Jewish Coronavirus Updates: Immigration to Israel Continues

People wear face masks in Times Square in New York City, March 3, 2020, after the city confirmed cases of the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
People wear face masks in Times Square in New York City, March 3, 2020, after the city confirmed cases of the rapidly spreading coronavirus. (Eduardo Munoz/VIEWpress via Getty Images)

By JTA Staff

The spread of COVID-19, a new coronavirus, is reshaping Jewish communities. We’re collecting the news flowing in from across the globe here.

Monday, March 16

2:09 p.m. A coronavirus case in an Argentine Jewish community 

The Yeshiva Jajam Nissim Cohen, located in the Flores neighborhood of Buenos Aires, announced that a student in their community who had returned from Israel has tested positive for Covid-19. The yeshiva has shut down completely as a precaution.

As of today, until at least March 31, all of Argentina’s schools will be closed, and travel into the country is currently restricted. Some of the country’s synagogues remain open, but many are closing or at least ceasing most activity.

The Israeli embassy there also announced that for the first time in 28 years, the public remembrance demonstration to commemorate the bombing of the embassy on March 17, 1992, which killed 29 people, will not take place in the streets of Buenos Aires.

The Holocaust museum in Buenos Aires has been closed since last Thursday, without setting out a reopening date.

12:44 p.m. Netflix film starring Gal Gadot halts production: The production of “Red Notice,” a Netflix film starring Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, has been suspended for at least two weeks at the request of co-star Dwayne Johnson, Deadline Hollywood reported. The film, the most expensive Netflix film ever, had been shooting overseas since February but had recently moved production to Atlanta.

12:37 p.m. Jewish schools in South Africa close for a week: The South African Board of Jewish Education decided to close the country’s Jewish day schools for one week, beginning on Monday, affecting about 8,000 pupils, Eyewitness News reported. The board noted that there are two cases of parents who tested positive for coronavirus in the Johannesburg school system, and one student who tested positive in a Cape Town school.

12:27 p.m. Rabbis call on Chicago synagogues to close:  The Chicago Rabbinical Council in a letter dated Sunday called on area synagogues to close effective immediately and said that individuals should pray at home, the Yeshiva World News reported. The letter also called for simchas, or Jewish celebrations,  to be limited or postponed and to be “celebrated publicly when safe to do so.”

12:10 p.m. Virus does not stop planning for Aliyah: Nefesh B’Nefesh on Sunday held its annual Mega Aliyah Event virtually, racking up a record 2,500 participants. The event has been scheduled for March 15 in New Jersey with 1,500 signed up. The virtual fair included multiple live online lectures on a wide range of Aliyah topics.

11:00 a.m. Without pomp and circumstance: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin swore in Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White, on Monday afternoon in an empty Knesset chamber. Then lawmakers entered three at a time to be sworn in, in keeping with the government order to have 10 or fewer people in the room at a time.

8:56 a.m. Walking down the aisle: With gatherings limited to 10 people, Israelis sought creative ways to include family and friends in their wedding ceremonies. A photo making the rounds on social media showed an unnamed couple being married in the aisle of a supermarket, since the limit on the number of people who can be in a supermarket at any given time is 100 instead of 10.

8:56 a.m. Walking down the aisle: With gatherings limited to 10 people, Israelis sought creative ways to include family and friends in their wedding ceremonies. A photo making the rounds on social media showed an unnamed couple being married in the aisle of a supermarket instead of the aisle of a wedding hall, since the limit on the number of people who can be in a supermarket at any given time is 100 instead of 10.

8:30 a.m. Don’t kiss the Western Wall stones: Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall and other holy sites, called on worshippers to not kiss the stones of the Kotel in order to not spread coronavirus. Worshippers at the Western Wall have begun standing about 6 feet apart during prayers services, in areas marked by yellow tape to be occupied by no more than 10 people.

Hundreds of worshippers visited the Western Wall for morning services on Monday and dozens of bar mitzvahs took place with limited numbers of participants, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement.

Sunday, March 15

2 p.m. Prominent rabbi in Israel is defying shutdown order: Chaim Kanievsky, a haredi rabbi in Bnei Brak, an Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv, has urged his followers to continue to study in yeshivas, or religious schools, despite a countrywide decree shutting schools. On Sunday, Israeli police and health officials visited his home and homes of other rabbis in the area, according to the Times of Israel.

1:20 p.m. Netanyahu’s criminal trial delayed: The coronavirus crisis is delaying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial. The trial had been set to begin this week, just as Netanyahu is negotiating to form a government in the wake of this month’s elections.

1 p.m. Online opportunities skyrocket as Jews stay indoors: On Friday, we profiled Eliana Light, a Jewish singer-songwriter who, like so many artists, is staring down months of canceled gigs because of the coronavirus. Light told us she was optimistic that this moment would lead to greater innovation — and this morning, she and some of her colleagues bore that out with an online concert that drew viewers from around the world.

The concert was one of countless impromptu get-togethers that are uniting Jews online at a time when they cannot come together in person.

12:25 p.m. US teens being airlifted home from Israel: The entire student body of URJ Heller High in Israel, a high school affiliated with the Reform movement, will return to the United States on a chartered flight, along with dozens of students from other Israeli programs for American teens. Here’s our story.

