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.
Sunday, April 5
11:49 a.m. Chinese alumni of Bar Ilan U send medical equipment: Three shipments of medical equipment — including protective suits, face shields, eye goggles, N95 masks, and surgical masks — will arrive in Israel from China, much of it donated by the Bar-Ilan University Alumni Association in China, the university said in a statement. The equipment will be headed to the University’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine in Safed for use by medical-academic personnel and medical students who have been volunteering in emergency rooms, hospitals and community clinics throughout Israel during the coronavirus crisis. The Israeli Consulate in Shanghai organized the cargo flights, which include other donations of equipment from Chinese people who want to help Israel.
11:40 a.m. Volunteers visit homes in haredi communities in Israel: ZAKA Search and Rescue volunteers visited the homes of over 60 confirmed coronavirus cases among haredi communities in Israel over Shabbat in order to ensure they immediately self-isolate, ZAKA said in a statement. The visits were organized after the sick person did not answer the phone call from the Israeli Ministry of Health to confirm that they have the virus, since haredi households do not answer the phone on Shabbat, even though community rabbis ruled that phones should be answered during the pandemic. ZAKA volunteers visited homes in Ashdod, Jerusalem, Petach Tikva, Elad, Rosh Haayin, Bnei Brak, Emmanuel, Ariel, Givat Shmuel, Beit Shemesh and Moshav Sapir.
11:28 a.m. El Al brings back stranded Israelis and needed medical equipment: El Al has not taken a break since suspending is regular passenger flights. This morrning it completed its longest-ever non-stop flight – 17 hours and 15 minutes, to bring home 280 Israelis stranded in Australia and New Zealand due to the current pandemic, Globes reported. The crew included 8 pilots, who did not leave the plane in Australia. Globes also reported that El Al will carry out 20 cargo flights from China to Israel over the next two weeks to bring urgent medical equipment back to Israel in passenger planes converted to cargo aircraft, including one flight that took off this morning.
Friday, April 3
5:38 p.m. Mikvah that had remained open is now closed: Mayyim Hayyim, a community ritual bath in Newton, Massachusetts, is closing down. Like many other mikvahs, it had remained open with enhanced cleaning procedures even as other Jewish institutions shut down.
4:15 p.m. We remember: A British authority on kosher laws, a Danish Jew who never failed to visit others in the hospital and a Holocaust survivor with a remarkable story are the latest coronavirus victims memorialized in our Bonds of Life project. Click here to share information about your loved one.
4 p.m. Coronavirus closes Canada’s Jewish newspaper: “Unfortunately, we too have become a victim of Covid-19,” the president of Canadian Jewish News said in a statement. “Already struggling, we are not able to sustain the enterprise in an environment of almost complete economic shutdown.”
3:12 p.m. Steep toll for Swedish Jews: Nine Jews have so far died in Sweden, making them overrepresented among coronavirus casualties there. All were over 80 and most were Holocaust survivors.
2:45 p.m. Family of New Jersey man lobbying for experimental drug: The family of Michael Goldsmith, a 34-year-old Jewish father of two currently on a ventilator and in an induced coma because of the coronavirus, wants him to be given a drug that is being tested for coronavirus patients. But the drug company is not allowing him into clinical trials, according to an extensive article in Business Insider. For now, according to the article, the family is relying on prayer to get them through this time.
1 p.m. New York City official loses mother to coronavirus: Scott Stringer, New York City’s Jewish comptroller, reports that his mother, Arlene Stringer-Cuevas, died today at 86 from complications of the coronavirus.
My beloved mother passed away this morning as a result of complications from the coronavirus. This is a heartbreaking moment for me, my wife, and our entire family. pic.twitter.com/DjQ2IUNXma
— Scott Stringer (@scottmstringer) April 3, 2020
8:30 a.m. New York City nursing home asks for supplies: The New Jewish Home, a nursing home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is asking the public for supplies and drawing criticism from patients for its coronavirus response, according to a report in The City. “It’s really bad there,” the wife of one temporary resident told the news organization.
7 a.m. New York City’s Orthodox neighborhoods are hit hard: New city data shows that heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of Brooklyn have some of the highest densities of confirmed coronavirus cases.
One likely driver, Ben Sales reports for JTA, were the Purim celebrations that are common in those neighborhoods. “I must have been with, I don’t know, 1,000 different people that night,” said a musician who was recently hospitalized with the coronavirus.
Thursday, April 2
4:52 p.m. Bnei Brak locked down amid latest Israeli restrictions: The haredi city of Bnei Brak, where a third of residents are estimated to have the coronavirus, will be turned into a “restricted zone” according to a decision made today by Israeli lawmakers. The lawmakers also decided to house some people requiring quarantine in specially designated hotels.
4:40 p.m. A watershed moment for Jewish law: The coronavirus has prompted an unprecedented flurry of questions about how Jewish law, known as halacha, should apply at this unusual time. “This has been ‘yomam valaylah’ — it’s been day and night,” Rabbi Elliott Dorff, a Conservative rabbi, told JTA. “Once this is all over, this is going to be a really interesting case study of how halacha evolves quickly when it needs to.”
3:20 p.m. The looming triage tension: Jewish values and public health protocol could come into conflict if hospitals run out of ventilators, as many are projected to do. “As New York City hospitals have not yet reached capacity, this clash of values has stayed in the realm of the theoretical,” writes Ira Bedzow, who directs the biomedical ethics program at New York Medical College, in a piece for JTA. “However, we already are beginning to see how even the idea that hospitals will not follow Jewish law is causing great worry in the Jewish community.”
3 p.m. More from haredi Israel: Already, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top advisor for ultra-Orthodox affairs has tested positive for coronavirus, as has the haredi national health minister. Now, Israeli sources are reporting that the synagogue of the health minister, Yaakov Litzman, says he attended services as recently as this week, even as he urged synagogues to close. And a 95-year-old haredi rabbi who urged his followers not to respect health regulations has also been diagnosed with the disease.
2:30 p.m. Conservative movement hosting online concert: Dozens of groups associated with the Conservative movement of Judaism are cohosting an online concert April 5 featuring Israel’s David Broza and many other prominent Jewish musicians. “Join us as we break down the barriers our geographies can create and strengthen each other through prayers for healing and empowerment,” the event announcement says.
1:43 p.m. Slaughterhouse news: Europe’s only kosher goose slaughterhouse is switching to chickens to combat a projected shortage of kosher meat. Meanwhile, the Empire Kosher processing plant in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, was shuttered for complete sanitization after two employees tested positive for the coronavirus. But chickens are expected to be available for next week’s Passover seders.
1:13 p.m. 2021 Maccabiah Games postponed: The Maccabi World Union announced that it would move the sporting event from 2021 to July 2022 to avoid conflicting the Tokyo Olympics, which were moved from this summer to 2021 because of the pandemic.
10:37 a.m. Chief rabbis worldwide launch #KeepingItTogether Shabbat: The campaign in response to coronavirus crisis calls on world Jewry to make this Shabbat before Passover, known as Shabbat HaGadol, “a Shabbat of kindness, a Shabbat of prayer and a Shabbat of connection to the Divine.”
10:03 a.m. Christian leaders want Easter services at Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Easter prayers should be permitted at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, following strict anti-coronavirus guidelines, Father Francesco Patton, a Franciscan friar who is the Custos of the Holy Land for the Roman Catholic church, told Reuters. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic authorities who share custody of the Holy Sepulchre issued a joint statement last week saying prayers “will continue” at the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Services could be filmed and live-streamed worldwide, Patton told the news service.
9:45 a.m. Robert Kraft sends Patriots’ plane to get masks in China: The team plane was on the ground for just under three hours in Shenzhen, China as workers in masks and full-body suits loaded boxes of N95 masks onto the plane, the Wall Street Journal reported.
