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Emergency fund for survivors, Uber delivering Passover meals, Israel to be on lockdown
Coronavirus 2020Daily Update

Emergency fund for survivors, Uber delivering Passover meals, Israel to be on lockdown

N.Y.S. Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, appearing at a news conference in Albany on April 5, 2020, said he had spoken with leaders of the chasidic Jewish community in Monsey to reiterate the need for social distancing. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)
N.Y.S. Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, appearing at a news conference in Albany on April 5, 2020, said he had spoken with leaders of the chasidic Jewish community in Monsey to reiterate the need for social distancing. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) announced a Holocaust survivor emergency assistance fund to help address emergency needs worldwide during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The $4.3 million in initial funding, which may be increased as needed, will be available to many of the Claims Conference grantee organizations around the world that already provide services to 120,000 Holocaust survivors, Julius Berman, president of the Claims Conference, said in a statement.

“We are taking a number of immediate steps to meet the urgent needs the pandemic has created and to get funds to agencies rapidly,” Greg Schneider, the organization’s executive vice president, said in the statement. “This includes significant advances of nearly $300 million of previously committed funds, relaxing reporting deadlines which will allow these funds to get to agencies far earlier than usual and, of course, this new Holocaust survivor emergency fund.”

In addition to an initial $4 million contribution from the Claims Conference, the emergency fund includes donations of over $200,000 from the Alfred Landecker Foundation and $100,000 from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The fund was established to reinforce an array of services already in place, and also seeks to ensure that survivors can be cared for safely, by providing funding for personal protection equipment and sanitizing agents.

Uber and the nonprofit Met Council on Jewish Poverty are joining forces to deliver 500 Passover meals to homebound Holocaust survivors who will be isolated at home during the upcoming holiday, the New York Post reports.

The seder boxes include “all the fixings,” from matzah balls, gefilte fish and borscht chicken to sweet potatoes, apples and eggs, according to the Post.

“It’s a tragedy that these elderly survivors will be all alone for Passover,” David Greenfield, Met Council CEO, said in a statement. “That’s why Met Council is working around the clock to try and get to everyone who desperately needs meals.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker had spoken with leaders of the chasidic Jewish community in Monsey to reiterate the need for social distancing. Last week Rockland County Executive Ed Day complained that Cuomo should have established a containment zone in the county as he did for New Rochelle, N.Y.

“I explained the need to abide by the six-foot distance and also the issues of social distance and stay at home and to reiterate all the points the governor has made in the course of all these press conferences,” Zucker said at Sunday’s news conference.

The Canadian Jewish News, the country’s 60-year-old weekly nationwide newspaper, is a victim of Covid-19.

The publication’s president, Elizabeth Wolfe, announced that it will cease its print and web operations after its April 9 edition. “It was a very difficult decision to make,” Wolfe told the National Post newspaper. “The CJN had faced all of the challenges of the industry in the last several years due to the decline of advertising in print media. We had experienced losses but had hoped to find ways to continue to operate. The coronavirus pandemic significantly impacted our revenues.

Mayyim Hayyim, a Boston-area mikveh, has decided to close its ritual bath for immersions during this time of pandemic. The decision, the leaders announced, “was made based on the Jewish principle of pikuach nefesh, the belief that preserving human life takes precedence over most all other religious mandates.”


In Israel, where the toll of people diagnosed with COVID-19 reached 8,611 on Monday, the government is considering imposing a general lockdown ahead of Passover, which begins Wednesday evening, the Times of Israel reported on Sunday.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said new closures were expected to be announced in some cities, towns and neighborhoods. He said the potential nationwide closure was aimed at stopping extended families from gathering for the seder, which is traditionally celebrated in large groups. Deri called for Israelis to prepare for the potential closure and said anyone driving that evening could be stopped by police.

The “dire circumstances” of the Covid-19 pandemic are pushing prominent haredi leaders to communal bans on private internet use, though so far any changes have been limited and temporary, according to a column in the Times of Israel.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, after being diagnosed with coronavirus, was forced to defy the strict rules of his Gerrer hasidic sect and install a computer in his home that is linked to the internet so he can communicate with other government officials, wrote Adam Ferziger, who teaches in the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University.

“In North America, the influential Lakewood yeshiva leaders issued guidelines that allow internet use during home isolation, though its rabbis stressed that this is a temporary step made necessary by the urgent situation,” or sha’as ha-dehak,, Ferziger wrote. “They also emphasized that this easing of policy does not extend to children, for whom there should be ‘no relaxation of technology standards… even [for] Torah purposes.’