12:18 p.m. Netanyahu tests negative for coronavirus: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those who serve in close proximity to him have tested negative for the coronavirus, according to a statement from his office.

11:59 a.m. Immigration to Israel rolls on: Most people are staying put at the moment, but at least a few are still planning to move to Israel. Two dozen new immigrants will arrive on Thursday from the United States, according to Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that coordinates immigration.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, which supports new immigrants, has produced a short movie called “Making Aliyah in Uncertain Times” that explains how people can move to Israel despite a requirement that anyone arriving from overseas undergo a two-week quarantine period. About 170 people have moved to Israel so far this month, the agency said.

11:54 a.m. French Jewish leader has coronavirus: The president of the Jewish community of the French region of Alsace and of the city of Strasbourg, Maurice Dahan, is infected with the coronavirus and is in serious condition in the hospital, the Zichron Menachem organization posted on Facebook. Dahan is the head of the French branch of the Israeli organization, which provides support to children with cancer.

11:10 a.m. Miami rabbi among latest confirmed cases there: Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, who leads the Orthodox Shul of Bal Harbour, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in good condition, the Miami Herald reports.

10:44 a.m. Crown Heights schools closed: All Jewish schools in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York were closed as of noon on Friday after three cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the community. The city’s public school system is among the only large ones in the country still operating.

10:38 a.m. Teaneck, New Jersey, residents called on to self-quarantine: Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin said residents should go out only if they “absolutely have to.” The number of coronavirus cases in the city with a large Jewish population rose to 18 by Saturday night, the most cases in Bergen County. The decree follows a decision Thursday by the area’s Orthodox Jewish rabbis to bar virtually all communal Jewish activity.

Saturday, March 14

9:46 p.m. (in Israel): Israel clamps down on leisure activities: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the closure of all cultural and leisure activities, from theaters to malls to restaurants starting on Sunday morning, part of the country’s effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. Netanyahu made the announcement Saturday night as the number of active coronavirus cases rose to 193.

Among the new restrictions announced Saturday night in a nationally televised address is a ban on gatherings of over 10 people in the same place. In addition, Netanyahu called for employers to allow as many employees as possible to work from home and said that workers should sit at least 2 meters apart.

Banks and gas stations will remain open, and Netanyahu said there would be no shortage of medicines or food, as Israelis lined up outside of supermarkets on Saturday waiting for them to open at the end of Shabbat. Finally, in addition to all schools being closed, day care, kindergartens and special education centers were ordered closed.

Friday, March 13

3:24 p.m. More closures announced with Shabbat looming: Ansche Chesed, a large Conservative synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, had planned to go forward with this Shabbat’s services, carefully and following the recommendations of New York City’s mayor’s office. But the synagogue just sent out a cancellation email, with the bottom line in bold: “It is clear that our initial decision was wrong. We are changing it now.” 

Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky said he was departing from his regular interpretation of Jewish law and allowing a small-scale service Saturday morning to be livestreamed. “You all know me and know my religious orientation, and know that I am most reluctant to bring electronic media into services” he wrote. “But the Covid-19 pandemic is the very definition of sha’at ha’d’hak, an emergency.”

Other communities are making closure decisions with just hours before the weekly holiday begins. Dallas’s council of rabbis, for example, announced this afternoon that no communal services would be held this weekend.

3 p.m. Coronavirus cases prompt cancellations near Chicago: Until this afternoon, Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob, an Orthodox synagogue in a heavily Jewish suburb of Chicago, planned to go forward with most Shabbat plans. But this afternoon, Rabbi Ari Hart told congregants that confirmed coronavirus cases in the area meant that everything would be called off. “We know that this shall pass, and we know that as a Jewish people we have seen and triumphed over much greater challenges,” Hart wrote in a message to community members. “If you have ideas for ways we can continue to connect while not physically gathering, please share them with friends, neighbors and shul leadership.”

10 a.m. Riverdale joins Bergen County in canceling all Jewish gatherings: It seemed shocking on Thursday when the Orthodox community in Bergen County, New Jersey, decreed that all communal Jewish activity should cease. But many other Jewish communities are making the same decision — including the Riverdale community in the Bronx, which just announced that no synagogues would open this Shabbat.

9 a.m. Western Wall still open, but not for mass gatherings: Israel’s prohibition on gatherings of more than 100 people has left some confusion about whether Jews may go to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which typically draws large crowds. The country’s chief rabbi, Yitzchak Yosef, just clarified in a statement that individual worshippers may go, but communal prayer services have been called off. Special tents have also been erected to allow for safe prayer in the case of rain.

8:15 a.m. Schools close in France amid shutdown across Europe: France, home to Europe’s largest Jewish community, has decided to close down all schools for at least 15 days starting Monday.

France has more than 200 Jewish schools, many of them affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, with thousands of students. Belgium, Ireland and several other European Union member states suspended schools and universities Thursday, as did Israel; Italy shut down its education system last week.

Many schools and places of worship in other countries are closed, even if they are technically allowed to operate.

The ORT network of Jewish schools shut down three of its institutions in Ukraine, as well as its schools in Moldova, Lithuania and Panama. ORT schools remain operational throughout Russia and in Spain, the network said Friday.

Several major Jewish museums in Europe have suspended the bulk of their activities, including the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam and the Jewish Museum Vienna. But the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in Paris and the Jewish Museum London are among the institutions still admitting visitors.