6:39 a.m. Joint statement of solidarity by Jewish communal organizations: The Anti-Defamation League coordinated more than 180 national, state and local Jewish communal groups to put out a joint statement urging political leaders and all Americans to treat the COVID-19 pandemic as a “moment for kindness and solidarity, and to make extra efforts to reach towards one another in support, not look to blame or scapegoat.”
6:13 a.m. Taking care of orphans: Israelis donated more than $555,000 in 24 hours to a crowdfunding campaign for the twin 4-year-old orphans of a widowed woman who died of the coronavirus. Tamar Levy-Peretz, 49, who had underlying health problems, and her husband had trouble conceiving, and her husband died of a heart attack a year after the twins were born.
6:05 a.m. Israel’s health minister has coronavirus: Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. Litzman and his staff, who are now in quarantine, will all work from home. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat all went into quarantine following the announcement since they have all met with the health minister in recent days.
Wednesday, April 1
1:51 p.m. Serving in battle against coronavirus: New York Rep. Max Rose deployed with the National Guard to help set up field hospitals in New York for coronavirus patients.
1:49 p.m. Virus does not stop RBG workouts: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is working out at the high court’s private gym, with precautions, during the pandemic, her trainer said.
1:45 p.m. Soros helps Budapest prepare for worst of coronavirus crisis: Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who was targeted by the Hungarian government in what some called an anti-Semitic campaign, has donated $1.1 million to help Budapest prepare for the coronavirus pandemic.
1:43 p.m. Lawsuit after Passover vacation for 1,200 canceled: A Jewish day school in New York City has sued a Miami Beach hotel for a refund after canceling a 10-night Passover vacation due to the coronavirus crisis. The Magen David Yeshivah in Brooklyn wants to recoup its $2.3 million down payment to the Eden Roc hotel.
1:37 p.m. Jewish school donates masks to doctors and police: The de Toledo High School, a Jewish day school in the West Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, donated 2,000 N95 face masks to a local medical center and to local police. The masks has been purchased for the school community during the wildfires last fall.
10:15 a.m. IsraAid offering coronavirus crisis support to Italy: Israeli humanitarian aid agency IsraAID will provide support to volunteers and professionals responding to the coronavirus crisis in Italy, which has had more than 100,000 cases and more than 11,500 deaths. IsraAid will work together with La Deputazione Ebraica di Roma, the welfare organization of Rome’s Jewish community.
7:54 a.m. Israel’s defense establishment is making ventilators instead of missiles: An assembly line building the Ventway Sparrow ventilator was set up by the Israel Aerospace Industries at an Israeli missile factory and has already delivered 30 completed ventilators to the Health Ministry.
7:50 a.m. Larry David wants Californians to curb their enthusiasm for leaving home: Comedian Larry David called on “the idiots out there” to stay home and watch TV in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. David’s 90-second rant is a new public service announcement for the state of California.
Tuesday, March 31
4 p.m. Why U.K. Jews are getting hit hard: The Board of Deputies of British Jews, an umbrella group representing British Jewry, is tracking the deaths of local Jews, who continue to be overrepresented in the coronavirus death toll. Our Cnaan Liphshiz outlines some of the prevailing theories about why that’s the case.
3:20 p.m. The latest from “Bonds of Life”: A Milanese businessman, American-born British rabbi and Argentinian community leader are the latest additions to our project memorializing Jewish victims of COVID-19.
12:40 p.m. Jewish school turns “fabrication lab” into face shield factory: “We’re not going to finish it. We’re not going to solve the shortage,” the head of Kohelet Yeshiva High School in suburban Philadelphia told JTA. “But if we can do something, if we can make a dent, then that’s our responsibility.”
1 p.m. Younger, unaffiliated Jews prepare to host their first seders, maybe: Without a communal or family seder this year, one 29-year-old told JTA, “I’ll probably do the same thing I do every day of the week, which is wake up, eat breakfast, sign into my computer, work online and make dinner at the end of it.” Read our story about the rise of the solo seder, then check out tips from My Jewish Learning about making the most of yours.
