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Western Wall restrictions eased, OU urges plasma donations, tension between pols and Orthodox
Coronavirus 2020Daily Coronavirus Update

Western Wall restrictions eased, OU urges plasma donations, tension between pols and Orthodox

Worshippers at the Western Wall pray in enclosed areas meant for 10 people at a time in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus on March 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90, via JTA)
Worshippers at the Western Wall pray in enclosed areas meant for 10 people at a time in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus on March 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90, via JTA)

Harsh condemnations by both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio of charedi Orthodox Jews who are flouting social distancing rules have driven a wedge, though perhaps a narrow one, between friends, straining the carefully cultivated ties that have taken years to establish.

The Jewish Week reports on the politically advantageous relationship the politicians and community leaders have enjoyed, and how that, according to most observers, is likely to survive the latest dustup.

Israel is preparing to conduct 100,000 serological tests to see how widespread the coronavirus is, ahead of a possible second wave, the Times of Israel reports. “This is the most important mission: Get ready for the next wave, especially a wave during wintertime,” Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, the director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry, said yesterday. “Luckily, the Covid-19 caught us post-influenza season. But we can’t assume that there’s not going to be a next wave or that it will be during summertime.”

He said that if only a small percentage of Israelis have been exposed to the disease, Israel’s health system could face a major struggle to deal with a fresh outbreak.

Tel Aviv Pride Month, which takes place every year in June with a surge of LGBT-friendly events across the city, will be postponed and marked through virtual events this year. The organizers announced that the pride parades in Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheva will also be postponed because of the pandemic, and may be rescheduled later this summer.

The Orthodox Union is encouraging people who have recovered from Covid-19 to consider donating plasma. The COVID Plasma Initiative is a grassroots effort collecting the antibody-rich plasma of individuals as part of treatments or scientific trials, which can be life-saving.

Citymeals on Wheels, which distributes kosher and non-kosher meals to the frail elderly, will include Mother’s Day cards in Sunday’s deliveries.  Citymeals now delivers kosher meals to more then 4,250 recipients across the five boroughs. For information on donating and including a card here.

While museums and cultural institutions in Poland are to reopen this month, the earliest possible date for the reopening of the Auschwitz Museum is the beginning of July, the Museum has announced.

“The exact date of reopening depends on how the situation is going to develop and on when any touristic traffic will be made possible,” said Piotr M. A. Cywiński, the museum’s director. “We are preparing among others: additional protective procedures at the entrances as well as solutions making it possible to maintain the longest possible distance between visitors.”

The Reform movement has prepared materials for families whose children will not be able to attend summer camp this year because of closures. Its resource guide includes categories for elementary school-aged children, middle school-aged children and high school-aged children.


The Western Wall Plaza has reopened to worshippers, JTA reports. The reopening comes after the Israeli government relaxed some of its coronavirus restrictions, including canceling the restriction on joining outdoor prayer services only within 500 meters from a person’s home.

For the last few weeks, only 10 and then 19 worshippers could be at the Western Wall at any time, and only those who live in the Old City.

The plaza in front of the Western Wall will be divided into as many prayer areas as possible in accordance with government social distancing regulations. For the next few days, up to 300 worshippers will be allowed to be in the Western Wall plaza at one time, contingent on them wearing masks.

The Israel Institute for Biological Research has completed the development phase of a Covid-19 antibody or passive vaccine, according to a statement by the Defense Ministry.

The Ness Ziona-based lab  is now working to patent its antibody and secure a contract for its commercial development. Last month, IIBR announced that it had begun testing its antibody-based vaccine prototype on rodents.

The Israeli startup Sonovia, which sped up efforts to manufacture masks using its anti-pathogen fabric at the start of the coronavirus crisis in Israel, has launched commercial sales, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The company’s technology is based on a process developed at Bar-Ilan University. Sonovia started manufacturing its product in March at a plant near Nahariya when Israel had only 200 patients, and has sold 30,000 masks. Most of its clients are distributors and nonprofits in the United States.


The Shalom Hartman Institute will host an online conversation with Rabbi Donniel Hartman, the Institute’s president, on Wednesday at noon. His topic: “Together, Apart, and Alone. Thoughts on the Jewish Community in Our Time.”

In honor of Mother’s Day, the Jewish Funders Network and the Jewish Future Pledge will celebrate “the special bond between mothers and daughters” with a webinar Wednesday at 2 p.m. on “The Greatest Gift We Can Give: Inspiring Conversations on Family Philanthropy.” The webinar will feature Erica Brown, director of the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership, in conversation with philanthropist and chair of Keren Keshet, Mem Bernstein and her daughters Suzanne Felson and Jennifer Smorgon. In addition, Danielle Segal, senior program manager of the Jewish Teen Funders Network, will speak about the Network’s resources for inspiring “values-based conversations on family giving.”

The Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America will sponsor a webinar briefing by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.  He will discuss the stimulus package legislation offered to counter to consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, and resources available to nonprofits, schools and synagogues. Questions can be submitted to

Elana Stein Hain, scholar-in-residence at the Shalom Hartman Institute, will lecture online on “Humanity’s Power over Nature…According to the Rabbis,” on Thursday at 8 p.m. The event is part of the Institute’s “Talmud from the Balcony” series.

The Jerusalem Writers Festival, an annual celebration of literature conducted under the auspices of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, will switch to an online format this year.. The first-ever digital edition, May 10-13, will feature conversations with international and Israeli writers, workshops, and other literary events, the Jerusalem Post reports. . The entire festival will be available online free of charge via the festival website and Facebook page, with many events held in English.

American Jewish University will sponsor a Zoom conversation between Catherine Schneider, vice president for advancement, and novelist and New York Times Magazine writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

The New Israel Fund will hold two Zoom webinars this month. The schedule: May 6, noon, “Equality and Democracy in a time of COVID: A conversation about how civil society is mobilizing around the threat of annexation and defending democracy during COVID-19”; and May 18, time to be announced, “Equality and Democracy in the Time of COVID: A conversation about the impact this crisis is having on women across Israel and what civil society is doing to make things better.” To register:

The Orthodox Union’s Department of Synagogue & Community Services has announced a series of online programs this month, including  “Perek on a Pod,” with Rabbi Gershon Albert, senior rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, May 6, 1:30 p.m., and “Parenting Program: The Positive Side of Boredom – Teaching Kids Responsibility and Independence in Close Quarters,” with Adina Soclof, director of Parent Outreach for A+ Solutions, May 6, 9 p.m.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, took part in a recent BBC interview with Emily Maitlis, a current events host on the network, about how the themes of his new book “Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times.”

“Bad events like the coronavirus, the worst certainly in my lifetime, do sometimes bring out the worst in us, but they also bring out the best,” the rabbi said. “Right now, in communities across the country there are groups of people circulating elderly and vulnerable people saying, ‘Can I help?’ Supermarkets are gearing up to provide basic supplies. Young people are preparing to deliver medicines to people in need. It’s a little like the wartime spirit. And we’ll see more and more of this as time goes on. We are going to see a renewal of the ‘we’ of the country.”

UJA-Federation of New York has compiled a guide to help the Jewish community find advice, resources and volunteer opportunities for learning during the virus outbreak. UJA and the Jewish Board also have listings of volunteer opportunities.

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