7:55 a.m. Rabbi at major London synagogue in isolation with virus: A rabbi at London’s iconic St John’s Wood Synagogue has contracted the coronavirus, but the Orthodox synagogue remains open.

The rabbi, Yoni Golker, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by phone Friday that he has had mild symptoms and is feeling better than when they first appeared last week. He had visited the synagogue and Jewish school in Casablanca, Morocco, just before displaying symptoms.

Thursday, March 12

9 a.m. New Jersey Jewish community adopts unprecedented restrictions: The Rabbinical Council of Bergen County in New Jersey, in conjunction with local synagogues and day schools, just adopted sweeping regulations designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus locally.

All schools are closed and playdates between families are barred. Community members have been told to work from home. Synagogues will be closed and communal prayer services are not allowed in homes. Celebrations and visits to mourners are prohibited.

The regulations are outlined in a letter to community members that underscores just how significantly the coronavirus pandemic is changing Jewish communities.

“Please daven at home, individually,” the letter says. “People should not have gatherings for Shabbat meals.”

8 a.m. Rome’s Jewish community in crisis: “We are a proud and ancient community in the midst of the worst situation we have faced since World War II,” the president of Rome’s Jewish community, Ruth Durgello, said in a press release distributed by the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is preparing to deliver aid to Jewish communities in Italy and beyond that are hard-hit by the coronavirus.

“We are in a state of complete uncertainty. We are trying to stabilize the situation but there is tremendous anxiety here about the danger of a complete collapse. General morale is very low. We know there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we don’t know how long the tunnel is.”

Here’s our most recent report from Italy’s Jewish community, where a containment lockdown of the entire country is keeping families apart and anxiety high.

7:30 a.m. Israeli rabbi with coronavirus had traveled widely in the U.S.: The Times of Israel reports that Dov Zinger, a rabbi who runs a boys school in the West Bank, had traveled to New York City, south Florida, and Ohio during a recent visit to the United States before returning to Israel and being diagnosed with the coronavirus. Coronavirus cases have been identified in all of those places.

Wednesday, March 11

11:15 p.m. Conference of Jewish Republicans canceled: In a reversal, the Republican Jewish Coalition says it is no longer holding its conference. It had previously vowed to go forward despite widespread cancellations, and its executive director tweeted a picture of RJC-branded hand sanitizer earlier today.

9:30 p.m. Drastic new U.S. travel restrictions: President Donald Trump announced tonight that all travel from Europe to the United States (except from the United Kingdom) would be suspended for 30 days. The announcement came in a speech that marked a sharp departure in tone for the president, who up to now has downplayed the coronavirus risk.

The U.S. restrictions come days after Israel announced quarantine requirements for all travelers coming from overseas. Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended the country’s response by barring large gatherings.

8:45 p.m. Another AIPAC case, this time in Maryland: FOX Baltimore is reporting the diagnosis of a Maryland man in his 60’s who worked at last week’s AIPAC conference, where 18,000 Israel supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. He is at least the sixth conference attendee to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.

6:30 p.m. Thousands of Orthodox young women recalled to Israel: Israel’s National Civic Service Authority has recalled the thousands of Orthodox Jewish young women who are working in schools and Jewish communities across America as part of their national service. But most emissaries placed through the Jewish Agency for Israel are remaining in place, although they are being told not to travel and some working in places with significant outbreaks have flown home. Read our story for details.

6 p.m. Letter from Poland: The annual pilgrimage to the grave of one of the founders of Hasidism, Elimelech of Leżajsk, in southeastern Poland, will not happen this year. Organizers had expected 20,000-30,000 attendees at the main celebrations March 17.

All museums in Poland are closed until at least March 25, including the Auschwitz Museum, the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Jewish Historical Institute and the Jewish Theater.

5:30 p.m. Updated closure report: Closures and cancellations are hardly news at this point, except for the many people and organizations facing disruption. Among the latest closures we’ve heard about: Manhattan Day School, where a parent has been diagnosed; Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn, where teachers will spend Friday shoring up their remote practices in preparation for potential long-term closure in the future; and all 12 day schools in New Jersey’s Bergen County.

Jack Barrack Hebrew Academy outside of Philadelphia has canceled its gala, weeks after its basketball team won the local championship. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York City delayed its gala from March 31 to June 30. And Jewish federations across the country are informing local supporters that they will not hold any events until at least late April.

3:46 p.m. They’re leaving Israel in droves: Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority announces that from Tuesday to Wednesday morning 10,827 foreign visitors have “voluntarily” left the country, raising the total to 197,066 in the past two weeks. Some 11,924 who have left are from the United States. Another 3,714 returned to Germany and 3,260 to France. In the same time period, 8,934 Israelis have returned to the country,increasing the number of returnees over the past two weeks to 235,012.

1:48 p.m. Israeli limits gatherings to 100 people: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a ban on gatherings of over 100 people in closed spaces at a news conference on Wednesday evening. During the same update, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, director-general of the Health Ministry, announced that schools will continue operating as usual. The start of the second semester of universities could be delayed, or distance learning instituted, however.