12:30 p.m. Sheldon Adelson donates 2 million face masks to New York and Nevada: Billionaire casino magnate and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson has donated about 2 million face masks to hospitals and first responders in New York and Nevada, Jewish Insider reports.
12:28 p.m. Emergency fund launched to help Israeli nonprofits: An emergency fund has been launched to help Israeli nonprofit organizations slammed by the coronavirus crisis stay afloat. The Emergency Fund for Nonprofits is a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the nonprofit lender Ogen, formerly known as the Israel Free Loan Association. Jewish nonprofits in the United States are also working together to weather the financial crisis.
12:25 p.m. Videoconference seders are taboo, Israel’s chief rabbinate says: Israel’s chief rabbis issued a list of Jewish religious legal rulings for “Passover in the shadow of corona,” including prohibiting the use of a videoconferencing program such as Zoom to bring families together for seders. Other rabbinic authorities in Israel and abroad have authorized seders by Zoom.
7:54 a.m. 1 in 3 Bnei Brak residents test positive for COVID-19: One in three residents, or 34 percent, of the mostly haredi Orthodox city of Bnei Brak in central Israel who have been tested for the coronavirus are positive, compared to 6% in Tel Aviv and 10% in Jerusalem. Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who is haredi, said he has proposed a total lockdown of the city.
6:07 a.m. Western Wall stones are sanitized: The Western Wall stones were cleaned and sanitized ahead of Passover in order to protect visitors from the coronavirus. The notes between the stones are removed every year before Passover and the High Holidays and buried according to Jewish law.
Monday, March 30
3 p.m. An upside: Many Jewish communities have now been holding services and classes by video chat for several weeks. There are some benefits, a rabbi and cantor from Los Angeles writes in a new piece for JTA. ” In my living room, I can crowd my computer screen with 22 minyan-goers (best attendance in months!) safely, lovingly, intimately,” Hillary Chorny writes. “It’s touching.”
2:30 p.m. Israel tightens restrictions once more: From quarantine, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that gatherings of more than two people from different nuclear families are now banned. This is the year of the “lockdown seder,” Netanyahu said. Israel’s death toll ticked upward to 16.
10:10 a.m. Prominent sociologist among latest deaths: William Helmreich, a 74-year-old sociologist whose research included the Orthodox world, died of the coronavirus. An obituary for him now appears in our Bonds of Life memorial project.
9:30 a.m. Quebec Orthodox community is quarantined: A Hasidic community of about 4,000 in Quebec has been ordered into quarantine, a strict form of isolation than others in the area are observing, after 10 members were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Local health officials said the disease had come to the area after local residents traveled abroad.
9:02 a.m. Employees of Jewish-run assisted-living facility in suburban Atlanta test positive for COVID-19. Six employees of the Berman Commons assisted-living residence in Dunwoody, Georgia have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a letter sent to residents and their families by Jewish HomeLife, which operates the facility, the Atlanta Jewish Times reported.
8:55 a.m. New York attorney sues Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his calls to stay at home. A Brooklyn lawyer says that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has violated his right to observe his Jewish faith, in a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court against Cuomo and the state government, the New York Post reports. Attorney Lee Nigen also claims that Cuomo asking that New Yorkers limit their travel infringse on his right to meet with clients, friends, family and “like-minded people.”
8:45 a.m. Burying virus victims on Shabbat in Romania: It is permissible to bury Jewish coronavirus victims on Shabbat in Romania, according to a rabbinical allowance granted to the Jewish community of Bucharest, after the country announced that the bodies of virus victims must be buried the same day or cremated, which is against religious Jewish law, the Haredi 10 news website reported.
