By: Yosef Lemel  | 

Indoor Dining Banned at YU Cafeterias Following Gov. Cuomo’s Order

Indoor dining in Yeshiva University’s Furman and Kushner dining halls — located on the Wilf and Beren campuses, respectively — has been banned due to an order by NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo prohibiting indoor dining at restaurants in New York City, which began on Monday, Dec. 14. The Office of Housing and Residence Life emailed students residing in on-campus housing of this development at 10:16 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13.

While students residing off-campus were previously allowed to dine in the cafeterias, they did not receive an official notification from the university regarding the indoor dining ban. 

Residents were assured that the university “will continue to offer takeout food options” that can be eaten “outside or in open lounges, open classrooms, common spaces” and dormitory rooms. The email did not indicate that the university will set up a designated outdoor location for students. Students will only be provided with a pick-up option for Shabbos meals, according to an email on Tuesday, Dec. 15 from Rabbi Joshua Weisberg, the senior director of student life and acting director of housing and residence life. 

Cuomo explained the reasoning behind his decision at his Dec. 11 announcement of the new regulations. “In New York City, you put the CDC caution on indoor dining together with the rate of transmission and the density and the crowding, that is a bad situation,” he said. “The hospitalizations have continued to increase in New York City. We said that …  if the hospital rate didn’t stabilize we would close indoor dining. It is not. We are going to close indoor dining in New York City on Monday.” 

Prior to Monday’s ban on indoor dining, university protocol allowed two students, separated by a distance of six feet, to sit in the dining hall and dine together at one table. Students choosing to eat in the cafeteria were prompted by a cafeteria worker to sign a sheet of paper with their names, residences and phone numbers, after which they were allowed to eat in the cafeteria for a maximum period of 20 minutes; on the paper, students indicated the time they entered and exited the cafeteria.

“There’s a huge amount of doubt whenever you go in the caf because you don’t know when it's going to get shut down,” said Jacob Linder (SSSB ‘22), the Wilf Student Life Committee dining liaison. “At the end of the day, it’s not up to us. It’s just up to COVID and New York.” 

“For me Shabbat is the time to spend with my friends while enjoying a meal together,” expressed Miriam Fried (SCW ‘22). “While it’s sad that that won’t be possible anymore, no one wants Covid and I appreciate the steps that YU is taking to protect us from it and hopefully we’ll soon be able to go back to spending Shabbat together.” 

According to the NYS COVID-19 Tracker for the Beren and Wilf campuses, there are 10 reported positive cases since Dec. 5 with 42 students quarantined and seven isolated. On Wednesday, Dec. 16, Director of Athletics Joe Bednarsh emailed students that one female athlete tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the entire women’s basketball team is required to quarantine for 14 days. Since reopening campuses on Oct. 21, YU has seen more than 30 reported cases.

In a Dec. 8 YU community call, Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer Randy Apfelbaum announced that flex dollars — student caf card funds used for non-taxable food purchases at nearby restaurants — would once again be available for the Spring 2021 semester; for the Fall 2020 semester, flex dollars were not available to students. 

Apfelbaum did not respond to The Commentator’s request for comment on whether the university will create outdoor dining options for students and how the planned flex dollar policy change might be affected by the recent developments. 
Photo Caption: Tables were removed from the Furman Dining Hall following Gov. Cuomo’s ban on indoor dining. 
Photo Credit: Yosef Lemel