Squirrel Hill Jewish school closed after COVID-19 outbreak

PITTSBURGH — The doors are locked and everything was moved online after at least 45 kids tested positive for COVID-19 at the Yeshiva School in Squirrel Hill. The outbreak forced the school’s president to make the difficult decision.

“Beginning a little more than a week ago, we realized that we had several positive COVID-19 cases, particularly among the high school program, and one of our young employees who lives with our high schoolers,” said Dr. Marc Oster. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 had already spread to our general community, which has interactions with our high schoolers and employees, particularly around the celebration of the Sabbath.”

The Jewish school offers room and board to out-of-town students on campus at its girls and boys schools. With the exception of a week late in 2020, the school had been fully in-person for the entire year. Leaders implemented mask wearing, social distancing and a COVID-19 questionnaire each day. The plan worked, until now.

“It’s very disappointing. On the other hand, it’s quite understandable. Outbreaks like this are commonplace,” Oster said.

The timing falls on the Jewish holiday of Purim. It’s normally celebrated with a large gathering, parties and food. It celebrates the saving of the Jewish people from an ancient tyrant.

To prevent community spread, Rabbi Yitzchik Goldwasser, a teacher at the school, was hand-delivering baskets.

“We decided that we have to make sure that everyone is able to do Purim, to celebrate just as much as any other year in a safe way,” Goldwasser said.

Oster said he hopes the school can go back to fully in-person instruction after the two-week quarantine and infection period is over.