8:28 a.m. Israel’s spy agency brings home coronavirus equipment: The Mossad intelligence agency has acquired 27 ventilators, 10 million surgical masks, 25,000 N95 masks, flares, 20,000 test kits, and 700 overalls for Magen David Adom personnel, and is expected to bring another 180 respirators to Israel in the coming days, Israel’s Channel 12 news is reporting.
8:21 a.m. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enters self-quarantine. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisors have entered self-quarantine after one of his advisors, Rebecca Paluch, tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday. Netanyahu’s office announced earlier on Monday that the prime minister had not been in a room with Paluch for the last two weeks but will remain in isolation until an epidemiological investigation is completed, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
7:08 a.m. Road to recovery: The Jewish attorney at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York, has been released from the hospital. Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not refer to Lawrence Garbuz by name, but announced that “what we call patient zero in Westchester” is out of the hospital. A New York Times report suggests that New Rochelle, where distancing began early, has its outbreak under control.
Sunday, March 29
2:00 p.m. The spread of coronavirus in synagogues is a punishment against the Jewish people for opposing Jesus, conservative Florida pastor Rick Wiles claimed. Wiles made headlines in November when he said efforts to impeach Donald Trump were part of a “Jew coup” against the president.
11:49 a.m. Gaza protest canceled over coronavirus. Mass rallies planned on the Gaza border have been canceled due to coronavirus concerns. The rallies set for March 30 were scheduled to mark the second anniversary of the Great March of Return, a mass convergence on the border to protest Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
10:38 a.m. Jewish nursing home sees corona cases: Two residents of Montefiore, a Jewish nursing home in suburban Cleveland, tested positive for coronavirus, the Cleveland Jewish News reported.
9:45 a.m. Helping Holocaust survivors affected by coronavirus: The Berlin-based Alfred Landecker Foundation opened a fund to provide emergency support for Holocaust survivors affected by COVID-19. The 1 million euro fund is meant to support elderly survivors who are vulnerable to catching the coronavirus and who are suffering the effects of self-isolation.
9:22 a.m. Documenting the effect of coronavirus on Jewish community: The National Library of Israel has created an archive to document the impact of the coronavirus crisis on Jewish culture, tradition, law, and society. The archive will be made up of materials known as “ephemera items,” everyday items that help scholars understand daily life and social trends.
8:57 a.m. Haredi rabbinic leader tells his followers to pray alone: Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky called on his followers to pray alone without a prayer quorum. The ruling comes after a steep rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Bnei Brak, a mostly haredi city in Israel, and following a funeral early Sunday for Rabbi Tzvi Shinker, which was attended by hundreds of people in violation of Health Ministry directives.
8:14 a.m. Jewish leader and Biden confidante died of COVID-19: Larry Rasky, an influential consultant to Joe Biden and an active supporter of Jewish causes who died suddenly last week at the age of 69, had COVID-19 when he died, his son confirmed in a statement.
8:09 a.m. Number of Israeli coronavirus cases rises: Israel’s Health Ministry announced at least 405 new coronavirus cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing the total to 3,865. On Sunday morning, the 14th Israeli died of the virus.
Friday, March 27
6:30 p.m. New York City vows to enforce ban on religious services: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants people to know that live worship services this weekend will be shut down by city officials. “If you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church, and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services,” de Blasio said Friday afternoon. He cited smaller synagogues among the “few dozen” violators of city rules designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
5 p.m. Rabbinical school dean contributes to coronavirus experiment: Rabbi Daniel Nevins, who heads the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical school, suffered only mild effects of the coronavirus. Now he’s donating plasma in an effort that aims to develop therapies against the disease. “I felt fortunate that my mild case of this illness might turn into a blessing for people who are seriously ill,” Nevins told JTA.
1:30 p.m. Republican Jewish Coalition opposes Congressman who held up bill: Before Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky tried to hold up the stimulus bill today, drawing harsh bipartisan criticism, he also opposed Holocaust education funding and was the only Republican member of Congress to vote against condemning the movement to boycott Israel. Today, the Republican Jewish Coalition announced that it is supporting his primary challenger, Todd McMurtry, in what the group said was the rare decision to step into a primary race.