“It’s no secret that many Haredi Jews use smartphones covertly. Academic studies have pointed to widespread internet use, evidenced by the abundance of Haredi-oriented blogs and websites,” Ferziger wrote. “After Corona, rabbinical leaders may revert to prior policies that either reject the internet completely or limit it to the workplace. But now that web access has proven it can save lives, it will be difficult to put that genie back in the bottle.”


Holocaust survivor Aron Halpern, a founding member of the Young Israel of Hollywood Beach, Fla., died at 92 on March 30 of complications from coronavirus, JTA reports.

He was born in Krakow, his father a Talmud scholar, and his mother a store manager in the heart of Krakow’s Jewish neighborhood. His parents were murdered in 1941 by the Nazis, who sent Mr. Halpern and his older brother Jacob to a series of concentration camps.

“He was a simple man who loved his temple, his family,” his grandson, Jeffrey Baxt, wrote when he submitted his grandfather’s name to Bonds of Life. “He could not write or make a fist due to the harm inflicted by the Nazis, but achieved the true American dream. … Our family is so lucky to have had him.”

Rabbi Osher Yaakov Westheim, 71, a prominent kashrut authority in Manchester, England has died of coronavirus, JTA reports. He was, JTA stated, “considered ‘a towering figure’ in the United Kingdom…and a world-respected authority on kosher food laws.

The rabbi headed the Kashrut Department of the Manchester Beth Din until 2004 and would conduct surprise inspections at sites under his supervision around Europe. He left the court that year to form the Badatz Igud Harabbonim, whose label was seen as demanding even stricter compliance than the standard upheld by the other rabbis of Manchester, which is home to the United Kingdom’s second-largest Jewish community.

Deborah Price Nagler of Teaneck, N.J., 66, a Jewish educator and technology consultant to day schools, died April 3 of Covid-19. She was formerly director of the Gratz College Certificate Program in Educational Technology and director of, a project dedicated to the development of 3D, online, immersive environments for education and training. She taught online educational technology courses for graduate students at New Jersey City University and Gratz College.  She also worked as an instructional designer for an online graduate program of Hebrew Union College in New York, and served as an educational technology consultant for public schools in New York and New Jersey.


Hadar will host an online Virtual Beit Midrash session on “How is This Night Different: Finding Opportunity in this Year’s Seder” on Monday at 8 p.m. Leaders will be rabbis Tali Adler and Avi Killip.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will take part in livestreamed briefing on the CARES Act coronavirus stimulus package on Monday at 10 a.m. He will discuss how it helps New York State, including the resources that are available to nonprofits and houses of worship.

The Orthodox Union will host online lunch and learn classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week with instruction by prominent rabbis on how to “make your seder more than b’seder.”

Dr. Irit Felsen, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at Columbia University and Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, will participate in a teleconference on “Shaken and AlonePesach Without Grandchildren Present,” on Monday at 1:15 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Relief Resources International organization. To participate: (617) 829-6595, no access code needed.

The JPro Network, a national associate of Jewish communal professionals, will hold a livestreamed seminar on Monday at 2 p.m. on “What Story Will We Tell? Jewish Textual Insights for this Unprecedented Passover.”

Our Common Destiny, a “ground-breaking effort to strengthen global Jewry by linking Jewish communities all over the world to a shared set of ethics and values across religious and cultural identities,” has prepared a Haggadah insert to be used at seders this week.

The National Museum of American Jewish History, in Philadelphia, will host an online 8th Annual Freedom Seder Revisited on Monday at 6:30 p.m. The “interpretative” event will feature storytellers who will share what freedom means to them through personal stories, reflections, and performance.


Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, founder of the Shomrei Adamah Jewish environmental organization, and author of a new “ecologically sensitive” Haggadah, has written an essay on the “seder’s secrets” for surviving a pandemic.

The Jewish Grandparents Network offers a “Ten Minute Dayenu Virtual Seder” designed for multi-generational families.

Jewish Together, an online resource center under the auspices of the Jewish Federations of North America, have compiled a wide variety of Pesach resources.

The Mayberg Foundation has prepared a guide for conducting “a great seder.” It contains both conventional and unconventional advice, do’s and don’t’s.

UJA-Federation of New York has compiled a guide to help the Jewish community find advice, resources and volunteer opportunities for learning during the virus outbreak. UJA and the Jewish Board also have listings of volunteer opportunities.

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