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Coronavirus/COVID-19 Information and Response

March 24, 2020

Dear WHC Family,

We hope that you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe. As we have heard from the CDC, what we do over the next several weeks will be critically important to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This is a challenging and uncertain time, and taking our moral, religious, and civic responsibilities very seriously, we know that our actions have never mattered more.


Following the recent announcements from Mayor Bowser in Washington, D.C. and Governor Hogan in Maryland, we need to let you know that both of our buildings – the Temple on Macomb St. and the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center in Potomac – will remain closed until at least April 30.

As we have shared with you over the last week and a half, we are committed to helping all of us stay connected throughout this stressful time.

Below are some of the ongoing WHC Virtual programs and services we have planned for the next five weeks. Details for these and other online chats are all available on our new website, We suggest bookmarking this site so you can easily check back to see when additional programming and opportunities to connect online are added.

Anxiety in Children and Adolescents:

This Thursday at 8:30 pm, Rabbi Lustig and Dr. Matthew Biel, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Georgetown University Hospital, will host an online discussion about anxiety in children and adolescents. Join us via Zoom.

Online Classes:

  • Sundays at 10:30 am: “The Best of the Amram Scholar Series”
  • Mondays at 7:00 pm: “Exploring Black-Jewish Relations” with Professor Jacques Berlinerblau
  • Mondays at 8:00 pm: "12 Jewish Questions: Digital Edition" with Rabbi Miller and the WHC clergy team
  • Tuesdays at 7:00 pm: "How to … Find Wholeness in Jewish Living" with Rabbi Fischel
  • Tuesdays at 7:00 pm: Upper School and Confirmation Programming with Rabbi Shankman and Ira Miller
  • Wednesdays at 1:00 pm: Wednesday Study Group with Rabbi Fischel


  • Fridays at 5:00 pm: Tot Shabbat with WHC Clergy and RJWECC Song Leader, Lisa Baydush
  • Fridays at 6:00 pm: Shabbat Evening Service with WHC Clergy
  • Saturdays at 9:00 am: Early Torah Study with WHC Clergy
  • Saturdays at 10:30 am: Shabbat Morning Service with WHC Clergy
  • Saturdays at 9:00 pm: College Student Havdalah and Chat with Rabbi Shankman and Ira Miller

With the uncertainty that is ahead, please know that we are not just a community, we are your family, and we care for you. During this closure, you can still reach our administrative staff, who are working remotely, via email and voicemail.

We ask you to please heed the call of our elected leaders and stay home to help flatten the curve. The doctors, nurses, and medical professionals on the front lines caring for those stricken by the coronavirus are depending on it.

May God watch over our doctors, nurses, medical professionals, first responders, and their families. May each be blessed with wisdom and strength as they fight on the front lines of this pandemic. And may God watch over each of us. Amen.


Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi
Steve Jacober, Executive Director
Nell Shapiro, President

March 12, 2020 

Dear Washington Hebrew Family, 

We write to you today with some important updates. As a sacred community, we are aware of our moral, religious, and civic responsibilities and believe it is necessary to do our part to keep our community safe and slow the spread of the coronavirus. While there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the WHC community, after serious consideration, and in consultation with experts, we have decided to close both of our buildings – the Temple on Macomb Street and the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center in Potomac – from Sunday, March 15 through Sunday, March 29.


What does this two-week closure mean? 


Lay Led services on Friday, March 20 and 27 are canceled.  

Our Shabbat evening services on Friday, March 20 and 27 and our Shabbat morning services on March 21 and 28 will be streamed live – with our clergy conducting them in real-time. Rather than coming to Temple to worship, we invite you to join our virtual community by going to from your computer, phone, or tablet.  


The ECCs and Religious School are closed
Adult Learning classes are canceled 


All programs and events scheduled for this time period are canceled or postponed. 


Our offices will be operational with minimal essential staff working at Temple. The rest of our staff will be working remotely, checking and responding to email and voicemail regularly. Additionally, the main numbers at Temple (202-362-7100) and JBSC (301-279-7505) will be answered if you call during business hours. 


Although our facilities will be closed, our chesed – our hearts – will always remain open to you, and our clergy are available if you are in need of pastoral care or support. 

If you have an emergency or death in the family, please call Layne Weiss at 301-275-5748. 
If you need pastoral care or guidance, please call our main number, 202-362-7100. 
If you have an upcoming life cycle event, our clergy will contact you directly to discuss your plans.