1 p.m. The layoffs have begun: Earlier this week, we reported that Jewish organizations were anticipating “painful and deep” cuts because of the coronavirus-induced financial crisis. Now, those cuts have begun. Our new story details how one JCC went from 178 employees two weeks ago to just two right now.
12:47 p.m. Israeli ambassador to China recounts fears: Zvi Heifetz told the Jerusalem Post that the epidemic took him by surprise, but that he quickly recognized the danger and evacuated Israelis from China. “We already realized the event was significant, even though not everyone in the world understood,” he told the newspaper.
12:30 p.m. The view from Lakewood: Lakewood, New Jersey, has many coronavirus cases and also many Orthodox Jewish residents. (Several have been cited for holding weddings in violation of rules barring large gatherings.) Critics of the community launched a petition, now removed, to shut Lakewood down, drawing condemnation from N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy.
“Scapegoating, bullying, or vilification of any community is completely unacceptable – today or ever,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “There is a special place in hell for the small minority that do this during this crisis.”
11:57 a.m. U.S. House approves stimulus bill: The U.S. House of Representatives has signed off on the $2 trillion bill meant to shore up the American economy. Our Ron Kampeas explained earlier this week what Jewish groups were lobbying to have included, from funds to bolster nonprofits to support for anti-hunger initiatives.
10:10 a.m. Israel death toll rises: The number of coronavirus deaths in Israel rose sharply in the last 24 hours, and now stands at 12.
10 a.m. A grim report from Italy: Milan has been pummeled by the coronavirus, and so has its Jewish community. Our Cnaan Liphshiz has a new report from the city, where a Jewish woman told him, “It’s like in a war, where you walk on and people are dying around you. I don’t see them dying but I can feel it, death all around me.”
9 a.m. Illicit prayer services reported in Australia: All houses of worship are officially closed in Melbourne, but reports indicate that some synagogues are holding prayer services nonetheless, the Age reported Thursday. The synagogues are associated with the Satmar Hasidic sect; at least one leading Satmar rabbi in New York is ill with coronavirus.
7 a.m. Bonds of Life: At a time when traditional Jewish mourning practices are all but impossible, we’ve launched a new feature to memorialize members of Jewish communities who lose their lives to the coronavirus. The most recent addition is a 35-year-old New Jersey mother, Shoshana Davis, who died earlier this week.
Thursday, March 26
3:40 p.m. Deaths in London and Monsey: Yeshiva World News reports that a 39-year-old man, Lipa Friedrich, has died in Monsey, New York. And a 76-year-old Hasidic rabbi from London, Uri Ashkenazi, died today after being diagnosed with the coronavirus, Hamodia reports. Jews are overrepresented so far in U.K. coronavirus deaths.
3:22 p.m. American Jewish Committee cancels international forum in Berlin: The New York-based group was holding its Global Forum, scheduled for June 14-17, for the first time in Europe. Some 2,000 participants had registered from across the United States and dozens of countries. The event will not be rescheduled, the AJC said in a statement.
2:11 p.m. Cellphone tracking nets 500 Israelis with coronavirus: Israel’s security service, known as the Shin Bet, said that 500 Israelis it identified using cellphone tracking as having been in contact with a coronavirus patient were tested and found to have the virus, according to reports. The tracking approach is being contested legally.
1:57 p.m. Western Wall plaza remains open: Despite regulations requiring Israelis to remain 100 meters from their homes, the Western Wall outdoor plaza remains open, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement, which means, practically, that only some residents of Jerusalem’s Old City can venture there to pray. The indoor prayer areas of the Western Wall were closed on Thursday afternoon.
9:38 El Al to cancel all flights: El Al said it is considering cancelling all flights beginning tonight through April 4, Channel 12 reported. The airline would continue operating rescue flights and cargo flights.
