In the spring of 2021, TRY ran a successful, fun, meaningful and healthy semester in spite of the challenges that come with the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to stay up-to-date on best practices for keeping our students and staff healthy and safe. We will continue to be transparent as an organization and communicate regularly with families about the inevitable changes in our policies along the way. Most importantly, we will do everything in our power to run a seamless and successful program.
We will limit our students’ exposure to the virus whenever possible, while still experiencing Israel in an exciting, educational, and fun way. We will follow all governmental guidelines and regulations, and will usually err on the side of caution in order to avoid infection or quarantine based on exposure to an infected individual. If necessary, we will provide alternative programming.
Policies are subject to change, as is the below information, as we are continuously developing our COVID-19 policies and procedures to address the ever-changing situation regarding the health challenges we are all facing.
TRY only accepts students who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Proof of vaccine must be sent to the TRY registrar as part of the registration process.
The TRY leadership team, including representatives from our Israel and New York offices, have convened an advisory board to assist in the creation of policies and procedures to address the many challenges we face with COVID-19. The board consists of pediatricians, family doctors, and a coronavirus researcher.
In the spring of 2021, Ramah Israel was one of the first institutions to successfully obtain special visas for our TRY students. In addition, hundreds of Ramah Seminar participants were able to join us this summer. Once we have more information regarding the spring 2022 program visa application process, we will be in touch with families.
TRY students must adhere to all airline requirements and restrictions during travel.
We will follow all guidelines and requirements of the Israeli Ministry of Health as it comes to the possible need to quarantine upon arrival to Israel. We are well equipped and prepared to provide programming, classes, and social opportunities throughout any potential quarantine period (if required).
All students will receive medical insurance, which begins the day they depart from home on their flights and ends the day that they arrive back in North America. This insurance covers all of the students’ medical needs while here in Israel, aside from preexisting conditions, and includes prescriptions, doctor visits, hospitalizations, and more. In addition, we will be purchasing a coronavirus add-on that covers COVID-19 testing (to be provided pending approval of the Ministry of Health) and all medical treatments, doctor’s visits, medications, and hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19 infection.
We often speak about our cohort as a family, as students develop deep, long lasting relationships with each other and with their madrichim. For the purposes of the coronavirus regulations, we will act as a nuclear family, not requiring students and madrichim to socially distance from each other once we have completed a potential quarantine period. However, it is possible we will need to socially distance from people outside of our “immediate family,” including senior TRY staff, teachers and other external visitors, and when we travel off-campus. Additionally, we will expect a higher level of hygiene and cleanliness from our students and staff, as explained below.
More than ever before, it is important that students exercise good practices of hygiene and cleanliness. This includes frequent hand sanitizing, avoiding sharing bottles and food with others, properly cleaning personal and shared spaces, using sanitation wipes to clean down surfaces they use on and off campus and wearing a mask when necessary. TRY staff will be vigilant about ensuring that these standards are maintained, as the entire group’s health is reliant on each individual maintaining proper hygiene.
In order to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19, students may not be allowed to leave the program at certain times, or even throughout the semester. Should we determine it necessary, students could be forbidden from visiting the homes of family and friends in Israel, attending special family events, and attending Host/Open Shabbatot off campus. Free nights out will also be adjusted if needed, in order to keep our students safe and avoid the need to quarantine. Should the COVID-19 situation change, it will of course impact our decision to loosen or tighten restrictions.
Last semester (in 2021), in an effort to minimize exposure to COVID-19, we spent every Shabbat together as a community (Shabbat Yachad). This means that there were no Host/Open Shabbat experiences or a Shabbat Kehila (spent with a local community in Israel). We did spend some Shabbatot off campus at a guesthouse, in compliance with Health Ministry regulations. There was something quite special about this, as we became a tightknit group, but we are hoping that in 2022 we will be able to allow students the opportunity to experience other types of Shabbat during TRY.
Israel has created a system for evaluating the safety of various sites in regards to the coronavirus. Hotels, stores, national parks, and other locations that meet the Ministry of Health’s health standards are awarded with a “Purple Badge.” TRY will only visit Purple Badge sites throughout the semester in order to limit our students’ exposure to sick individuals. Ramah Israel will enforce the Purple Badge standard in our offices.
The Chava dining hall operates in compliance with the Ministry of Health guidelines, ensuring that food is prepared and served in a hygienic and safe environment. During periods of quarantine, all meals will be prepared by the dining hall and delivered to the dormitory, where the TRY staff will place it outside the students’ rooms. Should the TRY administration deem it safe, we will eat our meals in the dining hall during non-quarantine periods. If that is possible we may have staggered seating times at meals, limiting the number of students allowed in the dining hall at one time.
Should we be staying off-campus at a guesthouse or hostel, we will follow all Ministry of Health recommendations and requirements regarding dining halls and other public spaces.
Should students begin to show COVID-19 symptoms, we will immediately isolate the student(s) from the rest of the group. We will contact the relevant medical authorities and follow their instructions, including a COVID-19 test should it be recommended. While awaiting test results, the student(s) will be kept in isolation until a negative result is received.
According to Ministry of Health requirements, any person exposed to a known carrier of COVID-19 must quarantine for seven days with two negative PCR corona-tests. Should our student(s) be exposed, they will immediately be put in quarantine in an isolated room and we will make all of the necessary arrangements, including getting them their COVID-19 tests. The student(s) must stay in quarantine for the entire required time. During this time the student(s) will participate in classes and other programming (when possible) online.
While we hope to avoid the following situation by employing strict preventative procedures, students testing positive for COVID-19 will immediately be placed in complete isolation away from the group. The ENTIRE group will then be placed under quarantine and, according to the current Ministry of Health guidelines, all students will be tested for the virus. As much as possible, all programming, including classes, will operate online. COVID-19 positive students will remain in isolation under the care of medical staff until we receive further instruction from the Ministry of Health. These students will stay in an isolated room(s) on campus. They will receive meals and be checked on regularly. Staff members will clear their trash and take care of their laundry. Students will be able to see their friends on WhatsApp and video/zoom calls. Staff will be on call 24/7 to the students. Students will be equipped with cleaning supplies, extra towels and sheets, toilet paper, thermometer, approved over the counter medication, and snack food as necessary. The students will, at no times, be allowed to leave the room. Should the student(s) need additional medical care, we will consult with medical experts.
All of the above procedures also apply to our dorm counselors (madrichim), as they are considered part of the TRY family unit.