As it relates to the coronavirus, we are living in a world with fast-changing information and policies. While the world waits for public health professionals, scientists, and doctors to learn more, many important government agencies and businesses are at a loss for how to develop and implement procedures. TRY is highly reliant on this information as our program includes air travel, bus travel, classes, visiting sites/hotels, and interaction with teens and adults outside the group. Therefore, the policies of today are not necessarily those of tomorrow. We will be transparent as an organization and communicate regularly with families about these inevitable changes. 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.
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.
Ramah Israel has received permission to bring students to Israel using a special student visa. Families will be given instructions on how to obtain this visa.
TRY students must adhere to all airline requirements and restrictions during travel.
At this time, the Ministry of Health guidelines requires all those entering the State of Israel to be quarantined for two weeks. As such, everyone arriving from abroad will go from the airport directly into quarantine on campus. During this time, students will have regular online programming with our staff and faculty, including orientations, academics, Hebrew ulpan, and social programming. Should students need supplies or anything else from the “outside world,” it will be provided for them. Madrichim (counselors) will also quarantine with the group, sleep in the dormitory and will be with the students through this unique and intensive beginning. Additional TRY staff will be available by phone/WhatsApp/zoom 24/7, including over Shabbat and Chag.
All food will be prepared in the Goldstein Youth Village (aka the “Chava”), where we live. The Chava campus houses boarding schools, some of which have been running throughout this crisis, and the Chava kitchen is compliant with the regulations of the Israeli Ministry of Health. The food will be brought to our dormitory and placed outside of the students’ rooms by TRY staff. In addition to the regular scheduled meals, staff will also provide snacks and supplementary food as needed.
Should anyone require medical attention during the quarantine period we will contact a doctor and facilitate a check up, either from a distance or via video chat. Should it be determined that someone needs to see a doctor in person or is in need of a COVID-19 test, we will make arrangements for transportation that adhere to quarantine regulations (if possible).
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 our quarantine period. However, we will be socially distancing 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 will not be allowed to leave the program at any time. This rule includes going to the homes of family and friends in Israel, special family events and Host/Open Shabbat. Free nights out will also be adjusted in order to keep our students safe and avoid the need to quarantine. Should the COVID-19 situation in Israel improve, it is possible that we will loosen these restrictions. Visits with individuals from outside of the group will only be permitted on campus and under strict protocols, in order to minimize the risk of exposure.
In an effort to minimize exposure to COVID-19, all Shabbat experiences are currently planned to happen together, or as we call it, Shabbat Yachad. This means that there are no current plans for Host/Open Shabbat experiences or Shabbat Kehillah, spent with a local community in Israel. It is possible that we may spend some Shabbatot off campus at a guesthouse, however this will also be done as a group and in compliance with Health Ministry regulations, in order to limit exposure to people outside the group. If the COVID-19 situation changes during the semester and it becomes possible to offer other Shabbat experiences within the confines of health and safety regulations, then we will make every effort to incorporate them into the remainder of the trip.
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. This will affect our field trips and other off-campus activities, as many sites we went to in past years are not open or can no longer accommodate a group as large as ours. 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 two weeks. Should this happen to a student(s), they will immediately be put in quarantine in an isolated room and we will arrange for them to receive a COVID-19 test. The student(s) must stay in quarantine from the group for the entire required time, even if tests yield a negative result. 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.