8:01 a.m. Duke students who traveled to Israel are infected: At least 15 Duke business students who traveled to Israel over spring break tested positive for coronavirus and have been isolated at their homes off-campus for at least a week, The News & Observer reported. Several dozen students went on the trip, which was not sponsored by Duke, and they were instructed to self-quarantine at their homes off-campus.
7:52 a.m. Doing their part: There are no classes going on at Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion Station, Pennsylvania, but the 3-D printers in its digital fabrication lab are working overtime printing surgical face shields for the health care workers at the local Lankenau hospital. It is creating about two dozen shields a day, KYW newsradio reports.
Wednesday, March 25
3 p.m. Israel by the numbers: Israel’s police force reported that as of Wednesday it has shut down 55 businesses that were breaking orders; opened 135 cases against people who have broken their quarantine; started 36 cases against people who disseminated fake coronavirus news; and visited 31,841 people to check that they are adhering to isolation, including 6,147 on Wednesday alone.
1 p.m. Jewish groups form emergency pandemic coalition: Eight major Jewish organizations have formed an emergency coalition to respond jointly to COVID-19. The coalition will share resources, identify the scope of the disease’s impact on the Jewish community, lobby for private and public funding for struggling organizations and help laid-off Jewish professionals.
11:30 a.m. Coronavirus 1, Wonder Woman 0: “Wonder Woman 1984” star Gal Gadot announced on social media that the debut of second installment of the superhero franchise will be postponed until Aug. 14.
10 a.m. Harvard University president has coronavirus: Lawrence Bacow is the university’s third Jewish president. He and his wife say they are recovering at home.
9:49 a.m. Jewish fare: Russ and Daughters has laid off half its staff and other Jewish restaurants in New York City have shut down amid restrictions that are hitting the restaurant industry hard. Jewish Insider has more.
8:27 a.m. High Court says Israelis with the virus can be tracked on cell phone: Israel’s Supreme Court will allow the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, to track the cell phones of Israelis who are infected with coronavirus. Two Knesset committees will review the practice, which critics say infringes on civil liberties, later this week.
7:45 a.m. Israelis on lockdown: Israelis have already been under tight restrictions. Now, for at least the next week, they will have stay within 100 yards of their homes, and each household will be permitted to restock provisions just once daily.
7:22 a.m. Some Orthodox rabbis in Israel approve a Zoom seder: A letter signed by 14 Orthodox rabbis in Israel, all Sephardic, approves the use of a video conference program such as Zoom to bring families together for Passover Seder, with a permission that is granted “for emergency times only.” According to the rabbis, the video conference must be operating before the start of the holiday, and left running after the seder.
Tuesday, March 24
3:20 p.m. The view from the Netherlands: Our reporter Cnaan Liphshiz has a dispatch from his home in the Netherlands, one of a dwindling number of countries not asking residents to stay home. “I have lived through four or five major missile attacks, two intifadas and combat army service in my native Israel, as well as reporting assignments in several war zones,” he writes. “But the footage taken at Italian hospitals has me fearing for my life for the very first time.”
3 p.m. Jewish curator dies of coronavirus: The Jewish Museum released an obituary of Maurice Berger, a writer and curator who organized multiple exhibitions at the museum. Berger, 63, died Monday of the coronavirus, the museum announced.
2:49 p.m. Leading rabbi in Leeds, England, dies: Rabbi Yehuda Yaakov Refson, a Chabad emissary who has lived in Leeds for four decades, died of the coronavirus Sunday at 73.
2:45 p.m. Moscow rabbi diagnosed: The congregation of a Moscow synagogue has been placed under quarantine after one of its rabbis contracted the coronavirus. Russia has few documented cases, but its numbers are not considered reliable.
2:40 p.m. Returning to their home countries: Hungary and Israel, which have both largely suspended commercial international travel, have given the go-ahead to an Arkia flight Thursday that would bring 200 Israelis back from Hungary and return dozens of Hungarian nationals to Budapest. Citizens of the Czech Republic and Croatia, which both share a border with Hungary, will also return from Israel, according to Rabbi Shlomo Koves, head of the Chabad-affiliated group that organized the flight.
