The Health Department reported the number of positive cases of Covid-19 in New York City surpassed 7,000.
With New York State showing the highest number of cases in the country, scrutiny continues to be focused on the chasidic communities of Brooklyn, where an urgent care clinic confirmed over 500 cases of coronavirus.
The Forward reports that New York City’s Department of Health is criticizing Asisa Urgent Care, which serves a mostly chasidic clientele, for doing “unnecessary outpatient testing” when tests for the virus “should only be reserved for those most severely ill.”
Community leaders have complained that the area’s Jews are being unfairly singled out for the spread of the virus. But John Lieberman, the chief executive of Asisa and himself a chasidic Jew, said the community is vulnerable to the spread of the disease. “Understand, you go to a wedding maybe every few weeks,” he told the Forward. “These people go to three a night, and there’s 700 people at each. Of course this community caught it way quicker, because they’re all together.”
The rabbinic leadership of major chasidic communities in New York State began responding this week, ordering their communal and educational institutions closed. That followed a conference call Wednesday held by Avi Berkowitz, an assistant to President Trump. Berkowitz urged 15 prominent chasidic rabbis to instruct their followers to abide by the administration’s guidelines to limit the number of attendees at social gatherings to 10, according to the Jerusalem Post. The grand rabbis from the Satmar, Bobov, Vizhnitz and other chasidic movements were on the call.
Boro Park Hatzolah, an ambulance service, has issued warnings about compliance with medical directives and advising against large-scale gatherings. “It seems that in our community of Borough Park, life is continuing as normal, business as usual,” a Hatzolah robocall says. “People are going about their daily lives as if nothing is happening.”
“Stop mingling!” the robocall stated.
Infections aren’t limited to New York. Rabbi Sholom Kamanetsky, rosh yeshiva of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, has tested positive for coronavirus. According to a listserv notice sent yesterday by a member of the yeshiva community, the rabbi “is home and recuperating at this time. Anyone who has had a significant direct exposure in the past 14 days should consult with their personal physician and/or their employer for further guidance.”
Here’s what’s happening around the community:
The HIAS National Refugee Shabbat this weekend will be held virtually. The immigration agency has created nearly a dozen different materials, including a resource guide and a new video from CEO Mark Hetfield to help guide a Shabbat at home geared to raising awareness about the plight of refugees. All of these resources “can be done throughout social isolation, and serve as ways Jews can support refugees and asylum seekers throughout the year,” HIAS announced.
The Jewish Education Project will conduct a webinar on March 24 at 2 p.m. about “Exploring Passover Learning and Celebration in a Different Reality,” offering ways to “explore resources and approaches to inject meaning, humor and ruach, for all ages.”
The Jewish Education Project is also offering spiritual coaching sessions for teachers to learn how to use different online learning platforms.
The American Jewish Committee has launched #BeAMensch. Uplifting stories from across America and around the world will be featured at AJC.org/BeAMensch and on AJC’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. AJC will also share tips on “the sorts of things one can do to be a mensch and lend a helping hand—or elbow—during this challenging time.”
The Hebrew Free Loan Society will allow its borrowers to delay repayments for two months — at which point the agency will assess the situation and determine a need for an extension. The HFLS action will keep $1.3 million in the accounts of more than 2,000 low- and moderate-income people, who will need their financial resources to make it through the period ahead.
Selfhelp Community Services, which offers a variety of services to the elderly, especially aging Holocaust survivors, has established a “HEARTS Virtual Gallery,” which features the artworks of 17 Holocaust survivors. In this free exhibition, survivors tell their stories of “loss, refuge, reflection, survival, and liberation. These stories not only teach us about the crucial history of the Holocaust, they offer lessons on human resilience.”
In addition, Selfhelp has created a special COVID-19 Emergency Fund to provide critical assistance to older adults who are unable to pay for their basic needs.
Aish.com is now offering the contents of its Aish Academy for free. Topics include Jewish history, the laws of blessings, “Women in the Bible” and “Deed and Creed.” Use coupon code TORAH20.
Royal Wine, Manischewitz, and the KAYCO kosher food firm have arranged home delivery of wine and other kosher-for-Passover products for consumers who are unable to shop in person for the Passover seder needs. For information: Kosher.com.
Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the Long Island-born chief rabbi of Poland, announced yesterday that participants in the daily minyan at the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw, the largest congregation in Poland, will say Kaddish for people who cannot attend a minyan because of coronavirus. The congregation is continuing to meet according to government guidelines (worshippers sit about three yards from each other).
“Within 2 hours of making an announcement of this possibility, ten people have reached out to us from at least three countries, plus three yahrzeits and one baby-naming,” Rabbi Schudrich said yesterday. He can be reached at email@example.com; 48-501-065-014
Meanwhile, in Israel …
The iCenter for Israel Education is offering a website that provides a range of different resources, ideas and videos for Israel education and Hebrew education. Resources include Israeli music and Israeli short films, a guide to modern Hebrew slang, Israeli podcasts and upcoming webinars.
Israeli businesses in the Negev and Galilee regions, hit hard with a massive drop in tourism, have set-up a home-shopping-like TV show called “Online Mitzvah Marketplace.” Daily 15-minute shows feature Israeli artisans, chefs and winemakers who will talk about their products and offer them for purchase. And Israeli chesed organizations that cannot meet in person are creating food baskets that they are delivering to the doorsteps of elderly Israelis.
The National Library of Israel has announced that it will offer free audio Hebrew language books as part of “Pocket Library,” an initiative of its Israel National Center for Humanities Education, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. A range of other educational materials, activities and resources based on National Library treasures are also available on the NLI website in English, Hebrew, Arabic and French. For information: https://merkazruach.nli.org.il/updates-lib
And finally, Teva, the major Israeli pharmaceutical company, will donate millions of doses of a malaria drug that some believe to be effective in fighting the symptoms of the coronavirus, the Jerusalem Post reports. Six million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate will be shipped to hospitals in this country at the end of March. It is not known how effective the malaria treatment will be against coronavirus, but research is currently ongoing.