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A virtual Earth Day, holiday restrictions in Israel, death of an ‘Avenger’
coronavirus 2020Daily Coronavirus Update

A virtual Earth Day, holiday restrictions in Israel, death of an ‘Avenger’

United Hatzalah's President and Founder Eli Beer lands in Israel on April 21, 2020, after recovering from Covid-19 in a Miami hospital. Beer was flown back to Israel on the private jet of Miriam Adelson and was cared for by a health team including a doctor and paramedic from United Hatzalah. (Shira Hershkop-United Hatzalah)
United Hatzalah's President and Founder Eli Beer lands in Israel on April 21, 2020, after recovering from Covid-19 in a Miami hospital. Beer was flown back to Israel on the private jet of Miriam Adelson and was cared for by a health team including a doctor and paramedic from United Hatzalah. (Shira Hershkop-United Hatzalah)

An international ethics committee has approved testing of a device developed by Israeli companies that could potentially diagnose the coronavirus in under a minute.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the new method is based on a breathing machine developed by Israeli companies Next-Gen and Scentech Medical, and is similar to the breathalyzer machine that police use to find ethanol contained in the blood. The firms’ device is designed to distinguish between thousands of gas compounds in the breath, isolating that associated with the virus, allowing for a quick and simple diagnosis.

“A quick and simple diagnostic test can be done anywhere, from airports, hotels, tourist sites, and soccer stadiums,” said Shulam Lapidot, chairman of Next-Gen. “Our success will help the community and the economy get back to full activity and to their normal routines as quickly as possible.”

Approval by the Institutional Review Board, otherwise known as the Helsinki committee, allows testing to proceed.

Today is Earth Day, and the Jewish environmental group Hazon is marking the occasion with a mass blowing of the shofar. More than 300 individuals and 45 organizations, including non-Jewish and multi-faith groups, have signed on to the #SoundTheCall event, which will take place live via Zoom at noon Eastern time. “Blowing the shofar, simultaneously, all over the world, is a way to celebrate the paradoxical sense of connection that has arisen since the virus began,” writes Nigel Savage, CEO of Hazon, in a Jewish Week essay.

New York’s Celebrate Israel parade has been called off. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which organizes the annual parade down Fifth Avenue, is working on a virtual event to take place June 7, when the parade would have taken place.


14,326 Israelis have tested positive for the coronavirus and 187 have died.

The cabinet was set to vote on Wednesday to severely limit commemorations and celebrations of upcoming holidays, including Israel’s independence and memorial days and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Haaretz reports. The measures will include a blanket prohibition on families of fallen soldiers and terror victims visiting the graves and memorial sites of loved ones.

All intercity traffic will be prohibited on Memorial Day, which lasts from sundown on April 27 to nightfall on April 28. Independence Day, which begins just as Memorial Day ends, will see a full lockdown of the country similar to the lockdown earlier this month for Passover. The cabinet also announced that it plans to close the nation’s military cemeteries on Memorial Day.

Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, the largest hospital in the Middle East, has constructed an isolated bereavement unit where families can say their final goodbyes to loved ones who have died as a result of Covid-19. The unit allows families to safely view the deceased through a large glass window without risking infection from the body, on which the virus may still be present.

The bereavement unit is located in a former parking garage at Sheba that has been converted into an additional intensive care unit for COVID-19 patients, containing 90 beds with ventilators.

“In Judaism and mankind, saying farewell and goodbye [during] mourning is very traditional,” Yoel Hareven, chief of staff at the hospital, told Newsweek. “In this time of corona where most of the people that are dying are dying in the intensive care unit, which is isolated with very, very limited access even to the staff, most people cannot say goodbye and cannot say farewell the way [they want]. Some of them just want to see the process, some of the want to pray, some of them want to say farewell words.”

Eli Beer, president and founder of United Hatzalah, has been released from a hospital in Miami, after recovering from Covid-19, and flew back to Israel, according to a United Hatzalah spokesperson. Beer contracted the virus six weeks ago during a fundraising trip in the U.S., and after his condition deteriorated was put on a ventilator in an induced coma.

He returned to Israel on the private plane of Miriam Adelson.