At present, we plan to reopen our buildings and resume all programming on Monday, March 30 and will inform you via email, this page on our website, and Facebook and Instagram pages of any changes to this plan. During the two-week closure, we will continue to work with local, state, and federal agencies as well as our community partners to determine how to best keep our community safe in the coming weeks and months.  

Our clergy, staff, and lay leaders are working around the clock, consulting with experts in public health and emergency management and our colleagues in the Jewish community. I want to publicly thank this team as well as the facilities staff whose efforts have helped minimize risks to everyone who has come to our buildings. 

The coronavirus is challenging all of us in different ways. Some of us have family in areas that have experienced a significant impact; others have elderly relatives about whom we are worried; still others are at high risk themselves. There’s no doubt that each of us is concerned about how the virus will affect our lives over the next few weeks and possibly months.  

This is a moment that is different from what any of us has experienced before, and as such, it can be frightening. But it is also a moment for us to remember that we are a strong, sacred community, and our faith guides us to do all we can to minimize future community spread. 

Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh. All of Israel Are Responsible for One Another. 

We vow to help our community, both sacred and social, continue to feel connected, even while “socially distanced.” Please reach out to us if you have questions or need support. 


Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi
Steve Jacober, Executive Director
Nell Shapiro, President



March 11, 2020

Dear Washington Hebrew Family, 

There is an increasing number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in the area. At this time, our buildings and schools remain open. Please be assured that as new information emerges about the spread of COVID-19, we will continue to review and adapt our protocols to meet this evolving challenge. 

If we should need to close either or both of our buildings for any length of time or cancel a program, we will notify you via email, our website, and Facebook and Instagram page. 

As a sacred community, our focus is on both the spiritual and physical health and safety of everyone who comes to our facilities – both the Temple on Macomb Street and the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center in Potomac. Following CDC guidelines, we continue to be vigilant and have enhanced our cleaning procedures such as wiping seats before and after services and regularly disinfecting common areas, including doorknobs and restrooms, throughout the day. Enhanced and deep cleaning now occurs every evening. 

We also ask for your partnership in taking preventative measures:  

  • Please stay home if you are not feeling well.
  • The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable and should consider avoiding crowds.
  • If you are unable to join us in person, you can still enjoy our Friday evening Shabbat services via our streaming option
  • To help us practice "social distancing" at services, please leave an empty seat between you/your family and the next person, and if possible, stagger rows.
  • We also recommend deferring the practice of touching or kissing the Torah scroll at Saturday Shabbat services. 
  • Consider using an elbow bump instead of shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.  
  • Wash your hands frequently throughout the day, especially when you first enter a building.  
  • Coughs and sneezes should be covered, either with a tissue, which should be thrown away immediately, or with your elbow.  

The current outbreak is already triggering significant anxiety. When you look for information and resources about the virus, we urge you to turn to reliable sources, including these organizations' COVID-19 websites: the CDCthe District of Columbia, and the Maryland Department of Health.   

As a sacred community, we know that medical vigilance alone is insufficient. Especially at this time, we need to focus on our values of kindness and compassion, faith, and prayer. We thank you for your partnership in keeping our community safe and appreciate your support. 

Blessed are You, Adonai, Source of our health and strength. 


Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig
Senior Rabbi

Steve Jacober
Executive Director

Nell Shapiro


March 3, 2020

Dear WHC Community,

As coronavirus/COVID-19 continues to be a global concern, we want to update you on what we are doing at Washington Hebrew Congregation and in our Early Childhood Centers, Religious Schools, and youth programs.

According to authorities, there are no confirmed cases in the D.C. metropolitan area. We are monitoring the situation closely and continue to uphold our commitment to high standards of cleanliness and safety.
To help keep our community informed and to lower potential risks, we ask that all children, families, and staff follow the preventative measures listed below, as recommended by the CDC:  
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. We will enforce hand-washing and other hygiene measures with students throughout the school day.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with individuals who are sick.
  • If you are sick, please stay home. If your child is sick, please keep them at home. The CDC recommends that individuals remain home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever (e.g., chills, feeling warm, flushed appearance).
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately discard the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you have visited a country or region that has experienced an outbreak of COVID-19, we ask that you (and your children) consider staying home for the duration of the incubation period – currently listed between 2 to 14 days.
  • Please follow the recommendations from your own health care professional.
The links below, from the CDC's website, can provide additional information:
We join health officials in taking COVID-19/coronavirus seriously. WHC is closely reviewing all of our protocols to meet this evolving challenge. As a sacred community, we care for everyone’s physical and spiritual well-being; thank you for your partnership in these efforts.

Steve Jacober
Executive Director
Nell Shapiro