the physical health of oneself and others by preventing the spread of the virus,

  • to protect mental health by alleviating or ending isolation, or by reducing the anxiety that some may feel about gathering,

  • to have oneg Shabbos (the pleasure of Shabbat), understood to come mainly, but not only, through food and drink at Shabbat meals.

So in principle, it is preferable to take an at-home rapid test before or after Shabbat or Yom Tov, when there is no compelling need to do it during Shabbat or Yom Tov (for example, one is merely curious or impatient to check one’s status, or when a friendly chat could just as pleasantly take place outdoors).

But it’s certainly permitted to take an at-home rapid test during Shabbat or Yom Tov, when there is a need such as the protection of physical or mental health, especially when one wants to gather with others for indoor meals, child playdates, or similar higher-risk gatherings that enhance the observance and pleasure of Shabbat and Yom Tov, and especially when seeking to include people who may have higher-risk factors for COVID-19.

When making plans for home-hosted meals on Shabbat and Yom Tov (including the Passover Seders), hosts and guests may wish to communicate about their particular context and relative risk levels and comfort levels. They may also want to consider the length of time elapsing between a test and the meal, which increases for a lunch, and especially for the second night and day of a two-day holiday. If there is any concern that anyone present has elevated risk factors, or if even one person would be made less anxious or more able to be included, then everyone may certainly be asked to test closer to the time of the meal.

When taking an at-home rapid test during Shabbat or Yom Tov, it’s preferable to perform the actions using a shinui – a “change” or “difference” from the way one normally does them; for example using one’s knuckles or non-dominant hand. This practice lessens any potential melachah and helps us to keep our consciousness suffused with Shabbat and Yom Tov. 

One more practical consideration. If a guest tests positive during Shabbat or Yom Tov, but is not using their phone, it may be difficult to notify others that they are not coming, or for the host to send a package of food. If a host tests positive, it may be difficult to notify others not to come. I am sure that creative ways will be found to navigate these situations with compassion, understanding, generosity, and good humor.

Wishing everyone health, safety, joy, and good company as we continue to move through this evolving pandemic and into the Passover season–chag kasher v’sameach.

Rabbi Guy Austrian

Wed, December 7 2022 13 Kislev 5783