11:50 a.m. Auschwitz site closes to visitors: The Auschwitz Memorial and the site of the former Nazi camp closes to visitors. The announcement comes on the heels of the decision of the Polish government to close all museums and cultural institutions, as well as schools and universities, through March 25 in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

9 a.m. Today in day school closures: More schools in the New York City area have shut down, as well as at least one school in Los Angeles. They join a growing list of public and private schools around the world that are shuttered because of the virus, in one of the most widespread interruptions of schooling in recent history.

Two of the first New York City-area day schools to close, SAR and Frisch, have had their closures extended — to March 25 for SAR and March 16 for Frisch. SAR students are scheduled to come out of quarantine March 16.

8:30 a.m. A new message from the first New Rochelle patient’s wife: In a message posted Monday on Facebook, Adina Garbuz, the wife of the New Rochelle lawyer at the center of the outbreak there, says she is hopeful about her husband’s condition and about society’s ability to get through this moment.

“Lawrence and I often discuss that when something that seems like the worst thing in the world happens to us, it always ends up, ironically, being the best thing that happened to us. I am not there yet in this instance, I will wait for his recovery to truly feel that but in my heart of hearts, I think that will prove to be true,” she wrote. “This episode has brought out so much love and kindness around me personally and for the community at large. People have been so compassionate and full of good blessings and prayers. So I focus on that wonderful show of humanity. We should all focus on that.”

8 a.m. Closures extend to Australia: Melbourne’s Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah Colleges is shut down today after a staff member who traveled from Los Angeles on Friday tested positive for the coronavirus.

Principal Shimon Waronker, who arrived at the school last year after running public and Jewish schools in New York City, told families that the school was working with health authorities on “mapping the potential spread of the virus within the school” and would contact people who might have been exposed.

Tuesday, March 10

8 p.m. JCC in Manhattan among the latest closures: The Jewish Community Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is shutting for two days after it became clear that a child with the coronavirus attended an event there on Saturday night.

It’s the latest in a snowballing number of closures and cancellations that now also includes a synagogue and day school in Chicago, the National Jewish Book Awards ceremony set for next week, a dedication planned for the new home of the Jewish Theological Seminary and a 50th anniversary celebration for a Jewish leadership program at Brandeis University. That celebration had been scheduled for early May, signaling that organizers believe the coronavirus crisis will not have abated in two months.

4:45 p.m. Holocaust survivor on quarantined ship files lawsuit: A Holocaust survivor from south Florida and his wife were among the 3,500 people quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship that docked this week in Oakland, California. The Jewish News of Northern California reports that the couple has filed a lawsuit alleging that the cruise line had not taken adequate precautions against the coronavirus after having another ship end up in quarantine in Japan last month.

4:30 p.m. An event that’s still happening: At this point, it’s newsworthy when events go forward as scheduled. That’s the case for the annual conference of the Republican Jewish Coalition, set for this weekend in Las Vegas, JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports. President Donald Trump, who has downplayed the health crisis, is a scheduled speaker.

4 p.m. Fifth AIPAC-connected case in Toronto: Someone who attended last week’s AIPAC conference has tested positive for the coronavirus in Toronto. This is the fifth confirmed case of someone who attended AIPAC, and the first outside the United States.

3:30 p.m. New “containment zone” in New Rochelle: The Westchester County city just north of New York City with many cases connected to a Jewish lawyer who lives there is becoming the United States’ first “containment zone” this week. Officials announced that all gathering places, including houses of worship, in a square-mile area would be closed beginning later this week, although people who live there will still be free to travel outside of it. Young Israel of New Rochelle has been closed for more than a week.

2 p.m. Travel way down in Israel: Over 100 flights have been canceled today at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s Channel 12 reports. A typical day sees some 70,000 passengers use the airport. Today, just 22,000 travelers roamed its halls.

Israel announced new travel restrictions Monday; anyone who enters the country beginning Thursday will have to undergo a 14-day home quarantine.

11 a.m. Anti-Semitism in coronavirus reactions: Media reports in Iran, which has one of the largest outbreaks of the coronavirus in the world, are accusing Israel and Zionists of deploying the deadly disease, the Jerusalem Post reports. Anti-Semitism and other forms of baseless prejudice are an age-old response to epidemics, Henry Abramson, a scholar of Jewish history and dean of Touro College, explained in a JTA opinion piece last week.

10 a.m. Camp conference canceled: The Foundation for Jewish Camp was supposed to bring together camp leaders this weekend, but the convening has been called off. “All of us have entered unprecedented territory and we do apologize for the inconvenience this causes,” Jeremy Fingerman, the group’s CEO, wrote in a letter to registrants, adding that the foundation would support camps with technical and philanthropic support as the summer approaches.

9:30 a.m. SAR tally up to 29, as more schools close: As of Tuesday morning, 29 community members at SAR, the New York day school that was the first to close in the epidemic, have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an update from school officials. Meanwhile, the Frisch School in New Jersey has added a doctor, Eran Bellin, to the school’s coronavirus response team, officials there told families.

While Jewish day schools were some of the first to close, closures are now widespread, and many colleges and universities are moving to online instruction for the remainder of the semester.

7 a.m. More details about Ohio AIPAC case: The Cleveland-area man diagnosed with the coronavirus who attended last week’s AIPAC conference was in close contact with area students who also traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Israel lobby event, according to the Cleveland Jewish News. The diagnosed patient works for Cleveland’s Jewish Education Center.

