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Abraham Twerski dies • Covid rules confuse rabbis • Mass funerals in Israel
Daily Update

Abraham Twerski dies • Covid rules confuse rabbis • Mass funerals in Israel

NEEDS AND DEEDS: Abraham Paulino from Queens is shown teaching English in Ramla, Israel to special education students. Born in the Dominican Republic, Paulino is one of many "Fellows" in Masa Career and Masa Gap programs who have have taken up internships or volunteer projects in Israel. (Masa)
NEEDS AND DEEDS: Abraham Paulino from Queens is shown teaching English in Ramla, Israel to special education students. Born in the Dominican Republic, Paulino is one of many "Fellows" in Masa Career and Masa Gap programs who have have taken up internships or volunteer projects in Israel. (Masa)


Rabbis are often unsure if they are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Confusing guidance and a patchwork of rules and providers mean that clergy — who often serve as chaplains or teachers — are left to figure out where they fit in, Hannah Dreyfus reports, and the answers can vary depending on the day, state and interpretation of local rules.

Rabbi Joshua Stanton, the rabbi of East End Temple on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, said he called “several people in the New York State system to make sure he was really eligible” before signing up and receiving his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine earlier this month. He qualified as a classroom educator, although he said he knows of several New York colleagues who received the vaccine despite not being chaplains or teachers.

Related: Mass funerals were held in Israel for two leading Orthodox rabbis, amid simmering tensions over the flouting of Covid-19 rules by the haredi sector. Rabbi Dovid Soloveitchik, 99, the scion of a major rabbinic dynasty and the leader of the Brisk yeshiva, and Rabbi Yitzhok Scheiner, 98, the head of the Kamenitz yeshiva, died of Covid-19.

Elsewhere: The New York Times profiled Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a top authority of the non-chasidic ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, who some blame for not doing enough to stop followers from defying Covid rules.

Jewish groups joined in condemning Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican who has advanced a range of dangerous conspiracy theories, including some that are explicitly anti-Semitic.

On Friday, the Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement condemning Greene and saying that it is “working closely with the House Republican leadership regarding next steps” in demonstrating that Greene is “far outside the mainstream of the Republican Party.”

“I will never back down,” Greene said in a defiant statement Friday afternoon, one day after reports surfaced of her theory that the Rothschilds Jewish banking family financed a “space laser” to start a California wildfire.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, the scion of multiple Hasidic dynasties, author of more than 60 books, and a physician who became a leading authority on drug treatment and addiction, has died.

He was 90 and had been battling Covid-19 in Israel, according to Yeshiva World News.

Rabbi Twerski was among the last of a breed of Orthodox rabbinic authorities who also achieved recognized expertise in secular subjects. After graduating from medical school in 1960, he spent two decades as the clinical director of the psychiatry unit at St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh. In 1972, he founded Gateway Rehab in Pittsburgh, where he served as medical director emeritus.

In 1996, Twerski wrote “The Shame Borne In Silence,” becoming one of the first major Orthodox leaders to speak publicly about domestic violence and other forms of abuse in the Orthodox community. He founded Nefesh, an association for mental health workers.

The Jewish Week’s Sandee Brawarsky wrote about Twerski in 2014. Gary Rosenblatt wrote in 2017 about a video featuring Twerski, discussing how to deal with stress, and how it went viral.

Rabbi Stephen C. Lerner, who as the founder of the New York-based Center for Conversion to Judaism brought over 1,800 students to the practice of Judaism, died on Jan. 27 of Covid-19. He was 80.

In 1981, Lerner founded the program for Jews by choice, now permanently housed at the Town & Village Synagogue in Manhattan, where he served as rabbi starting in the early 1970s. He and his wife, Dr. Anne Lapidus Lerner, an emerita professor and vice chancellor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, often brought conversion students into their Teaneck, N.J. home. There they “modeled the beauty of Jewish life for his students with his wit, storytelling, and gastronomic gusto,” according to a family obituary.

“When I entered the rabbinate, it was to make more Jews, although I didn’t realize then that it would be from scratch,” he told the Jewish Standard in 2015.

According to his son, Rabbi David Lerner, he was a leader of the movement to make Conservative Judaism egalitarian, expanding women’s roles starting at Town & Village Synagogue. He also held pulpits in Riverhead and West Hempstead, N.Y., as well as Ridgefield Park, N.J.

Rabbi Lerner grew up in the Grand Concourse neighborhood of the Bronx and attended Columbia College starting at age 16. After earning his ordination at JTS he was active in the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly and edited the movement’s journal, Conservative Judaism.

He is survived by his wife, two children and five grandchildren.

In Other News

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is up for reelection in 2022, “has been taking steps both publicly and privately to steel himself from a left-wing primary challenge — especially from his biggest threat, [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez,” according to Politico.

A bomb exploded outside of the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on Friday, damaging three nearby cars but causing no injuries.

A Jewish man who died in December left $2 million to the French town that sheltered him from the Nazis.

The remains of the synagogue in Belarus where the family of painter Marc Chagall used to pray are up for sale to anyone willing to restore the building.

Sonny Fox, who entertained baby boomers as the host of the NY-based children’s TV show “Wonderama,” died at 95 of coronavirus. Fox grew up in Flatbush and attended James Madison High School in Sheepshead Bay, according to the Bklyner.

Around the Agencies

Today is the application deadline for a Repair the World Fellowship, a two-year professional accelerator for young adults (ages 21-26) who are placed with organizations addressing a variety of local justice issues. Apply here.

Streaming Today

Jewish Theological Seminary presents Dr. Benjamin Sommer, professor of Bible and ancient Semitic languages, in a discussion examining the biblical attitude toward other gods and what their existence implies about other religions. Register here. 2:00 pm.

Jewish Theological Seminary presents author and historian Elissa Bemporad, discussing her book “Legacy of Blood,” which explores the afterlife of the two most extreme manifestations of tsarist anti-Semitism — pogroms and blood libels — in the Soviet Union, from the Revolution of 1917 to the early 1960s. Register here. 7:30 pm.

Join the Jewish Week, UJA-Federation and Central Synagogue on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 1:00 pm as we present Rabbi Steve Leder, the senior rabbi of L.A.’s Wilshire Boulevard Temple, discussing his new book, “The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift.” He’ll talk to Abigail Pogrebin about how to think about loss, and what we can learn from it. Register here.

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