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Kosher plant closes, a Shabbat like no other, elderly Israelis evacuated
Coronavirus 2020Daily Update

Kosher plant closes, a Shabbat like no other, elderly Israelis evacuated

Harvey Potter, an investment banker and resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, has taken a series of haunting photographs of New York during the Covid-19 crisis. "I felt a responsibility to capture the emotions and feelings both in my immediate community and in the city more broadly -- you can feel the darkness and the sadness," he explains. For more photos, go to (Harvey Potter)
Harvey Potter, an investment banker and resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, has taken a series of haunting photographs of New York during the Covid-19 crisis. "I felt a responsibility to capture the emotions and feelings both in my immediate community and in the city more broadly -- you can feel the darkness and the sadness," he explains. For more photos, go to (Harvey Potter)

Empire Kosher closed its processing plant in Pennsylvania after two employees tested positive for the coronavirus. But chickens are expected to be available for next week’s Passover seders, Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division, which supervises the Empire facility, told Crain’s New York on Thursday.

Kosher butchers on Long Island are facing a new world of up-front cash payments to skittish wholesalers, drive-by customer pick-ups and security guards with temperature guns checking shoppers for any sign of fever.

The Jewish Week’s Stewart Ain reports on the new-normal changes, and notes that the kosher meat supply lines during this unprecedented Passover season seem to be holding up, the butchers report.

Chief rabbis from around the world have launched the #KeepingItTogether campaign in response to the coronavirus crisis. The campaign calls on world Jewry to make this Shabbat, known as Shabbat HaGadol, “a Shabbat of kindness, a Shabbat of prayer and a Shabbat of connection to the Divine.”

The campaign asks world Jewry to commit to these actions this Shabbat: call or message someone you know who is alone or struggling, wish them Shabbat Shalom and offer them words of support and encouragement; pray for each other just before candle-lighting; and to “keep this Shabbat together,” to “connect to light and love and disconnect from the relentless news cycle for a precious 25 hours.”

The campaign is supported by both chief rabbis of Israel — David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef — as well as those from South Africa, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Austria, Rome, Brussels and Argentina. The chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt, also signed the letter in support of the campaign.

The Orthodox Union has posted a series of protocols for use of a mikvah during the Covid-19 outbreak. “Only women who are symptom-free may work in or use the Mikvah. If a woman is symptom-free but has been exposed to someone with the virus or someone under investigation for having the virus, she may not work in or use the Mikvah for 14 days following that exposure,” the document states.


The number of people in Israel diagnosed with coronavirus approached 7,000 on Friday.

The Israeli military will remove some 4,500 people above the age of 80 from the predominantly haredi city of Bnei Brak, placing those residents most at risk from the coronavirus in state-run isolation hotels, the Times of Israel reports. The plan will go into effect on Sunday, a spokesman for Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said.

Government ministers were preparing to debate several measures designed to place the city under a near-total closure. The plan was drawn up by Bennett and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, in cooperation with authorities in Bnei Brak and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose office will be providing the $20.5 million needed funding.

The 2021 Maccabiah Games in Israel will take place a year later, in July 2022, the Australian Jewish News reports. The shift is understood to avoid a clash with the postponed Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Israel’s professional cycling team, Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN), has invited worldwide fans to join, in a virtual manner, a series of online team rides that are being conducted to help secure protective masks for medical staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The next ride – the second in the series – will take place on Sunday. Sunday’s ride will begin at 9:30 a.m.

A grassroots initiative on social media and organizations’ networking is calling on Israelis to conduct their seders on balconies or near windows to create “the biggest communal celebration of Passover ever.” “We cannot choose the situation we find ourselves in, but we can choose how to react to it,” Yaniv Mezuman, who initiated the project “One People, One Table,” told The Jerusalem Post. The  “One People, One Table” organization suggests that people mark the holiday in visible locations “so that the elderly, lone soldiers, doctors and nurses on duty, security forces on guard, and anyone left alone in their home can celebrate the Passover Seder with their big family – the nation of Israel.”


Rabbi Yisroel Friedman, a prominent Chabad educator, passed away April 1 at 84, after contracting coronavirus. Serving as the senior rosh yeshivah (head of the academy) at Talmudic Seminary Oholei Torah in Brooklyn for more than 50 years, “he became known as the very personification of “a Chassidisher rosh yeshivah,” the website stated. “He was not only filled with Torah knowledge, but also with love for the Torah and with unbounded dedication to G‑d, the giver of the Torah.”