6:45 a.m. A Jewish teen in Seattle is a top source of coronavirus information: The Times of Israel profiles Avi Schiffman, a 17-year-old self-proclaimed lackluster student who runs, which gathers available information about diagnoses and deaths and presents it in a single, digestible format. Schiffman said 12 million people have visited since the site launched, many in the last week, with 30,000 people visiting from Israel in the last day.

6:30 a.m. Quarantine confusion reigns: One feature of life in the New York communities affect by the coronavirus outbreak there has been confusion about what quarantine rules apply, and for whom. The New York Times has a new story on the issue, featuring one family whose children attend the SAR Jewish day school and are not supposed to leave the house — but their parents can. “It’s funny,” their mother, Jessica Haller, told the newspaper. “I’m not allowed to let people into the house, but I’m allowed in and out of the house.”

Monday, March 9

6:30 p.m.: Live-streamed megillah readings start now: Many communities have shifted their Purim celebrations at least in part online to reduce the number of large gatherings where the coronavirus can spread. A list with many options is here; here’s another list from My Jewish Learning; and we just got news about an adult-appropriate one from the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative movement’s rabbinic training ground.

4 p.m. AIPAC attendee among coronavirus diagnoses in Ohio: Someone who attended last week’s conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Ohio, according to officials there. Attendees who returned to California and New York have also been diagnosed; Israel required all attendees to self-quarantine.

2 p.m. Israel to quarantine all visitors: After days of open deliberations about how far to go to contain the coronavirus, Israel has decided to require all visitors from abroad to undergo 14-day home quarantines.

12:50 p.m. “Bring Your Own Grogger”: More synagogues are canceling Purim festivities set for this evening and during the day Tuesday. Congregation Beth Elohim, a Reform synagogue, in Brooklyn announced that it would still hold a service to read the megillah, or Book of Esther, but would not hold its regular afterparty. The synagogue is also not passing out noisemakers called groggers that are used to drown out the name of Haman, the villain of the Purim story. “Feel free to BYOG — bring your own grogger,” the synagogue’s assistant rabbi wrote in a message to community members.

12:30 p.m. No Purim celebrations in Milan: The Jewish community of Milan, Italy, has shuttered all its synagogues and canceled readings of the Book of Esther on the eve of Purim.

Milo Hasbani, president of the Jewish Community of Milan, announced the closure Monday.
”Given the serious situation, the health emergency and the alarming news of the recent hours, the Community urged all members to close all synagogues” and other communal places of gathering, Hasbani said in a statement. Most houses of worship have been closed since Milan emerged as an epicenter of the coronavirus, but it had been unclear whether they would open for the one-day holiday.

Italy has the most confirmed infections outside of China, where the virus originated, and 16 million people have been cordoned off in a quarantine zone.

8:30 a.m. Last-minute school closures in the New York area: Many New York City Jewish day schools are closed today while school officials and health authorities trace links between their communities and known cases of the coronaviruses. The closures include the Heschel School, Beit Rabban, Shefa and Manhattan Day School in Manhattan; Luria Academy in Brooklyn; and Kinneret Day School in the Bronx.

In addition, the closures of SAR in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and the Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey have been extended at least through this week. One student at Frisch tested positive for the virus over the weekend, but the community is not in quarantine, according to an email school leaders sent late Sunday.

Manhattan High School for Girls, an Orthodox school, is also closed after a teacher there tested positive for the virus.

SAR, the first school to close, has been holding classes by Zoom videoconference. Other schools are telling families that they plan to hold classes by Zoom or are testing technology to allow for online classes.

Jewish day schools are far from the only schools closed at this point. Several non-Jewish New York City private schools have closed at least briefly, and the Scarsdale, New York, public school system in Westchester County is shut after a teacher there tested positive. Columbia University and Barnard College in New York City; Rice University in Houston; the University of Washington in Seattle and others have shifted to online-only classes.

8 a.m. March of the Living called off: Last week, we reported that organizers of March of the Living, a Holocaust commemoration that draws thousands of young people to Poland each year, were steadfast that the event would go on in April, even as some delegations backed out. But now they’ve changed course, announcing late Sunday that this year’s march has been canceled. The decision was made “with a heavy heart,” the march’s chair said in a statement. “Given that this is an international event involving 110 delegations from around the world, we have a responsibility to take precautionary measures in accordance with the guidelines given by authorities in various countries.”

Sunday, March 8

10:00 p.m. All Israeli arrivals may soon be quarantined: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night that anyone arriving in Israel from anywhere in the world could soon be required to self-quarantine, as the number of Israelis affected by the virus climbed to 39. A decision on further quarantine measures is expected Monday.

9:58 a.m. Another canceled conference: The Jewish Funders Network is canceling its conference planned for the end of March due to the spread of coronavirus. “We are hoping to postpone until a later date and are exploring potential options,” JFN President & CEO Andrés Spokoiny said in an email obtained by JTA. The email noted “the significant financial burden cancellation on short notice will place on JFN,” and asked participants to donate their registration fee back to JFN.

7:50 a.m. It’s not just rabbis skipping their services: Pope Francis breaks with tradition and delivers his weekly Angelus Prayer via livestream, which is broadcast in St. Peter’s Square where a fraction of the usual faithful have gathered.

