Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs infectious disease research for the federal government, yesterday advised Jews to phase in communal prayer as local governments lift coronavirus pandemic restrictions, JTA reports. “The kind of social interactions which is the core of the beauty of your culture has unfortunately led to a higher risk,” Dr. Fauci said Thursday in a webcast organized by the Orthodox Union. He encouraged the people on the call to take “baby steps” toward reestablishing in-person prayer.
“If you said, for the time being, ‘How about once a day and five days a week as opposed to three times a day, seven days a week,’ if you could phase that part in,” that would be a good idea, he said. He added, “I don’t want to be presumptuous to know what that would mean to you from a spiritual standpoint.”
Synagogues across the country have been closed since mid-March, when states shuttered houses of worship and other gathering places in an effort to curb the spread of the disease. While some synagogues have begun holding services online, that practice is not compatible with Orthodox practices.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the Orthodox Union’s executive vice president, told Dr. Fauci that his organization was advising congregations to wait two weeks past government opening dates to start returning to congregational prayer, to designate seats to make sure congregants sit apart and to stagger services to keep entry into the synagogues compatible with social distancing.
He also said the risk was likely to carry over into the High Holidays this fall, and that pandemic risk mitigation should continue to apply to worship at that time.
Rabbi Hershel Billet, spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Woodmere, L.I., and a former president of the Rabbinical Council of America, has sent an open letter to members of his community in which he strongly urged them to follow social distancing regulations.
“The sanctity of life supersedes all religious obligations. Indeed, protecting the sanctity of life is THE OVERRIDING choice of Halacha,” or Jewish law, Rabbi Billet wrote. “Hence the social distancing and all sanitary guidelines that we have been following is the expectation of Jewish law. That means no communal prayer services. That means no normal funeral services. That means no Kaddish. That means no Shiva visits. This determination is absolute and irrefutable … the services that have been conducted to date in defiance of the community are worthless. They are a violation of Jewish law. The Kaddish is of no value. It does not honor the soul of the deceased.”
Rabbi Billet later clarified that he wrote the letter “because there have been many minyanim in the Five Towns in violation of our community standards.”
Palestinian medical personnel from Gaza have reportedly received training in Israel to deal with the novel coronavirus, raising questions among Palestinians about whether the training came through coordination between Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah or perhaps a humanitarian group, according to the Al-Monitor news site.
Following a report on Israeli television that a team from Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan had held a training course for about 20 medical workers from Gaza at the Erez crossing, Fathi Abu Warda, an adviser to the Ramallah Health Ministry, told Al-Monitor that the medical measures were needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Jewish Federations of North America has begun a fundraising drive to buy lifesaving medical supplies for frontline providers. “Not for profit Jewish nursing homes, hospice care centers, home care, and other frontline providers for the elderly have suffered devastating fatalities due to the coronavirus pandemic,” JFNA announced. They are facing a dire shortage of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, masks, and gowns, and no one is hearing their cries for help. These healthcare providers can’t afford to pay the increased prices for PPE, and their residents are suffering at alarming rates.”
The family of Leon and Debra Black of New York has launched a philanthropic program called NYC Healthcare Heroes, which will deliver food, cleaning products and personal care products to more than 100,000 healthcare professionals at hospitals across the five boroughs through the end of June.
The program, which launched two weeks ago, has already delivered thousands of packages to Bellevue, Elmhurst, Coney Island and Kings County Hospitals. Leon Black, a private equity billionaire, and Debra Black are members and benefactors of Park Avenue Synagogue.
A cousin of comedian Elayne Boosler received an expensive Catholic funeral after dying recently at a Brooklyn nursing home — even though she’s Jewish and had arrangements to be buried at an already-paid-for plot elsewhere, the New York Post reports. Dorothea Buschell, 83, died April 13 after contracting the coronavirus at the Hamilton Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Bay Ridge. But her family claimed they weren’t notified and only learned about her death when her one of her cousins tried to reach her for her birthday. By that time, Buschell had already been interred at Forest Green Park Cemetery in Morganville, N.J., which charged her with a $15,000 Catholic funeral package.
“I am horrified at how she must have died, at how she was swindled and at how she is now far from her family in a strange grave,” Boosler said. the comedian said she had ensured in paperwork as recently as August 2018 that her cousin would be buried at New Montefiore Cemetery in Farmingdale.
The number of people in Israel who have died of coronavirus reached 240 on Friday; 16,381 people have been diagnosed with the disease.
Two Israelis accused of trying to defraud customers by claiming to sell medical equipment necessary during the coronavirus outbreak have been extradited to France. The two allegedly approached grocery stores in France and pretended to work at businesses they said were developing a drug to treat Covid-19, the Ynet news site reports. IThe two residents of Raanana have French citizenship.
Israeli ministers approved a ban on bonfires across the country and a blockade of the Meron pilgrimage site in northern Israel ahead of next week’s Lag B’Omer festival, to prevent gatherings amid fears of a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus, the Times of Israel reports. The emergency regulations came after the cabinet rebuffed a National Security Council recommendation to reimpose a lockdown on the country over the festival, on May 11-12.
Violators who light bonfires anywhere in the country or rent out rooms in Meron will be fined.
Students from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem have partnered with the masks4docs and Tikun Olam Makers organizations to produce and print thousands of protective shields for medical staffs in various hospitals.
Last week, 150 protective medical shields were donated to the Cardiology Department at Hadassah Ein Kerem. Yuval Buzaglo, a Bezalel student, uses a 3D printer she built herself for her own small home business.
Enrique Mugica Herzog, a former political prisoner who became the first Jew to serve in a Spanish government since the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, died of the coronavirus on April 10, JTA reports. He was 88.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Mugica played a pivotal role in talks that led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Spain and Israel. A key figure in the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, he forged important links with Israeli politicians like Shimon Peres and Michael Harish through the Socialist International.
In 1988 he was named Spain’s minister of justice in 1988, making him the first Jew to sit in a Spanish government since 1492.
He also served as vice president of the Spanish-Israeli Friendship Association.
A documentary, “One More Shot,” about infertility in the Jewish community will be shown on Zoom on Sunday at 8 p.m. It will be followed by Q&A with social worker Maya Grobel. For information: email@example.com.
A virtual Mother’s Day Culinary Throwdown will be presented by the America-Israel Friendship League at noon on Sunday. It will be streamed live from kitchens on the Southside of Chicago.
Chai Lifeline is offering online “Going Through It, Growing Through It: Torah Perspectives and Mindful Coping in the Age of COVID-19,” a lecture series. The series includes video and audio recordings of rabbis, speakers, and mental health experts, as well as members of Chai Lifeline’s crisis intervention team, Project Chai. The first video in the series features Rabbi Eytan Feiner of the White Shul in Far Rockaway, and Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox, Project Chai Director of Interventions and Community Education.
A star-studded online concert sponsored last week by the Israeli-American Council raised more than $325,000 to buy personal protective equipment and food for health care workers, IAC announced. The event, hosted by Israeli actress Shani Atias, featured songs by Idan Raichel, David Broza, Rotem Cohen, Shlomi Shabat, and Keren Peles, all of whom performed from their homes.
Michal Birnbaum, an actress who recently appeared in Netflix’s “Unorthodox” series, will take part in a virtual interview with her sister, Tova Birnbaum, director of Jewish content at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, on Sunday at 2 p.m. The series tracks the story of a 19-year-old woman from Brooklyn who flees her charedi community to chart a new path in Berlin.
Hadar co-founder Rabbi Elie Kaunfer will join historian Ruth Wisse in an online interview about “Hebrew in America Today: Is a Paradigm Shift Possible?” on Sunday at 5 p.m.
The Jewish Theological Seminary has announced a series of virtual learning sessions. Topics include the Hebrew language and Talmudic logic.
Yad Leah – Clothing for Israel will hold a virtual Mother’s day tour, “Walking with the Women of Israel: From Rachel to Golda,” on Sunday at 11 a.m. Tour guide Rivi Frankel will take participants to Rachel’s Tomb, Mount Tavor (the biblical site of the Devorah’s battle), Golda Meir’s grave at Har Herzl and other sites.
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.