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Why chasidim defy Covid rules • UJA opens social service ‘Hubs’ • Advice for a pandemic Thanksgiving
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Daily Update

Why chasidim defy Covid rules • UJA opens social service ‘Hubs’ • Advice for a pandemic Thanksgiving

Gary Cohn and Rich Leroy, members of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, help pack some of the 3,500 Thanksgiving meals the Westchester County synagogue is delivering to needy neighbors in the Bronx and Westchester. (Courtesy)
Gary Cohn and Rich Leroy, members of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, help pack some of the 3,500 Thanksgiving meals the Westchester County synagogue is delivering to needy neighbors in the Bronx and Westchester. (Courtesy)

Happy Thanksgiving! Daily Update will take a break tomorrow, but we’ll be back on Friday. Enjoy your (socially distanced) holiday.

Members of the area’s chasidic community say large weddings held despite Covid restrictions aren’t likely to stop, and that community leaders are encouraging the defiance.

Weddings have been happening in Brooklyn for months — behind windows covered with paper and with guards at the doors in case an inspector shows up.

“They take the lead from their rebbe, so if their rebbe isn’t walking around with their mask, they’re not going to think it’s important,” an administrator of a health clinic in Williamsburg told JTA.

Related: Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked questions about how the city failed to prevent a chasidic wedding in Williamsburg that earlier this month drew thousands of attendees. “It’s a big city,” said de Blasio, who announced late Monday that the city would slap the synagogue with a $15,000 fine for breaking coronavirus regulations.

Tony Blinken vividly described his stepfather’s Holocaust-era rescue in accepting President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination to be secretary of state on Tuesday.

Blinken described how his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, was liberated as a child by an American tank crew. His remarks served to signal the incoming administration’s commitment to reverse two signature policies of Donald Trump’s presidency: drawing down America’s profile overseas and drastically cutting refugee intake.

At the same ceremony, Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-born Jew nominated to be Homeland Security secretary, spoke of his parents’ flight from communist Cuba. His mother was a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor.

Dianne Feinstein, the veteran Jewish senator from California, plans to step down from her role as the top Democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee.

Feinstein, 87, for years an influential Democrat, particularly in the national security sphere, would not seek a top position on any committee, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday.

The 87-year-old lawmaker had come under fire from other Democrats for her friendly questioning of Amy Coney Barrett during the Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation hearings last month. Feinstein opposed the nomination.

A new book explores how pregnancy and childbirth empower charedi Orthodox women. 

In “Conceiving Agency,” Rutgers prof Michal Raucher describes her research among the ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem, and how women will often rebel against their rabbis and husbands when making decisions about contraception, pre-natal care and abortion.

“We have to fight against the impulse to see them as ‘baby-making machines’ and nothing else,” Raucher tells The Jewish Week.

UJA-Federation of New York and several partner organizations are launching seven health and human services locations, or “Hubs,” as part of a multimillion-dollar anti-poverty initiative.

Each hub – located in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Long Island and Westchester — will feature a suite of essential services for struggling New Yorkers, including workplace development and job training, mental health services, financial and legal counseling, emergency cash assistance, and food support and services.

A flagship, $10 million Hub in Queens opened in October. A major new Hub site in Brooklyn is scheduled to open next year. UJA partners at Hub locations include New York Legal Assistance Group, The Jewish Board and Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

“Our goal is to not simply provide help meeting basic needs, but fundamentally to move people from crisis to stability, and our partners in this effort are truly the engine behind New York’s sustainable recovery,” said Eric S. Goldstein, UJA-Federation’s CEO, in a statement.

Opinion

“Americans are in desperate need of some common ground,” writes attorney Daniel Treiman in an op-ed. “That’s why, this year, Thanksgiving isn’t coming a day too soon.”

Related: Pittsburgh Rabbi Jeremy Markiz has advice for celebrating Thanksgiving without the usual holiday crowd. “Jews like me know intimately what we lost through a year of holidays spent alone, and how to get through a tough holiday season,” he writes.

Around the Agencies

The YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood (the Y) is preparing 600 Thanksgiving meals this week for Holocaust survivors and other vulnerable seniors. “Northern Manhattan has been hit very hard during the pandemic, and seniors have felt the impact to a greater degree, mostly unable to participate in in-person events of any kind, isolated at home for their safety, and often struggling to find nourishing meals,” Y CEO Martin G. Englisher said in a statement. “We wanted to remind them we’re thankful for each and every one of them this Thanksgiving, that they are not forgotten.”

Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners is feeding over 3,500 people in need throughout Westchester and the Bronx during their annual Thanksgiving Dinner Program. In addition to pre-cooked meals and groceries, Shaaray Tefila members will be donating supermarket gift cards so people can select what they want to cook for Thanksgiving. “This pandemic has created a level of food insecurity in this country that hasn’t been seen in many years,” said Rich Leroy, the synagogue’s social action chair, in a statement. “Our goal is to make it possible for everyone in our community to have food on the table and celebrate Thanksgiving with dignity.”

Keren Grinspoon Israel, which runs the Israeli version of the PJ Library and other programs, named Andrea Arbel as its new executive director. Arbel was previously the director of the partnership unit at The Jewish Agency. She succeeds Galina Vromen, who is retiring after 18 years with KGI and the U.S.-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, a Brooklyn-based school and center for children with autism spectrum disorder, is raising funds for a state-of-the-art sensory rooftop playground. The rooftop playground will feature a dome that will allow it to operate safely year-round. Learn more and donate here.

Streaming

The Center for Traditional Music and Dance, as part of their new Beat of the Boroughs: NYC Online series, presents Dan Blacksberg, klezmer trombonist and creator of the Radiant Others podcast. He will interview renowned klezmer musician Frank London about his life, and specifically about what he’s worked on during the pandemic. Go here for more info. Today, 7:00 pm.

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