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Orthodox rabbis urge vaccination • Supreme Court backs NJ rabbi’s Covid complaint • Georgia Senate candidates play defense
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Orthodox rabbis urge vaccination • Supreme Court backs NJ rabbi’s Covid complaint • Georgia Senate candidates play defense

CITY OF LIGHT: A menorah placed by Chabad-Lubavitch in Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan is part of the chasidic outreach movement's annual public Chanukah campaign, Dec. 10, 2020. (Chabad Lubavitch)
CITY OF LIGHT: A menorah placed by Chabad-Lubavitch in Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan is part of the chasidic outreach movement's annual public Chanukah campaign, Dec. 10, 2020. (Chabad Lubavitch)

The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America issued a detailed document saying the Torah requires observant Jews to vaccinate for Covid-19 as soon as a vaccine becomes available.

Taking into the account the speed in which Covid-19 vaccines have been developed, the guidance – by Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Dovid Cohen and Mordechai Willig – says the emerging vaccines “appear to have been successful beyond all expectations and have produced more than one vaccine with an unusually high rate of effectiveness with no indications of any significant risk.”

“In consideration of the guidance of our poskim,” or decisors, says the guidance, “we strongly encourage all those eligible to access the COVID-19 vaccination to do so.”

Related: Top charedi Orthodox rabbis in Israel — Chaim Kanievsky, Gershon Edelstein and Shalom Cohen — have recommended that their communities vaccinate against the coronavirus. Their position contrasts with leading rabbis in the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, who in a meeting with health officials declined to publicly back the national coronavirus vaccination program.

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a pair of lower-court rulings that had permitted states to enforce Covid-related restrictions at worship services.

The decision supports an appeal by Rabbi Yisrael Knopfler of Lakewood and a New Jersey priest, who claimed that New Jersey’s limits on religious gatherings constituted religious discrimination. The case now returns to the lower courts.

The order comes just weeks after the court blocked restrictions by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on religious gatherings in the state’s red zones — areas with rising COVID cases.

What it means: “Tuesday’s orders are further evidence of the broader impact of the New York ruling, which the justices have now invoked three times in three weeks to tell lower courts around the country that they should be more solicitous of religious groups seeking to worship without restrictions during the pandemic,” according to SCOTUSBlog.

FYI: Knopfler was arrested in May and charged with holding a gathering in violation of the NJ governor’s orders as well as resisting arrest.

Related: Officials in the Chicago area are struggling to uncover whether an Orthodox Jewish wedding that violated public health restrictions led to new Covid-19 cases in the hard-hit city.

A Jewish Democratic group released a video featuring Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock talking up the Black-Jewish alliance.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America’s ad comes as Warnock tries to fend off attacks by his opponent, incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler, over past sermons in which the African-American pastor was harshly critical of Israel.

In the video, Warnock recalls Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement. In a talk to JDCA featured in the ad, Warnock expressed support for Israel.

Related: Loeffler disavowed a white supremacist who posed next to her in a smiling selfie. Her campaign said she had no idea that the man next to her was Chester Doles, a former KKK leader who served prison time for beating a Black man he saw accompanying a white woman.

At a panel on anti-Semitism, four speakers known for their outspoken criticism of Israel — including Rep. Rashida Tlaib — made clear that they themselves do not hate Jews.

Tuesday’s online event — hosted by the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace — was criticized by Jewish and pro-Israel activists for giving anti-Zionists a platform to discuss anti-Semitism, JTA reports.

The panelists all rejected the notion that pro-Palestinian advocacy, including support for an Israel boycott, constitutes anti-Semitism. They all said that anti-Semitism comes predominantly from the right.


Andrew Silow-Carroll, Jewish Week’s editor in chief, remembers Rabbi Jacob Joseph, whose 1902 funeral in Manhattan set off “the worst outbreak of antisemitic violence the city has ever seen.”

What if Jewish educators pledged to add women’s voices to the teaching of Torah? That’s the goal behind the “Kranjec Test,” devised by a Jewish educator at Hillel Pittsburgh and discussed in a Jewish Week essay.

Background: Read how The Kranjec Test is calling attention to the ways in which women are still not equally represented in leadership in the world of Jewish text study.

Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of the first Leningrad Trial, when a group of Soviet Jewish activists was charged with attempting to hijack a small Soviet commercial plane and escape for Israel. “Even more than the Six-Day War,” write Glenn Richter and Rabbi Avi Weiss, the trial “forged American Jews into a community that stood up for our brethren wherever they might be suffering.”


Theodore Mann, a Philadelphia lawyer who led several major Jewish organizations including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and was an early critic of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, died of the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported. He was 92.


Good Chanukah TV shows for kids are hard to find, but Jay Deitcher has some recommendations.

Around the Agencies

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding launched a North American-Jewish tourism initiative to Bahrain in partnership with Best of Bahrain and Da’at Travel. The new initiative follows an invitation from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to bring more Jewish tourists to the kingdom, according to FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier. Best of Bahrain will facilitate the itineraries and travel arrangements for Jewish travelers, and Da’at Travel will focus on bringing Jewish organizations, federations and synagogues across North America to visit the Gulf country. For more information visit here.

Streaming Today

CNAS presents a panel discussion on a new report entitled “A New U.S. Strategy for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” by Ilan Goldenberg, Michael Koplow, and Tamara Cofman Wittes. The authors argue that today’s realities demand that the United States change its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict away from a focus on high-profile, U.S.-mediated diplomatic initiatives to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian permanent agreement. Instead, the United States must focus on taking tangible steps, both on the ground and diplomatically, that will improve the freedom, prosperity, and security of all people living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, while also cultivating the conditions for a future two-state agreement negotiated between the parties. Register here. 10:00 am.

The Tel Aviv Institute and Combat Anti-Semitism present a forum on anti-Semitism in the political and progressive spheres, addressing the Jews’ right to define oppression against them by intersectional leaders. Guest speakers include Ellie Cohanim, US Assistant Special Envoy to Monitor & Combat Anti-Semitism; Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists 4 Israel and president of the Healing Arts Kits and Healing Ink, and Natan Sharansky, with a “live painting” of Holocaust rescuer Chiune Sugihara by JUURI, a Japanese-American artist. Register here. 4:00 pm.

The Jewish Emergent Network presents a Facebook Live Chanukah candle-lighting with learning, singing and a lot of light, in a 30-minute main program followed by live dance parties on each coast. Free and no registration is needed for the main program. 7:30 pm.

Svivah presents “Hag HaBanot,” exploring the customs of a beautiful North African feminist holiday celebrating women’s friendship. Learn about some remarkable Sephardic heroines from scholars Rabbi Tsipora Gabai, Tamar Zaken, Maharat Victoria Sutton and Rabbanit Aliza Sperling. RSVP for Zoom link. 8:15 pm.

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