6:58 a.m. Over 1,200 Israeli soldiers in quarantine: More than 1,200 Israeli soldiers currently are under quarantine for possible exposure to coronavirus, most having returned from overseas vacations. Some of the soldiers came into contact with someone in Israel who is confirmed sick with coronavirus. The Israel Defense Forces on Saturday banned all soldiers from leaving the country. Meanwhile, the IDF has come under fire for holding a ceremony on Thursday at a military base in central Israel, involving thousands of soldiers, officers and civilians, the Times of Israel reported. The ceremony marked the end of training for the Nahal infantry brigade. The soldiers receive their unit’s official beret at the ceremony.

6:30 a.m. Baltimore Orthodox Jewish schools cancel all extracurricular Purim events: Seven of Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community schools announced in an email to parents that it has canceled all extracurricular Purim events. “After taking into consideration nationally published information by the CDC, state and local health departments, Johns Hopkins University’s recent precautionary measures to cancel public events, the precautions of other communities and institutions, and Torah Umesorah’s recent recommendations for schools provided by their medical consultants and Daas Torah, we have decided that it is unfortunately necessary to cancel all upcoming extracurricular Purim events for our schools. Regular classroom-based learning and activities will continue as normal, unless otherwise guided,” read the letter, signed by Bais Yaakov School for Girls, Bnos Yisroel, Cheder Chabad, Ohr Chadash Academy, Talmudical Academy, Torah Institute and Toras Simcha.

3:45 a.m. Rabbinical group in Israel will recite kaddish on behalf of mourners in quarantine:   Tzohar Rabbinical Organization in Israel is making itself available to help mourners in Israel and anywhere else where Jews are quarantined who are unable to get to prayers to recite kaddish for their loved ones. Mourners can send in details and a Tzohar volunteer will then dedicate himself to saying kaddish in place of the individual who is not able. Register on-line or e-mails can be sent in English to

12:30 a.m. Division over Israel’s U.S. travel restrictions, but no decision yet: Israel hasn’t yet announced whether it is putting into effect restrictions said to be under consideration there that would require visitors from New York, California, and Washington state to enter self-quarantine. A Times of Israel report said Israeli officials were divided over the potential restrictions.

Saturday, March 7

11:07 p.m. SAR announces prolonged closure and quarantine: A New York day school that has been closed for more than a week informed families Saturday night that — per a directive from the New York State Department of Health — both its elementary school and high school would remain closed through Monday, March 16. “This date marks 14 days since the last exposure to a positive case within our buildings since our last day of school was Monday, March 2,” administrators from SAR said in a Saturday night message to parents and faculty.

The message added that the health department also directed that students and staff from both schools “should be under precautionary quarantine through Monday, March 16 due to the last possible exposure of a positive case within our buildings.” SAR expects a formal quarantine order to be issued on Sunday.

10:30 p.m. Mass exposure at a shiva gathering in Maryland: A person exposed to the coronavirus in Maryland attended a gathering for mourners at a retirement community before being diagnosed with the disease. As many as 100 people were present, according to a Forward report.

10 p.m. AIPAC coronavirus ramifications continue: A person who was at last week’s AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. has tested positive for the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, according to health officials there.

Earlier on Saturday, AIPAC officials said health officials had informed them that two other attendees who have tested positive in New York did not pose risk to others.

Also on Saturday, Israel’s health ministry ordered Israelis who attended the annual conference to self-quarantine to prevent exposing others. Fewer Israelis attended this year because the conference coincided with Israel’s national election; absentee voting is not permitted.

11:30 p.m. (Israel) Israel could quarantine visitors from some U.S. states: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night called the spread of coronavirus a “global pandemic,” and the director-general of the Health Ministry said some restrictions could be placed on Israelis returning from some parts of the United States. States being considered for travel limitations include New York, California, and Washington state.

Friday, March 6

5 p.m. (Central time) Shabbat shalom: We’re pausing this feed for Shabbat, the first to have coronavirus fears reshape observance on a wide scale. Here are guidelines from the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements about how to participate safely in Shabbat observance, and here’s the Centers for Disease Control’s advice for protecting yourself from infection.

5:45 p.m. New cases among AIPAC attendees: Remember the annual AIPAC conference, the convening of Israel advocates that happened earlier this week? The organization announced Friday afternoon that two attendees have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising questions about whether the conference could emerge as a nexus of infection.

Many elected officials and their staffers attended the conference alongside Jews from across the United States and beyond.

4:11 p.m. YU wins! Yeshiva University, which is closed right now because of coronavirus, just notched its first-ever win in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

4 p.m. Travel between U.S. and Israel under debate: Israel has barred visitors from many countries with coronavirus infections. But so far it has left travel to and from the United States unrestricted, even as diminished traveling has forced the cancellation of some flights. That could change in the near future, according to a Times of Israel report, which says Israel’s health ministry is pushing for a travel ban while politicians are hesitant to jeopardize the two countries’ strong relations.

3:45 p.m. Moving online: Two new stories illustrate some of the solutions that communities are devising as in-person events are barred or discouraged. Our Ben Sales reports about how SAR, an Orthodox school in New York, quickly scaled up an online learning program when it had to close amid coronavirus concerns. The Wall Street Journal has a deep dive on the virtual bar mitzvah mentioned in our story.

