Sukkot begins tonight at sundown. Have a happy, and healthy, holiday!
President Trump announced early Friday morning that both he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for Covid-19 and would begin quarantining.
Trump’s announcement — which threatens to throw an already tumultuous campaign season into further disarray — came hours after news broke that Trump advisor Hope Hicks had tested positive. She began to show symptoms Wednesday while traveling with Trump to a rally in Minnesota.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and senior advisor, also traveled to the Minnesota rally; he and Hicks also flew that day on Marine One with Stephen Miller, another Jewish senior advisor. Photographs show none of them wearing a mask.
On Tuesday, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and advisor, who is Jewish, was among the Trump family members in the audience at the presidential debate in Cleveland. According to media reports, she wore a mask when entering and existing the auditorium but not during the debate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s developing a plan of action with Orthodox Jewish leaders to tamp down Covid-19 clusters.
Cuomo spoke this week with Orthodox leaders in Rockland and Orange counties and Brooklyn. “I think it’s fair to say the leaders of the community understand and they’re going to take action and we’re going to come up with an action plan,” Cuomo said, NYNow reports. “I explained the situation frankly and candidly and we had a good exchange.”
That comes as hospitalizations from the coronavirus topped 600 in Wednesday’s numbers for the first time since July. Hospitalizations have been steadily increasing in recent days, though the number of deaths has held relatively steady, with nine reported Tuesday.
New York University will revise its non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies in response to a complaint filed on behalf of a student that cited numerous instances of anti-Semitic activity on the campus.
NYU reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Jewish Insider reports. The complaint by student Adela Cojab, who has since graduated, argued that the university failed to protect its Jewish students, citing “attacks on social media to resolutions of student government, to boycott [Israel], flag burning and physical assault.” It also cited NYU’s decision to give the President’s Service Award to the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter.
The agreement is the first resolution at an American university since an executive order signed by President Trump in December 2019 added anti-semitism to the list of forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The House of Representatives passed a bill, introduced by Rep. Max Rose, a Jewish Democrat from Staten Island, that would track foreign white supremacist groups.
“Researchers and experts have observed that the threat posed by violent white supremacist extremism is increasingly transnational in nature,” Rose said in a release. The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, requires a periodic Department of Homeland Security threat assessment.
Related: Jewish Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) lambasted the Republican majority in the Senate for burying a bill that would expand capabilities targeting domestic white supremacist terrorists. The bill, approved in a unanimous voice vote last month in the House, cites a number of attacks carried out by white supremacists in recent years, including deadly assaults in synagogues in Pittsburgh and in Poway, California. The Trump administration has rolled back some tracking of white supremacists.
Thinking of moving to Canada to escape the chaos in America? A report says immigration lawyers have received a spike in inquiries from American Jews.
Heather Segal, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, tells JTA that there’s always a spike in inquiries during U.S. election years. But in her 25 years of experience, it’s never been as big as it is now.
Public health experts say it’s important not to be lulled into a false sense of pandemic safety during Sukkot just because you’re not inside.
During Sukkot, which starts tonight at sundown, people take their meals and sometime sleep outdoors in temporary structures, allowing for more of the fresh air that is considered one of the easiest ways to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.
When considering socializing in a sukkah, doctors tell Shira Hanau the same precautions that apply to other social gatherings should be applied: wearing a mask and maintaining at least 6 feet of distance — a challenge in the structures that often are not that much wider across than that.
Related: Read the Orthodox Union’s detailed guidelines for Sukkot safety.
Watch: Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky of Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, NJ, has an instructional video on how to build a safer Sukkah during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Israel’s pandemic-related political crisis continues.
Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir of the Blue and White party announced he was resigning from the government, citing the passage of controversial legislation this week to restrict protests during the current coronavirus lockdown, Times of Israel reports.
Related: One of Israel’s most prominent charedi Orthodox rabbis, Chaim Kanievsky, 92, tested positive for coronavirus. Kanievsky is a leader of the non-chasidic “Lithuanian” Orthodox community, with hundreds of thousands of followers.
Perspective: TOI editor David Horovitz writes: “The contagion rates, serious case numbers and death toll will become exponential, however, if our ministers, from Netanyahu on down, don’t put aside personal and partisan interest, and urgently commission, approve and explain a cogent strategy to minimize COVID’s devastation.”
New York Rabbi Avram Mlotek co-officiated a wedding with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2016. The experience reinforced his commitment to expanding roles for women within Orthodoxy.
What do we celebrate on Sukkot? Rabbi Shlomo Riskin says the week-long festival of booths marks the Jewish people’s vulnerability in their desert wanderings, as well as their homecoming to the Land of Israel.
More wisdom: Rabbi David Wolpe writes that there’s nothing elitist about loving one’s own people.
Around the Agencies
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and more than 20 co-sponsoring organizations will convene today at noon for a walk around the U.S. Supreme Court to symbolically close out the Jewish mourning period of shiva for Justice Ginsburg and launch “Ruth’s Revolution,” NCJW’s campaign for a fair and equitable judiciary. In addition to the event in DC, communities across the country will hold walks around local courthouses. Co-sponsors include Demand Justice, the National Organization for Women, American Federation of Teachers and Center for American Progress.
American Jewish Committee presents Proud Boys and Antifa: The State of Extremism in America Today, a conversation with criminologist and civil rights attorney Brian Levin, professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, to analyze the state of extremism in America today. 12:00 pm.
RoundTable Cultural Seminars presents “Unprecedented: Jewish Resistance Under Stalinism,” moderated by Dr. Joseph Kellner, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Georgia. The talk will examine the roots of late-Stalinist anti-Semitism, and illuminate the unprecedented resistance of Soviet Jews to intimidation, which in a significant way signaled the end of Stalinism. 2:00 pm.