Judith Lowin, 76, a retired nurse from Riverdale, died on March 21 of coronavirus, JTA reports. Ms. Lowin worked for many years as a surgical nurse and educator at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, winning several teaching awards. A longtime resident of Monsey, she was married to Joseph Lowin and had three grown children, Shari, David and Benjamin, and several grandchildren.

Ronald David Bayfield, a British soldier who took part in the 1944 D-Day Allied invasion at Normandy Beach, died of Covid-19 on March 29 at 95, the London Jewish Chronicle reports. He had been a headteacher and a president of the South West Essex Reform Synagogue

Mr. Bayfield was credited with dragging himself out of a burning tank and, despite severe burns, carrying a wounded comrade on his shoulders back to Allied territory. He would later say that he regretted that his injuries prevented him from joining his unit, the 23rd Hussars regiment, in helping to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany.


The Jewish Council for Public Affairs will sponsor several livestreamed webinars related to the coronavirus crisis in the coming days, including “CARES Act: SBA Loan Application Information Webinar for Nonprofits,” Friday, April 3 at noon. Other topics will include Protecting Immigrants, Israelis and Palestinians and a Faith Response to the disease.

City Winery will sponsor a livestreamed Downtown Seder on Monday at 6 p.m. “to connect the community in a time where social distancing is keeping many loved ones apart.” The line-up will feature comedians, musicians, politicians, and actors walking you through the classic story-telling from the Haggadah.

The Orthodox Union’s Yachad group for individuals with disabilities has launched “Yachad On Demand,” a digital platform for those with special needs to communicate. Yachad On Demand offers a variety of virtual programming, including online support groups, Partners in Torah, educational materials and events – such as cooking demonstrations, shiurim, pre-Shabbat schmoozes, games etc. An online buddy system has launched on the site as well.

Yachad is hosting weekly live programs through Zoom and Facebook Live, including shiurim, cooking shows, hangouts, exercise classes and support groups. Other offerings will include small group and personal chats as well as a video library on YouTube.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has created online and digital holiday tools to “strengthen community and help Jews in isolation reach their families, friends, and wider Jewish world.” These offerings include a first-time, free digital download of ReOrdered, the JDC Entwine at-home global Passover Toolkit, and an Israel-based hackathon that will fast-track platforms for virtual seders and Passover resources for Jews and Jewish communities facing COVID-19 restrictions.

The 92nd Street Y will host an online conversation between Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Catholic archbishop of New York City, and Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, director of the Y’s Jewish Community and Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, on Monday at 5 p.m. They will discuss the importance of community “even when we can’t be together physically.”

The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan is offering a variety of online resources to help prepare for Passover.  The offerings include a Passover webpage that is updated, toolkits that contain such things as recipes and printable seder plates and  downloadable Haggadot, a clearinghouse of live seders for people to join virtually, an archive of pre-recorded seders from around the world an original Annotated Haggadah,  and seder matching for those willing to host and those looking for a seder to join.

Is there an upside to taking part this year in a scaled-down seder or an online seder via Zoom? Naama Barak, a PhD student at Hebrew University, thinks so. In a tongue-in-cheek essay, she offers some pointers on appreciating the unique opportunities that Passover next week will present.

The Aleph Beta educational organization has prepared an Aleph Beta Quarantined resource page to help people who are “prepping for Passover during these strange times,” Available are “A ready-to-go Passover menu with easy recipes for all 8 days,” a Torah video to help in seder preparations, a seder checklist, resources for “kids stuck at home, and mental health tips.

Rabbi Naomi Levy, founder of the Los Angeles-based Nashuva community and author of “Einstein and the Rabbi,” has composed a series of  prayers for use at seders during this “Pandemic Passover.”

Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer, spiritual leader of Temple Israel Community Center in Cliffside Park, N.J., has prepared two Passover resources for “people who are planning on a virtual seder, but do not have the patience for staying on too long or going through all the motions.” His product contains a short-form “virtual Haggadah,” as well as the basics for conducting the Pesach night meals. In addition, the rabbi has provided a link for people wishing to “attend” his virtual seders.

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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