3:11 p.m. After a delay, Yeshiva U is winning at halftime: Here’s some good news from Yeshiva University, which is currently closed because of coronavirus. Its men’s basketball team is winning decisively at halftime in its first game in the Division III NCAA tournament. The Maccabees are leading Worcester Polytechnic Institute 50-31 during a game where no fans are present due to concerns about large gatherings.

2:45 p.m. Romemu goes live-stream only: The popular nondenominational congregation Romemu, which has both Upper West Side and Brooklyn branches, is canceling all of its Shabbat and Purim in-person programming. “While it may be completely unnecessary to take this precaution, and we are very conflicted about this decision, we have decided to err on the side of over-precaution for the safety of all,” Rabbi David Ingber and his team wrote on Facebook. “We do not knowingly or unknowingly want to increase the likelihood of accelerating the spread of the disease to members of our community, or anywhere, for that matter.”

2 p.m. Festival scheduled for the end of March scrapped: The Reboot Ideas Festival, a Jewish arts conference schedule for March 26-29 in San Francisco, has been postponed. The announcement signals that interruptions because of the coronavirus are likely to extend well into the future. We learned about Reboot’s cancellation from this roundup of Bay Area Jewish coronavirus news from our friends at J Weekly.

12:50 p.m. An exhortation for sick shul-goers to stay home: An Upper West Side Orthodox rabbi has informed his community that he will be staying home this Shabbat because he is fighting a cold and decreed that others should do the same.

“Protecting and preserving communal health supersedes all other considerations,” Shaul Robinson, the rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue, wrote in a message the synagogue sent to community members. “As I personally have been fighting a cold for the last few days, even though I feel fine, since I am sneezing and coughing, after speaking to my doctor I will NOT be attending Shul this Shabbat. If you are displaying any signs of illness I beseech you to follow my lead and my halachic ruling that you may NOT attend services either.”

11:30 a.m. Canceling Purim carnivals but continuing with services: A synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan has announced that it is canceling Sunday’s Purim festival for children but will go ahead with services scheduled for the holiday early next week. The decision by Ansche Chesed, a Conservative synagogue, reflects one path that congregations without reported cases of the coronavirus might take in this time of uncertainty. (Here’s our story about the difficult choice that Purim presents.)

“Given that so many people come to the carnival from the wider community, and given the little hands playing and eating as they should, and given the reality of our limited ability to ensure hygiene in this freylach setting, we determined that it was prudent to call off this year’s carnival and look forward to next year’s fun,” the synagogue’s rabbis wrote in a message to congregants.

But they said the Purim services scheduled for Monday night and Tuesday morning would go on as planned. “These are, of course, central to Jewish practice and our core mission as a shul in ways that the carnival is not,” the rabbis wrote.

11:20 a.m. First-person perspectives from the front lines: We just published two essays by people with firsthand experience with the coronavirus.

One is from Reuven Fink, the Westchester County rabbi who has tested positive with the coronavirus after being exposed through a congregant. His synagogue has been ordered closed.

Fink writes that while the ordeal is difficult for his community, there are silver linings. “We sometimes find ourselves victims of life’s fragility and tentativeness. This is one of those times,” he writes. “It can help us to reorient our ultimate goals in life. Contemplation is good for the soul.”

The other is from Uriel Heilman, a 70 Faces Media staff member who is one of 80,000 Israelis currently living under quarantine after his family returned from a vacation in Italy.

“When our seventh day of quarantine began with a knock on the door from a guy in a hazmat suit, it was almost a relief finally to have a visitor in the house,” Heilman writes.

8 a.m. March of the Living in Poland postponed indefinitely: The International March of the Living said this year’s event, set to take place next month in Poland, will likely be postponed indefinitely. The march, a commemorative annual event that brings together thousands of participants from more than 20 countries at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, “will apparently be postponed to a new time, when the disease and the medical risks are gone,” Aharon Tamir, the march’s deputy world chairman, on Friday wrote in an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “This is certainly not a cancellation but a postponement,” he added. “In these uncertain times it’s advisable not to commit.”

7:49 a.m. Yeshiva University team will play tournament game with no fans: Y.U.’s men’s basketball team will play its first-round NCAA Division III Tournament game against Worcester Polytechnic Institute today in an empty gym in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins University, which is hosting the game, announced that spectators would not be allowed in for any of the first- and second-round games taken place at its gym, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, because of Centers for Disease Control guidelines about large crowds. One Y.U. student has tested positive for coronavirus and in-person classes and events at the Manhattan-based university’s two college campuses are banned until next week. The game, set to start at 1 p.m. eastern, will be streamed.

5 a.m. New York City woman who visited Israel has coronavirus: An American woman from New York City who visited Israel Feb. 23-27 was diagnosed with the coronavirus Wednesday night, the country’s Health Ministry reported. She stayed in Jerusalem, where she visited the Mamilla and Hadar malls, among other places. The woman, who is in her fifties, flew to Israel on flight LY8 from New York and left it aboard flight LY27. She has not displayed any symptoms, the Jerusalem Post reported Thursday night.

