The spread of the coronavirus in New York City’s charedi Orthodox neighborhoods and calls for increased donations to the vulnerable ahead of Passover are topping today’s news of the outbreak.
Coronavirus seems to be particularly prevalent in New York City’s charedi neighborhoods. JTA, citing the urgent care clinic Asisa, reports that at least 100 people have tested positive for the disease in Borough Park. Meanwhile, “the entire community” of Crown Heights, home of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement, “is considered to have been exposed,” according to the Hamodia newspaper.
On Tuesday, the Beth Din of Crown Heights announced that all of its affiliated synagogues “must be closed at this time,” as well as men’s ritual baths, or mikvehs. Women’s mikvehs are to remain open, with restrictions. The closure includes the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, the Orthodox news site COLLive reported.
The city’s Department of Health reported 814 total coronavirus cases as of Tuesday.
The 7,000-student Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J. also announced a temporary closure.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues, much of the Jewish community’s attention is focusing on Passover, which starts on April 8.
Moishe Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, yesterday wrote an email request for increased donations to the organization’s emergency Pesach food campaign. He anticipates increasing financial pressure on families and individuals who in a typical year would have attended seders with family or communal seders on the first two nights of the holiday.
The OU’s Kosher Food Lifeline program, which provides resources and assistance to local food pantries, has seen a “significant uptick in urgent requests,” he wrote.
“An unprecedented number of families within our community are experiencing financial strains that they never imagined they would suffer,” Bane wrote. “The COVID-19 crisis has deprived many families of income and others are confronting wholly unanticipated, non-discretionary expenses.
Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the OU’s Kosher Division, did not anticipate any shortages of kosher-for-Passover products during the outbreak. “Most of the kosher-for-Pesach production began a long time ago,” he said. “There’s not going to be any problem at all in terms of availability of products for Pesach.”
In the interest of social distancing, some kosher supervisors have been supervising food production plants via a livestreamed walk-through, he said.
The Met Council on Jewish Poverty has put out a call for increased donations to pay for the food it distributes for free. The need for such food has increased since the Covid-19 crisis began, according to David Greenfield, Met Council CEO.
“In times of crisis the most vulnerable, including seniors, Holocaust survivors and those near the poverty line are hit the hardest,” Greenfield wrote in an email message to contributors on Tuesday. “Many of our clients’ jobs are unable to be performed remotely and people will be out of work for an unknown amount of time. We are purchasing even more food to meet the growing needs and we are expanding our reserves to be prepared for additional unforeseen food needs that may arise. We have hired more hands to pay for deliveries to our Holocaust survivors because many of our volunteers are now stuck at home.”
The 92nd Street Y, which has increased its livestreaming offerings as a result of coronavirus social distancing, will host an interactive “Home Sweet Home” musical gathering as a Facebook Live event on today at 4 p.m. through its 92Y Shababa division. And the Y will present a livestreamed performance by mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron and pianist Myra Huang tonight at 7 p.m.
The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, along with JCC Harlem, has begun offering several virtual programs, including free daily meditation, an online version of ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York, senior classes, Jewish learning programs, and children and family programs. The JCC will be closed until at least March 27.
While Birthright Israel has suspended its subsidized trips to the Jewish state, alumni of its Excel program have launched a “Door 2 Dor” initiative that encourages Birthright’s entire alumni community to help “some of Israel’s most vulnerable, elderly citizens” by picking up and delivering medicine, groceries and other needed items. Already more than 500 volunteers have signed up.
In North America, the organization’s Birthright Excel “entrepreneurship, leadership and business program” has called on its Community Fellows to participate in similar altruistic activities. Using protective equipment, the volunteers purchase the products and drop them off at the recipients’ front door, to minimize physical contact and risk.
To assist mourners who are unable to recite Kaddish in synagogue as a result of coronavirus restrictions placed upon them by local authorities or their doctors, Chabad has launched an online page to ensure that the prayer will be said in synagogue.
UJA-Federation of New York has compiled a guide to help the Jewish community find advice, resources and opportunities for learning during the virus outbreak. Go to ujafedny.org/coronavirus/resources/?utm_content=homepage_tout.