The Jewish Week is always here for you.
We need your support now.
Your contribution will help us bring you vital news
and frequent updates about the impact of COVID-19.
Synagogues aren’t rushing back to in-person worship • UJA teams with vaccine hero • Novelist Nicole Krauss honored
Daily Update

Synagogues aren’t rushing back to in-person worship • UJA teams with vaccine hero • Novelist Nicole Krauss honored

Amanda Nessel, a young professional who is volunteering as part of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus Downtown’s Killing Covid With Kindness program, has secured dozens of appointments for eligible people seeking vaccines. (Courtesy)
Amanda Nessel, a young professional who is volunteering as part of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus Downtown’s Killing Covid With Kindness program, has secured dozens of appointments for eligible people seeking vaccines. (Courtesy)


Despite COVID-19 vaccines and some positive trend lines, few U.S. synagogues are rushing to return to traditional in-person worship, JTA reports.

Still, the trends are tempting. The Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a Reconstructionist congregation in Manhattan, originally hoped the congregation could return to in-person services sometime in the fall. But expanding vaccination rates have Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann wondering if the congregation could come back together in person as soon as this summer.

“Biden’s announcement might make us comfortable coming back sooner than we thought,” she said. The president announced last week that all Americans would be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine by May 1.

Related: Membership at Romemu, the innovate Manhattan congregation, increased from about 700 families to almost 800 in the past year. Romemu’s Rabbi David Ingber, speaking at the three-day virtual Jewish Funders Network International Conference, credited “the broad reach and dramatic influence of Zoom religious services,” Gary Rosenblatt reports in his new Substack newsletter.

UJA-Federation of New York is teaming with Ambar Keluskar, a Brooklyn pharmacist who is distributing surplus doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Keluskar made headlines this week when he brought surplus vaccines to senior facilities in downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene.

On Thursday at 1:00 pm, UJA and Keluskar will open a pop-up vaccination site for 80 seniors at The Commonpoint Queens Hub in Elmhurst. Keluskar will administer doses of the Moderna vaccine to the community residents.

Related: Volunteers from the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus in downtown Manhattan have helped close to 230 eligible New Yorkers get their COVID-19 vaccine appointments. The volunteers, headed by OU-JLIC Downtown co-director Rabbi Joe Wolfson, put out feelers to synagogues, community groups and the district office of New York State Senator Simcha Felder to identify seniors, clients of homeless shelters, victims of domestic violence, and others who needed assistance. Those in need of assistance can register here.

Met Council will distribute truckloads of free kosher Passover food today in Brooklyn and Forest Hills.

Volunteers will be giving away food from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Commonpoint Queens and after 1 p.m. at the future site of the Boro Park Chesed Center, a planned Met Council hub at 3726 18th Avenue in

The agency said its annual food distributions across the city will serve over 200,000 Jewish New Yorkers.

Quotable: “This has been one of the most challenging years we’ve ever faced at Met Council but we’re determined to make sure everyone who wants a holiday meal can get one,” said Met Council CEO David Greenfield.

In Other News

Israeli archaeologists announced the first Dead Sea Scrolls unearthed in 60 years.

Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz says the university’s trustees are trying to force him out — apparently over fundraising goals.

White supremacist propaganda spiked dramatically in 2020, mostly thanks to a Texas-based group called Patriot Front, according to the Anti-Defamation League.


Rabbi Chaim Gurevitch of Crown Heights, a director of development for the Israel-based Colel Chabad, died Tuesday at age 62. He was struck by a car while delivering specially prepared “shmura” matzah to a donor in Deal, NJ, reports. Colel Chabad helps feed the poor, needy and elderly in Israel. According to, Rabbi Gurevitch took “immense pride” in the fact that all of his married children became emissaries of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

People and Places

France honored David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, with rank of Officer within the order of the Legion of Honor in a ceremony Monday at the French Consulate in New York City. The honor, bestowed by French Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Étienne, recognizes Harris’ “unwavering commitment to strengthening ties between the United States and France, his deep friendship for France, as well as his extraordinary work to combat antisemitism and hate speech – an effort highly valued by France.”

Novelist Nicole Krauss won the first-ever Sami Rohr Inspiration Award for Fiction. The $36,000 award, to be presented at a virtual ceremony in June, recognizes a “well-known author whose books have made a valuable contribution to Jewish literature and who will serve as a role model to Fellows of the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute.” Krauss is the author of the novels “Forest Dark,” “Great House” and “The History of Love” and the story collection “Man Walks Into a Room.” She is currently writer-in-residence at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University.

The Jewish Teen Funders Network has a new name: Honeycomb. Founded in 2006 as a program of Jewish Funders Network, Honeycomb will foster Jewish teens’ philanthropy through a variety of grantmaking activities for youth and families.


Yahad, a free digital platform that meshes with Zoom, is offering new content and program options for conducting virtual Seders during Passover. The upgrade includes nearly 50 Haggadahs and a new split screen feature that recreates a table-like atmosphere of seeing and speaking with fellow attendees. Congregations can use Yahad to invite up to 1,000 participant screens to their online Seders. Check out Yahad’s website for more information.

Streaming Today

YIVO presents a conversation celebrating Jeffrey Shandler’s new book, “Yiddish: Biography of a Language,” with Shandler, Anita Norich and Ayala Fader, moderated by YIVO’s Academic Advisor and Director of Exhibitions Eddy Portnoy. “Yiddish: Biography of a Language” presents the story of Yiddish, the defining vernacular of Ashkenazi Jews, from its origins to the present. Register here. 1:00 pm.

Ed Mitukiewicz, map consultant for the documentary film “Raise the Roof,” will demonstrate how you can use historical map websites and geographic information databases in genealogy research. Sponsored by the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute. Register here to receive a link to the Zoom program. 4:00 pm.

American Friends of Rabin Medical Center presents Global Connections, a monthly leaders forum moderated by Robert Siegel, former Senior Host of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. February’s forum focuses on “White Supremacy: How Big A Threat, How To Counter It,” and features Jonathan Greenblatt (National Director & CEO, Anti-Defamation League), Kathleen Belew (University of Chicago), Lawrence Rosenthal (Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, University of California). Register here. 4:00 pm.

Join Workers Circle to learn about the historic 1965 Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery and meet with Lynda Blackmon Lowery, the youngest activist on the march, and Viola Liuzzo, the only white woman murdered by the KKK during the march (as told by her daughter, Mary Lizzo Lilleboe). Register here. 7:30 pm.

read more: