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UJA adds $2.7m in Covid relief • NYC virus variant worries researchers • Knicks fan goes back to the Garden
Daily Update

UJA adds $2.7m in Covid relief • NYC virus variant worries researchers • Knicks fan goes back to the Garden

Yakov Ronen stars in "The Vigil," a new horror movie set in Brooklyn's Hasidic community. (Courtesy of IFC Midnight)
Yakov Ronen stars in "The Vigil," a new horror movie set in Brooklyn's Hasidic community. (Courtesy of IFC Midnight)


Happy Purim! For a listing of Purim events throughout the day, go to The Hub. And for a laugh, read the Jewish Week’s annual Purim parody — guaranteeing herd hilarity in a single dose.

UJA-Federation of New York announced $2.77 million in supplemental funds for emergency food relief for New Yorkers.

With the grant, UJA has allocated nearly $67 million in grants and interest-free loans for pandemic relief.

Here’s how the latest allocations break down:

Food distribution in New York City: $2.17 million to the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty for its food pantry network and home-delivered meals to Holocaust survivors.

Food distribution on Long Island: $300,000 for The Marion and Aaron Gural JCC, Mid-Island Y JCC, and Suffolk Y JCC.

Food procurement and distribution: $300,000 for new systems to feed food-insecure New Yorkers.

Quotable: “Emergency funds for food allocated by government at the beginning of the pandemic have largely been depleted, and the number of food insecure New Yorkers continues to grow at an alarming rate,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. “We urge government at all levels to include additional emergency aid in their budgets to address this growing crisis.”

Israel’s military-led coronavirus task force task expressed concern at the emergence of a new variant in New York City in recent days.

Given close ties between the countries and ongoing flights between Tel Aviv and New York, the task force warned there was a real risk of the variant taking hold in Israel, Times of Israel reports.

The variant appears to share characteristics of the South African strain that enable it to evade some of the body’s immune response, and that could potentially weaken the effectiveness of current vaccines. “It is this novel variant that is surging, alarmingly, in our patient population over the past few weeks,” a Columbia University team reported.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel confirmed that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is very effective at preventing serious illness or death, even after one dose.

Wednesday’s published results, from a mass vaccination campaign in Israel, give strong reassurance that the benefits seen in smaller, limited testing persisted when the vaccine was used much more widely in a general population with various ages and health conditions.

The study was led by researchers from the Clalit Research Institute and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, with Harvard University in the U.S.

Eli Lunzer, who proposed to his now wife Yosefa at a sold-out Knicks game a year ago, returned to Madison Square Garden Tuesday for the first game with fans since COVID hit. 

Lunzer, an events planner who in 2014 was named one of The Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36 for his volunteerism, got rarely granted permission to propose to Yosefa Heber during a timeout in the second quarter of a game on Jan. 18, 2020. The two were married in June.

“It felt so good” to be back at the Garden, he told Jewish Week contributor Alan Zeitlin. “It was great to have some sense of normalcy going back.”

Only about 1,500 fans were allowed to watch the game between the Knicks and Golden State Warriors. Fans had to produce a negative COVID test that was done within 72 hours to gain entry.

In Other News

President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike on Iranian-backed militias in Syria, his first military action.

Police in Israel dispersed over 100 Purim parties and events around the country Thursday night on the first night of a holiday curfew.

Read more about “The Vigil,” the new horror film set in the Hasidic community of Brooklyn.


Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Bukiet, an author of nearly 50 books who served on the spiritual advisory board of Kfar Chabad in Israel, died Feb. 17 after a battle with the coronavirus. He was 70. Born in Brooklyn, he was the son of Rabbi Chaim Meir and Esther Bukiet; his father was one of a group of Chabad yeshivah students from Poland who fled to Shanghai in the early years of the war. After graduating from yeshivah in Montreal, Bukiet continued his studies at the central Chabad-Lubavitch yeshivah at 770 Eastern Parkway. After receiving his rabbinic ordination in 1976, he married Feiga Bracha Wilhelm of Jerusalem. In addition to his scholarship, Rabbi Bukiet was known for his rousing weekly farbrengens (Hasidic gatherings) in Kfar Chabad, according to


Historian Gil Troy, who grew up in Queens and attended Solomon Schechter Day School, remembers the “rock-solid Jewish commitments” instilled by his parents, both of whom taught in Conservative Hebrew schools. “Without a cemented foundation, without a leap of faith or empathy, no Jewish identity can survive, resisting modernity’s lures to provide the continuity we seek — and the pathways to meaning we all deserve,” he writes.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Emily Cohen of West End Synagogue writes that priestly garb is what we wear when we attend to sacred tasks on behalf of our whole people: “This year, we have learned that the holy work of pikuach nefesh, of saving lives, requires each of us, and that it is work that we can all do.”

More wisdom: The story of Esther reminds Jews that even in a brutal diaspora there is a promise of survival, writes Rabbi David Wolpe.


Hear all 10 chapters of the Megillah, chanted in the special tune for the Book of Esther, with 10 different readers. The Megillah reading will be streamed on Purim evening and Purim morning on My Jewish Learning’s Facebook page. 9:30 am.

Join The Leffell School in Westchester for a Purim Kids Sing-Along on Zoom. 10:00-10:30 am.


Westchester Jewish Center presents Gary Sinyor, a producer, writer and director who specializes in British comedies, with titles like “Leon the Pig Farmer” and Amazon’s “The Jewish Enquirer,” a six-part sitcom about a journalist who works for the United Kingdom’s fourth most successful Jewish newspaper. Hear how he depicts Jewish life on screen, the public’s response, and how his work has changed over the years. Register here. Sunday, 10:00 am.

Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust presents survivor Ruth Gruener, who will share her experience of hate, kindness and coming of age during the Holocaust. Free or suggested donation of $10. Register here. Sunday, 2:00 pm.

Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University presents a conversation with Sagi Muki, the Israeli Judo World champion. Registration required. Sunday, 3:30 pm.

Candlelighting, Readings

Friday, Feb. 26, 2021
Adar 14, 5781

Light candles at 5:26 pm

Saturday, Feb. 27
Adar 15, 5781

Torah Reading: Tetzaveh: Exodus 27:20 – 30:10
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10-27

Shabbat ends at 6:26 pm.

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