In an extraordinary rebuke, Gov. Andrew Cuomo lashed out at members of the Orthodox community Monday for their flouting of social distancing rules put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In response to a reporter’s question about reports of heavily attended funerals and weddings in Rockland County and Brooklyn, Cuomo replied at his daily news briefing, “None of us has the right to be reckless in our own behavior, which compounds the problem we’re dealing with. Now is not the time to be playing Frisbee with your friends in the park. It’s just not. Now is not the time to go to a funeral with 200 people.”
The governor called on local government to enforce distancing rules and enforce the fines he has imposed for violating the state’s stay-at-home order. Cuomo said Monday he is doubling the maximum for such fines to $1,000.
“Yes, I understand grieving and I understand how the religious services can help with the grieving process, and I understand how it’s hard not to do that, but as a society, the risk is too great,” he said. “Enforce the law. The localities have the legal right and responsibility to enforce the law. My, doing the penalty, raising the penalty, is my way of saying, ‘Do it. Just do your job.'”
Meanwhile, leading Orthodox Jewish groups have come out firmly against shared Passover meals with outsiders, JTA reports. “Everyone must plan to celebrate Pesach where they are currently,” reads a statement issued by leaders of six groups — the Orthodox Union, the Agudath Israel of America, Igud HaRabbanim – Rabbinical Alliance of America, The Lakewood Vaad, National Council of Young Israel, and the Rabbinical Council of America
The statement, which did not refer to livestreamed seders, marked a sharp change from the leaders’ previous guidance, which said that Jews who would otherwise be alone for Passover meals could consider self-quarantining for two weeks before the holiday’s start, then joining a single local family for the festive meal if asymptomatic.
The Jewish Communal Fund, the largest Jewish donor advised fund in the country, has approved emergency coronavirus-related grants totaling $1 million through its endowment, the JCF Special Gifts Fund, to be earmarked for food delivery for low-income New Yorkers, cash assistance and social services for single parents and Holocaust survivors, and thousands of Passover meals to go.
The JCF Special Gifts Fund Committee selected the grantee charities with the assistance of UJA-Federation of New York, whose emergency response efforts have already pledged $36 million to help respond to the physical, mental and financial needs resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s our privilege and responsibility to step up and provide immediate support to vulnerable members of our community to weather this storm, including those facing food insecurity and elderly Holocaust survivors,” said Daniel Blaser, chair of the Jewish Communal Fund’s Charitable Distribution/Special Gifts Fund Committee.
Recipients of the JCF special grants include the Metropolitan Jewish Council on Jewish Poverty, Dorot’s University Without Walls, and several UJA-Federation programs.
Prominent Orthodox rabbis in Borough Park, a major charedi community in Brooklyn, have called on community members to address “the utter financial devastation caused by the Coronavirus plague,” according to a pubic statement they have issued. It called on followers to increase their yearly disbursements to 20 percent of charity foundation funds.
Jessica Meir, a Jewish astronaut now on the International Space Station, described what it’s like to be isolated in a really cramped area. “It seems that we will be completely going back to a different planet,” she said in a video posted by the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
The number of people in Israel diagnosed with coronavirus reached 9,000 on Tuesday. There have been 60 deaths.
Israel will be under a complete lockdown beginning on Tuesday through at least Friday to stem the spread of the coronavirus during the Passover holiday, JTA reports. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the closure on Monday evening in a nationally televised address from his official residence in Jerusalem.
Israelis will not be permitted to leave their houses on Wednesday evening, the night of the first Passover seder, from 6 p.m. until 7 a.m. the following day. Netanyahu said that Israel may begin to roll back some stay-in-place restrictions after Passover and the holiday of Mimouna — a North African Jewish festival that takes place the day after the end of Passover.
“I know this is a big burden, but there is no choice. I ask that you do this in self-discipline for your sake and for your loved ones – for the police and medical teams,” he said.
Harvey Jay Sheff, a resident of Flushing, Queens, who worked as a marketing professional and was a star of the Yeshiva University basketball team four decades ago, died at 59 on April 3 of coronavirus. A marketing professional for the past 22 years, he was a native of Lawrence, L.I.
A captain of the YU basketball team, Mr. Sheff finished his athletic career as the school’s all-time leading scorer, with 1,500 points. He is now fourth on that list. His post-college basketball career took him to Israel, where he played professionally for Elitzur Ramla.
He graduated from the Hebrew Institute of Long Island in 1977, a member of the school’s second to last class before it merged with Hillel to form the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway in 1978.
2G-New York, an association of children of Holocaust survivors, is serving as a matchmaker for prospective hosts and guests for the first seder on Wednesday night. The offer is limited to Facebook members of the organization who are able to connect on a platform on a platform like Zoom, Facetime, or Conference Call. For information: 2gGreaterNewYork@gmail.com.
The Seder2020 organization is offering a similar service. “We will help you invite your guests, distribute a PDF Haggadah, and set up a video conference to share the experience,” according to its online announcement.
How do you lead a virtual seder in quarantine? USA Today has some advice.
Along similar lines, the aish.com website offers information on conducting a spiritually uplifting seder.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) has launched “FIDF Engage,” a free, virtual event series and online portal. The FIDF Engage website serves as a temporary digital alternative to its community events and galas across the United States, many of which have been postponed.
The Chabad of Northridge offers advice for people who will be taking part in a seder in quarantine: “10 Things You Can Do for People in Quarantine.”
The haggadot.com website offers a humorous look at Pesach in its “Comedy Seder PDF Download,” which contains several essays that present a less-than-serious look at the upcoming Jewish festival.
Martha Stewart, the queen of homemaking, has gathered advice from other mavens on how to host a virtual Passover.
The Reconstructing Judaism movement has put together a Virtual Passover Box that offers tips and advice “for each step of the traditional Passover seder.”
Israel Policy Forum will sponsor a livestreamed briefing on “Israel’s Security Response to Coronavirus” on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Amos Harel, Haaretz senior military correspondent, will discuss “how Israel’s coronavirus response is playing out, and what role the military plays in executing the country’s pandemic policy.”
Be’chol Lashon, a San Francisco-based organization that “gives voice to the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Jewish identity,” has prepared a variety of offerings for Passover. Its lineup includes a Facebook lecture Tuesday at noon by Rabbi Gershom Sizomu of Uganda on how to sing “Hinei Ma Tov” in the Lugandan language. The lecture, and other resources, include a “Racial Justice & Inclusivity Haggadah.”
The American Jewish Committee’s Advocacy Anywhere initiative will present two livestreamed seminars on Tuesday. At 1:30 p.m., “Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the Coronavirus: An Insider’s Briefing with Stanley M. Bergman.” Bergman is CEO of Henry Schein, one of the world’s largest distributors of critical medical supplies. Bergman, and a former AJC President.
At 4 p.m., “Coronavirus on the Eve of Easter and Passover: A Catholic-Jewish Conversation on Faith and Interreligious Cooperation in Trying Times,” will feature Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, joins Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations.
The Jewish National Fund will sponsor a Virtual Passover Cooking Class – “Delicious Dishes to Serve Next Day at your Seder” – on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
The Reform Temple of Forest Hills will hold a free Second Night Community Virtual Seder on April 9 at 5:50 p.m.