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Court blocks NYS Covid limits on shuls • Cuomo: AG to probe vaccine ‘fraud’ • Groups recall Monsey attack
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Daily Update

Court blocks NYS Covid limits on shuls • Cuomo: AG to probe vaccine ‘fraud’ • Groups recall Monsey attack

A medical worker collects a swab from a man for a Covid-19 test at Maccabi Healthcare Services Center in the central Israeli city of Modiin, Dec. 27, 2020. (Gil Cohen Magen/Xinhua via Getty)
A medical worker collects a swab from a man for a Covid-19 test at Maccabi Healthcare Services Center in the central Israeli city of Modiin, Dec. 27, 2020. (Gil Cohen Magen/Xinhua via Getty)

A federal court of appeals ruled that New York State’s Covid-19 limits on houses of worship constituted a violation of religious liberty.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that imposing 10- and 25-person attendance limits at houses of worship in areas hardest hit by the virus “discriminates against religion on its face” and that “constitutional alternatives [were] available to achieve the same goal.”

A Supreme Court injunction last month blocked Gov. Andrew Cuomo from enforcing the rules until the lower court could reevaluate the state guidelines.

Reaction: Agudath Israel of America, the charedi Orthodox group that brought the case along with the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, called it a victory for religious liberty. “The courts have clearly recognized that the restrictions imposed by New York State violate the constitutional rights of those seeking to attend religious worship services,” Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudah, said in a statement Monday.

Gov. Cuomo said that vaccine-related fraud would come with consequences, and that an investigation of a clinic serving New York’s Orthodox community would be referred to the state attorney general’s office.

Cuomo also announced he would sign an executive order Monday that could make health providers who engage in vaccine-related fraud liable for fines of up to $1 million and could revoke state licenses.

ParCare, the clinic alleged to have acquired and distributed vaccines improperly, said it is “actively cooperating with the State of New York’s inquiries.”

Perspective: “Sadly, there would be nothing surprising about a Haredi institution flouting COVID-19 rules,” writes Rabbi Brad Hirschfield of CLAL. “When any community sees the rest of the world as a threat, its members can use that threat to justify illegal or unethical behavior, as long as the outsiders are the ones adversely affected.”

Related: Israelis began a third lockdown of indeterminate length Sunday night as the country battles yet another steep wave of Covid-19 infections. Israel is allowing anyone over 60 to get the vaccine, along with health care workers and soldiers, and letting some vaccination centers operate around the clock.

Jewish organizations commemorated Monday’s one-year anniversary of the stabbing attack at a Chanukah party in Monsey.

Rabbi Josef Neumann was critically wounded in the attack at Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home, and died several months later at the age of 72. The attacker, Grafton Thomas, was later found mentally unfit to stand trial on federal hate crime charges.

The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress recalled the incident on Twitter. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt pledged to “continue fighting the vile antisemitism & #hate that fueled this tragic incident.”

Gov. Cuomo also marked the anniversary, saying the Josef Neumann Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act, passed by the NYS legislature in April, “clearly define[s] these hateful crimes as what they really are — domestic terrorism.”

ICYMI: Congregation Netzach Yisroel in Rockland County turned the coffee table used by party-goers to thwart the attacker into a dreidel-shaped menorah stand to memorialize the event.

Best of 2020

JTA recalls the most heartwarming Jewish stories of the past year, including the march against anti-Semitism in January that drew tens of thousands of New York-area Jews together in a day of solidarity.

New York-based film writer Jordan Hoffman lists his favorite Jewish entertainment of 2020, including the new Borat film, the HBO series “The Plot Against America” and the latest album by Haim.

Streaming Today

Yiddish New York in partnership with City Lore presents an event featuring Jewish jokes and tales polished into short poems and presented live on Zoom by a mini-minyan of New York City’s top storytellers, humorists and poets. Hosted by artist, comedian and Moth storyteller Flash Rosenberg, the event also features the storytelling rabbi Edward Schechter, former New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, writer and activist Esther Cohen, poets Bob Holman and Zev Shanken, storyteller Lisa Lipkin and folklorist Steve Zeitlin, City Lore’s founding executive director and editor of JEWels. Click here to purchase a Yiddish New York single session pass. $18. Day passes and full festival passes also available at www.yiddishnewyork.com. 3:15 pm.

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