Mindella “Mindy” Lamm, wife of former Yeshiva University President Rabbi Norman Lamm, died on April 16 of Covid-19. She was 88.

A native of Midwood, Brooklyn, she attended a Bais Yaakov school before majoring in Education at Hunter College, then worked in the New York City public school system, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Ms. Lamm is survived by her husband, and three children: Chaye Warburg, Joshua Lamm and Shalom Lamm, as well as 17 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

Benjamin Levin, a member of a Jewish partisans unit in Lithuania during World War II, died in a Westchester nursing home on April 13 at 93, JTA reports.

At 14, he joined his older brother Shmuel and a group of Jewish resistance fighters known as the Avengers in the forests outside Vilna. In the summer of 1941, the Avengers blew up bridges and German supply lines and killed Nazi soldiers. While Mr. Levin and his sister survived the war, his parents, who spent time in hiding, were killed by neighbors when they tried to reclaim their home in Vilna. His brother Shmuel disappeared in the forests after a raid, and his body was never found.

Mr. Levin later joined a Zionist militia — the Irgun — and helped displaced Jews flee to Palestine through southern Europe, Turkey and Syria. He later moved to the United States and lived on Long Island, purchasing a gas station and frequently speaking with New York City high school students about his wartime experiences.

Joseph Feingold, a Holocaust survivor, architect and memoirist “whose gift of music brought a unique friendship to a South Bronx community,” died on April 15 of pneumonia and Covid-19, according to JTA. He was 97.

Born Jozef Fajngold in Warsaw to socialist parents, he began playing the violin at 5, and carried his music with him when the family relocated to Kielce, a town south of Warsaw in 1932.

During World War II he and his father were shipped in freight trains to a Siberian work camp, where they labored for years until their release in the spring of 1946, at which time they returned to Poland. They were reunited with Mr. Feingold’s brother in a DP camp in Germany, where Mr. Feingold stumbled upon a violin at a flea market and swapped it for a pack of cigarettes. He took it with him to New York City, where he found work at a printing shop and took night classes at Cooper Union.

In March of 2014, retired, he heard about a music drive to donate unused instruments to New York City schoolchildren. Feingold, who kept the violin from the German flea market but no longer played it, brought it to a donation event at Lincoln Center. From that developed a musically rooted friendship between him and South Bronx high-schooler Brianna Perez, which became the subject of “Joe’s Violin,” which received an Academy Award nomination in 2017.

Holocaust survivor Salomon “Sal” S. Podgursky, a resident of Whippany, N.J., died April 1 of Covid-19, the New Jersey Jewish News reports. He was 84.

Born in Warsaw, he and his family were deported to the Ural Mountains. After almost two years in a Soviet internment camp, where his parents were forced to work in coal mines, the family was released, migrating to the city of Frunze (now called Bishkek) in the Soviet central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan.

After World War II the family returned to Europe, where they lived in a DP camp, and eventually boarded one of the first boats bringing Holocaust survivors to Palestine. Due to a British blockade, the family was interned on the island of Cyprus for several months before entering the new State of Israel in 1948.

They spent several years in Israel and Belgium before settling in Louisville in 1958 with the help of HIAS.

Mr. Podgurksy had trained as a cabinet maker in Brussels, and eventually set up his own custom furniture and restoration business, Excel Service Company, named for the Brussels neighborhood of Ixelles where he had learned the craft.

He sold the business in 1993, but remained active in retirement — taking up fine art painting and continuing to build furniture on his own. After suffering a stroke a year ago, he moved with his wife, Sara Jane, to a senior community in New Jersey.


The Fordham Jewish Studies Department will sponsor a virtual lecture and discussion on “Epidemics, Disease and Plagues in Jewish History & Memory” Wednesday at 4 p.m. Participants will be historians Magda Teter and Joshua Teplitsky.

The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene will present a “Living Room Concert” by artistic director Zalmen Mlotek on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

UJA-Federation of New York has compiled a guide to help the Jewish community find advice, resources and volunteer opportunities for learning during the virus outbreak. UJA and the Jewish Board also have listings of volunteer opportunities.

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