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New Rochelle attorney goes home, food pantries face crisis, noted sociologist dies
Coronavirus 2020

New Rochelle attorney goes home, food pantries face crisis, noted sociologist dies

New York Army National Guard troops clean New Rochelle City Hall on Saturday, March 14, 2020 as part of the state's efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the city. (Courtesy City of New Rochelle)
New York Army National Guard troops clean New Rochelle City Hall on Saturday, March 14, 2020 as part of the state's efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the city. (Courtesy City of New Rochelle)

Lawrence Garbuz, the New Rochelle attorney and member of the city’s Young Israel congregation who was one of the first people in the New York area diagnosed with the coronavirus disease, was released from the hospital on Sunday, NBC News has reported. Referred to by Gov. He had been in serious condition for much of March.

Garbuz was connected to a large cluster in New Rochelle that included his family and people at his synagogue, as well as his Manhattan law office. The New York Times reported that drastic confinement orders and aggressive testing in the Westchester suburb seem to be paying off: New cases have slowed and of the 12 deaths in the county, none are from New Rochelle. “The positive way to look at it is to say that at least preliminarily, those early actions have been effective,” said Noam Bramson, the mayor of New Rochelle.

City Harvest and the Met Council on Jewish Poverty have announced that they are seeking $25 million in emergency state food aid. They warn that “a tenuous network of volunteer food pantries, generous food suppliers and cash-strapped non-profits” will falter without assistance. Each organization is seeking $5 million in crisis funding and is requesting funding for other key organizations during this crisis.

“We need emergency funding to continue our emergency food distributions so that we can keep New Yorkers fed and healthy during this crisis” said Met Council CEO David Greenfield.

At Met Council, suppliers are canceling orders for thousands of pounds of produce as the wholesale prices of food package staples like eggs have increased by 180 percent or more, while at City Harvest, more than 20 percent of agency food partners are shuttered.

Rabbi Daniel Nevins, dean of the rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary, donated his blood plasma as part of tests to develop effective treatments for coronavirus, after he contracted the disease then was declared negative last week.

Immediately after his recovery, JTA reported, the rabbi was hooked up to a machine at Mount Sinai Hospital. Researchers are investigating whether antibodies from the blood of people who have successfully fought off the disease may provide treatment for people who with more serious symptoms. The Food and Drug Administration last week allowed doctors to treat critically ill coronavirus patients with plasma on an experimental basis.

“I felt fortunate that my mild case of this illness might turn into a blessing for people who are seriously ill,” Rabbi Nevins said. “The Torah teaches us not to stand idly by the blood of our neighbor. My Midrash [interpretation] is that no, instead lie down in a donor bed and give plasma.”

The first Jewish victim of Covid-19 in Argentina was cremated despite protests from members of the Jewish community, leading to a dialogue between Argentine rabbis and officials over a possible compromise to uphold Jewish law. Authorities said the cremation, normally forbidden under halacha, was a best practice to avoid further spread of the disease. Ruben Bercovich was a 59-year-old businessman and father of three in Argentina’s Chaco province.


In Israel, where 4,347 Israelis have so far tested positive for the coronavirus and 15 patients have died, Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov predicted  that schools will not resume at the end of the Passover holiday in mid-April.


William Helmreich, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Sociology at City College of New York and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, died of coronavirus on Saturday. He was 74. Helmreich was the author of numerous books and articles, including his “The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Jewry,” “Against All Odds: Holocaust Survivors and the Successful Lives They Made in America” and a series of books on New York. A child of Holocaust survivors, he was an alumnus of Yeshiva University and the subject of a profile in The New Yorker.

Avraham “Romi” Cohn, a New York rabbi who recently led the U.S. House of Representatives in prayer and is credited with saving 56 families as a young partisan during the Holocaust, died on Tuesday due to complications from the coronavirus. He was 91.


Yeshivat Chovovei Torah will host an online conversation on Wednesday at 2 p.m. on triage and allocating ventilators from the perspective of Jewish law and ethics. Participants will be Dr. Ken Prager, director of Clinical Ethics and Chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia University Medical Center, and Rabbi Dr. Jason Weiner, senior rabbi and director of the Cedars-Sinai Spiritual Care Department.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs will hold a webinar conversation with Natan Sharansky,former Russian prisoner-of-conscience and chairman of the Jewish Agency, on April 1 at 10 a.m. Sharansky’s topic will be “The Pandemic and the Jews.”

The Shalom Center, which focuses on ecology and human rights, will hold an on-line seder written to address “our crisis, facing the Eleventh Plague —  the Coronavirus Plague —  as well as other plagues of wounded Earth and Humankind” on April 13 at 7 p.m., the seventh night of Passover. For information: or (215) 844-8494.

The Chelsea Shul & Jgrads NYC will provide a free “Seder in a Box” to Chelsea residents who need help obtaining some of the holiday staples. The box contains three handmade shmurah matzahs, a bottle of grape juice, a Hebrew-English Haggadah and a seder guide, but not a seder meal. One seder box per household is free, while additional boxes cost $36. Orders must be received by noon on Friday, April, 3. Pick-up will be available three days before Passover (April 5) at The Chelsea Shul. Email to confirm a time before picking up.

The American Jewish Committee has produced a special Haggadah Supplement, a two-page insert that includes “a meaningful prayer and a communal responsive reading related to holding the Passover Seder under unusual circumstances created by the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.”

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, has designed a revised and expanded Haggadah for people dealing with “social distancing and travel restrictions.” “The Other Side of the River, The Other Side of the Sea” contains companion material “that opens up conversation about racism, immigration, workers’ rights, and more — all issues being exacerbated by COVID-19,” T’ruah says. Deadline for ordering is Monday, March 30.

The Reform movement has prepared a guide for this year’s seders, many of which will be held in a virtual manner over Skype or Zoom.

The Boro Park Jewish Community Council is providing resources to prepare for Passover in the shadow of the Covid-19 crisis. Information includes help for “personal needs as well as the needs of small businesses, housing, medical, utilities, and more.” A link to the Hebrew Free Loan Society is also available.

Chabad has prepared resources for people who will be leading and preparing a seder for the first time. Shmurah matzah will be available.

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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