As the High Holy Days approach, 60 local Orthodox doctors and a dentist have signed an open letter urging members of Cleveland’s Jewish community to heed guidelines and take precautions to protect against transmission of COVID-19.

“As Torah observant Jews, we recognize the obligation to save lives as a value that overrides nearly every other religious obligation,” the Sept. 13 letter reads. “We likewise seek to avoid situations of threats to human life, even when undertaken for supremely important purposes – tefilla, celebrations of shabbos and yom tov and Torah study. As physicians, we are concerned that over the next few weeks and months our community will see an increase in the local spread of COVID-19, which couldּ endanger the health and lives of many of our friends, neighbors and family. We write what follows both to reiterate basic public health principles and warn the community about specific risks to be avoided.”

Included among the specific guidelines are ones regarding physical distancing at synagogue and religious gathering.

“Physical distancing, even while outdoors, protects you and others from coming into contact with infectious material. By the same principle, coming close to other people – even sharing a l’chaim or leaning in to wish a ‘mazel tov’ – can spread infection,” the letter reads. “Any crowded event, even if planned carefully and with the best of intentions, can lead to the spread of the virus. This includes such normally benign venues as a beis medrash or men’s mikvah during the pre-yom tov rush.”

It warns that people do not have to be symptomatic to be contagious, and advocates for wearing masks, washing hands and other precautions.

“Consider what we all have to lose: Local schools and shuls have invested enormous amounts of energy, time and money toward the goal of bringing us back in person,” the letter reads. “Rabbonim, doctors and lay leaders have set aside other projects to devote themselves almost exclusively to this goal. This achievement should not be taken for granted nor assumed to be permanent.”

It also refers to the pandemic’s spread in New York and Israel.

“Remember what this virus is capable of doing: Our friends and family in the New York area have had firsthand experience with the carnage of an out-of-control epidemic,” the letter reads. “That our community was unaffected a few months ago does not mean that we are immune now. This virus has killed nearly 200,000 people in the United States and over 1,000 in Israel, and while we may be tired, it is not. This is no time to let down our guard.”

It concludes with wishing for a “year of health, success and safety for our entire community, and with earnest prayers to the Ribono Shel Olam to protect His people.”

The doctors who signed the letter as of 6 p.m.

Sept. 15 were: Dr. Mark Aeder, Dr. Josh Arbesman, Dr. Daniel Asher, Dr. David Bar-Shain, Dr. Akiva Berger, Dr. Nate Bergman, Dr. Yael Dahan, Dr. Joel David, Dr. Francine Erenberg, Dr. Ben Esraeilian, Dr. Daniel Fleksher, Dr. Elisha Fredman, Dr. Adi Gerblich, Dr. Sara Goldman, Dr. Julian Gordon, Dr. David Gottesman, Dr. Dovid Gutman, Dr. Adam Haas, Dr. Rafi Israeli, Dr. Avi Jacobs, Dr. Lawrence Jacobs, Dr. Daniel Kahn, Dr. Saul Kane; Dr. Fred Kessler, Dr. Anya Kleinman, Dr. Michael Kurin, Dr. Jeffrey Lautman, Dr. David Lever, Dr. Yehudah Lindenberg, Dr. David Liska, Dr. Rebecca Lowenthal, Dr. Leon Margolin, Dr. Shmuel Margolin, Dr. Yael Mauer, Dr. Bryan Michelow, Dr. Howard Nathan, Dr. Joel Peerless, Dr. Meir Pollack, Dr. Moshe Prero, Dr. Michael Rothberg, Dr. Yosef Rudolph, Dr. Samuel Salamon, Dr. Yehuda Salamon, Dr. Amy Schechter, Dr. Gila Schiowitz, Dr. Steven Schwartz, Dr. Seth Sclair, Dr. Shelly Senders, Dr. Anna Serels, Dr. Marina Shpilko, Dr. Warren Sobol, Dr. Benjamin Spinner, Dr. Josh Sunshine, Dr. Ira Taub, Dr. Yael Taub, Dr. Philip Toltzis, Dr. Franky Weinberger, Dr. Rachel Weinerman, Dr. Ari Wiesen, Dr. Carly Wilbur and Dr. Brian Wolovitz.

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