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Orthodox group sues over Covid rules, Israel’s lockdown is working, ADL fears Election Day violence
Daily Update

Orthodox group sues over Covid rules, Israel’s lockdown is working, ADL fears Election Day violence

Yiddish-language signs warning against the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic, posted on a wall in the Borough Park neighborhood, appear to have been vandalized, Oct. 7, 2020. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Yiddish-language signs warning against the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic, posted on a wall in the Borough Park neighborhood, appear to have been vandalized, Oct. 7, 2020. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Shemini Atzeret is Saturday and Simchat Torah begins Saturday night at nightfall. Chag sameach!

An umbrella body for charedi Orthodox Jews sued Gov. Cuomo in federal court, saying pandemic restrictions on religious gatherings are discriminatory.

The Agudath Israel of America lawsuit filed Thursday in Brooklyn in U.S. District Court seeks a restraining order on restrictions Cuomo announced on Tuesday. It objects to “occupancy and gathering restrictions that make it impossible for Orthodox Jews to comply with both their religious obligations” and the safety rules.

The lawsuit follows a week of unrest over the looming Covid restrictions in Orthodox neighborhoods of New York. On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio decried as “disgusting” an assault on Orthodox journalist Jacob Kornbluh, who as accosted by an Orthodox mob in Brooklyn Wednesday night.

Related: Today at noon, Kornbluh and rabbis associated with the liberal New York Jewish Agenda will host a remote press conference to discuss the need for “data-driven, geographically-based public health efforts to contain Covid-19 in New York hotspots and for compliance in all communities, including NYC’s Orthodox Jewish communities.” NYJA on Thursday released a letter signed by over 400 rabbis – including more than 150 from New York – supporting the governor’s and mayor’s efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Perspective: Naftuli Moster, a community activist, says in a Jewish Week essay that charedi Orthodox leaders are promoting a false persecution narrative surrounding the health restrictions. “By declaring any scrutiny of the community to be anti-Semitic, these so-called leaders refuse to entertain the notion that certain systemic problems do in fact exist and should be addressed,” he writes.

The Israeli Health Ministry said Israel is as its lowest test positivity rate in a month.

The numbers appeared to strengthen a trend in recent days of a slowdown in infections, three weeks after the inception of new national lockdown measures, the Times of Israel reports.

Related: Israel’s chief rabbis implored Israelis Friday to refrain from praying indoors and kissing Torah scrolls during the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, which will begin Friday evening amid a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

An official of the Anti-Defamation League is warning that the threat of right-wing extremist violence is growing ever more urgent as Election Day approaches, and that Jews may be among the targets.

“We’re not necessarily predicting that there will be a civil war, but we are very concerned that there will be some violent acts,” Ryan Greer, the ADL’s director for program assessment and strategy, told JTA. “As the conspiracy theories become more urgent, many of them may be directed toward Jews.”

On Thursday, the FBI announced charges against a group of antigovernment extremists who had plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The Department of Homeland Security reported this week that white supremacists are the “most persistent and lethal” threat in the United States, nothing that such groups are characterized by hatred for Jews.

The Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish institutions nationwide, is also on alert. “We’re worried about everything from simple tactics to vehicle rammings, which we have continued to see deployed across the country in protests and basic civil gatherings, to active threat events,” said Michael Masters, CEO of the SCN.

Related: A white supremacist who called for violence against Pittsburgh’s Jews has been released from prisonHardy Lloyd’s release comes as the Squirrel Hill community prepares to mark the passage of two years since the synagogue shooting there on Oct. 27, 2018.

Firefighters in Israel were battling large blazes near three communities Friday amid an intense heatwave, leading to thousands of residents being evacuated.

One fire was burning near the West Bank settlement of Kfar HaOranim Friday morning. Local police said all residents were being evacuated from the community, located near the city of Modiin. Another large fire was reported near Umm al-Qutuf, east of Hadera. And two fires were reported near the northern community of Nof Hagalil.

There were no reports of casualties in any of the fires, reports The Times of Israel.

A new anthology brings together over 70 essays and ideas from the recent past that “were central to the Jewish communal conversation,” especially to American Jews.

In a Jewish Week interview, Yehuda Kurtzer and Claire E. Sufrin, co-editors of “The New Jewish Canon: Ideas & Debates 1980-2015” (Academic Studies Press), discuss a contentious 35 years that included debates on Israel, intermarriage, anti-Semitism, Holocaust memory, feminism and LGBT inclusion.

Shabbat Shalom

What does a community need from its leader when it is time to step down? In this week’s Torah reading, writes Beth Kisseleff, Moses shows the right way to let go, by being “willing to address us directly, to assure a smooth transition of power and to adhere to the common values we can all agree upon, without resorting to lies and subterfuge.”

More wisdom: Rabbi David Wolpe shares a poem he wrote about returning to his childhood synagogue.

Around the Agencies

BBYO, the pluralistic movement for Jewish teens, is launching a $50,000 teen competition called the Common Ground Challenge, in which participants compete to design new engagement programs that encourage dynamic conversation among diverse groups of teens. The competition, launched in partnership with Our Common Destiny and the Marcus Foundation, encourages teens to “dream up new ways to connect members with Jewish teens, as well as non-Jewish teens, to explore our differences and shared values,” said Hannah Borenstein, regional teen president of BBYO South Jersey Region.


Sha’ar Communities and a partnership of synagogue partners are coming together tomorrow for a Global Climate Shabbat/Yomtov service, joining in prayer in celebration of and in renewed commitment to the planet. The event marks Shemini Atzeret and the global launch of Countdown, a collaboration facilitated by the TED and Future Stewart Partners and described as “a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crises, turning ideas into action.” Sharing the virtual bimah will be Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann and Rabbi Deena Cowans of Mishkan Chicago, Rabbi Capers Funnye of Beth Shalom B’nei Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, Rabbi Arielle Lekach-Rosenberg of Shir Tikvah in Minneapolis, Reb Ezra Weinberg of NYC, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer of The Kitchen in San Francisco, and Rabbi Adina Lewittes of Sha’ar in NY/NJ, together with their colleagues and congregants. 11:00 am – 12:30 pm.

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