4 a.m. Rabbi for New Rochelle synagogue tests coronavirus positive: The Rabbi of the Young Israel Synagogue in Westchester County, New York, who also teaches two undergraduate classes at Yeshiva University’s Washington Heights campus, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Rabbi Reuven Fink has been in self-quarantine after being in contact with a congregant who had previously tested positive, Yeshiva University wrote in a tweet Friday. “We have reached out to his students and recommended as a precautionary measure to self-quarantine until further notice,” read the tweet. Yeshiva University has canceled all in-person events through at least March 10.

Thursday, March 5

9 p.m. New cases in New York: Three more members of the New York school community at the center of a local cluster have tested positive for the coronavirus, SAR school officials informed community members Thursday evening. The newly diagnosed individuals include two parents and one high school student. The school, which closed earlier this week until at least March 11, has been holding classes virtually.

9 p.m. Prominent New Jersey day school closed: The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, will close until at least Wednesday after school officials determined that dozens of students had potentially been exposed to the coronavirus last month when they attended a bat mitzvah at Young Israel of New Rochelle. The students — some of whom since traveled on a school trip to Canada — began a self-quarantine period earlier this week and one who has developed symptoms is being tested for the virus, Principal Eli Ciner wrote in a letter to the school community Thursday evening.

8:30 p.m. All March Birthright trips canceled: Trips to Israel through Birthright Israel, the program that gives free trips to young adults, have been canceled at least through March. People who were scheduled to take trips this month received an email Thursday letting them know that they could have their $250 deposits refunded or applied to trips in the future. (The program requires deposits to hold spots but returns the money after trips are complete.)

7:07 p.m No rooms for Yeshiva University basketball players: The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Pikesville, Maryland, reportedly canceled the reservation of Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team over coronavirus concerns. Y.U. is scheduled to play Friday against Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament. The AP reports that the team managed to make alternative hotel arrangements.

4:08 p.m. Another school principal in quarantine: Rabbi Tomer Ronen, head of school at Yeshivat He’atid, an Orthodox elementary school in Teaneck, New Jersey, announced that he has decided to self-quarantine. In an email to the school community, Ronen explained that he had not been asked to quarantine himself by any medical authorities but was choosing to do so as a “precaution” because his wife, Deganit Ronen, is self-quarantined because she is the principal of Westchester Torah Academy, where a family tested positive for coronavirus.

4 p.m. Sticking with plans is also news: Ma’ayanot, an all-girls Modern Orthodox high school in Teaneck, New Jersey, has decided to move forward with its annual dinner on Saturday night. In an email to the school community, board president Daniel Altman said the decision was made in consultation with “medical personnel, including infectious disease specialists, and in accordance with guidelines set forth by the CDC.”

The school is asking people not to come if they are sick or symptom-free for less than 24 hours. Altman added: “[P]lease do not be offended if there are fewer hugs, handshakes and fistbumps than usual. Please further note, that similar to the town in Footloose, there will be no dancing at the dinner. ”

3:45 p.m. Potential cancellations mount: The Jewish Funders Network is weighing whether to proceed with its annual conference, which brings together some of the world’s leading supporters of Jewish charitable causes and identity-building programs.

This year’s gathering is set to take place in Palm Beach, Florida, March 22-24. Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of the organization, sent an email out to attendees saying organizers are holding “serious discussions about how to proceed, exploring a variety of options, including, but not limited to, canceling or postponing the conference.”

2:50 p.m. Quarantine tally in Israel rises: After Israel added new travel restrictions, the number of Israelis estimated as being under quarantine because of their prior travel has risen to 80,000.

2 p.m. Options for synagogue-goers under quarantine: Some synagogues are canceling services — or having them canceled, in the case of one suburban New York Orthodox congregation attended by a coronavirus patient there. And some synagogue-goers may be wary of large gatherings right now.

So a crowdsourced list of synagogues offering livestreamed services could be a useful resource.

Participating in Shabbat services via livestream won’t be possible for Orthodox Jews, for whom a strict interpretation of Jewish law precludes using technology during the weekly observance. But Orthodox rabbis have advised that anyone who is under quarantine can use a livestream to fulfill the requirement to hear the story of Esther read aloud on Purim, a holiday when using technology is allowed.

11 a.m. First cases documented by the Palestinian Authority: Cases have been confirmed in the West Bank, where more than 3 million Palestinians live. The Palestinian Authority has barred foreign visitors for the next two weeks and closed some major tourist sites, including the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The P.A. is working with Israeli health officials to contain the spread of the disease there, The Jerusalem Post reports.

10:21 a.m. Aliyah event canceled: A major gathering for Americans planning to move permanently to Israel has been canceled. The Nefesh B’Nefesh “Mega-Aliyah” event had been set for March 15 in Teaneck, New Jersey; 1,250 emigrants and their families were expected to attend. The group, which says it has helped more than 60,000 Americans move to Israel over the last 18 years, announced that it would instead hold an online event.

9:30 a.m Federation trips canceled: The Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella group for local communal organizations, announces the cancellation of two upcoming group trips — one to the Balkans and Paris, and the other to St. Petersburg, Russia. It is evaluating whether to cancel another upcoming group trip to Israel and the West Bank.

8 a.m. El Al downsizing as travel restrictions mount: Israel’s national airline is laying off workers, citing reduced travel because of the coronavirus. The airline has been in a financially precarious state for years, and travel restrictions imposed by the country’s Health Ministry have led to lower-than-projected ticket sales this winter.

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