2:35 p.m. Israel sends plane for stranded backpackers in Colombia: Israel is sending a plane from the national carrier El Al to Bogota to bring home some 150 Israeli backpackers stranded in Colombia, the Foreign Ministry announced. It’s part of a sweeping airlift effort to bring home Israelis who cannot get home from abroad.
2:32 p.m. U.S. rabbi and Holocaust survivor dies of virus at 92: Rabbi Avrohom Hakohen Cohn, known as Romi, a Holocaust survivor and partisan credited with saving the lives of 56 families during World War II, has died of the virus at age 92. In January, Cohn — who was born in Czechoslovakia and lived since 1950 in New York City — delivered the opening prayer in the U.S. House of Representatives.
1:15 p.m. Another death in Milan: The Jewish community in Milan, Italy, has announced the death of a 54-year-old father of four, Giorgio Sinigaglia. Milan is an epicenter of the pandemic, and a former leader of the Jewish community there is also among the thousands of local coronavirus victims.
Noon: Synagogues a top infection site in Israel: A new report concludes that synagogue visits account for a quarter of locally transmitted coronavirus cases, according to Times of Israel.
10:28 a.m. Second Israeli dies of coronavirus: Israel has suffered its second coronavirus fatality, a 67-year-old woman with “a serious preexisting medical condition,” according to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
9:36 a.m. Religious court makes list of regular products that can be used this year for Passover: The London Beth Din has created a list of regular products that can be used this year on Passover due to difficulties caused by the coronavirus crisis.
9:15 a.m. Florida rabbi recovers from virus: Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, the spiritual leader of The Shul in Bal Harbor, Florida, who was diagnosed earlier this month with coronavirus, has been released from the hospital and will remain in quarantine at his home until he fully recovers, his son announced in a letter to the community.
9:13 a.m. Quarantine required in Florida for visitors from New York and New Jersey: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will sign an executive order requiring a 14-day self-quarantine on anyone traveling to the state from New York and New Jersey, just two weeks before the start of the Passover holiday.
9:11 a.m. U.K. will not force cremation for Jews and Muslims: British lawmakers amended emergency coronavirus legislation that would have forced cremations to relieve pressure on morgues and funeral services during the pandemic. Now, Jews and Muslims who die can be buried according to their religious traditions after Naz Shah, a Muslim lawmaker, introduced an amendment.
9:08 a.m. MyHeritage donates 66,000 swabs to Israel: Genealogy company MyHeritage Ltd. has donated 66,000 swabs to Israel for coronavirus testing, incurring an estimated lost revenue of $10 million, Calcalist reported. The swabs were sent to Israel from North Carolina.
9:03 a.m. Summer Olympics in Tokyo postponed: Jewish athletes that have been training for the Olympics will have to wait another year after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe postponed the Summer Olympics in Tokyo The decision affects Jewish athletes in numerous sports as well as Israel’s baseball team, which qualified in September amid a bid to popularize the sport in the Jewish state.
Monday, March 23
3:20 p.m. Orthodox groups issue Passover guidelines: Six organizations representing American Orthodox Jews have issued guidance for their followers about Passover, which begins in just over two weeks. Travel of any kind is not permitted, according to the guidance, which also sketches out a time-sensitive strategy for small-scale shared seders.
“Individuals living alone or those absolutely unable to prepare for Pesach may choose to self-quarantine for 14 days, and then – if asymptomatic – may join with a welcoming local family that is similarly asymptomatic and that has been disciplined in staying home and limiting their interactions outside the home to the absolute minimum as described above,” the guidelines state. “These guests may join one family only for the duration, without additional company.”
3 p.m. Jews among lockdown violators arrested in Argentina: A rabbi and two others were arrested for continuing to operate a ritual bath despite a shutdown order. In other parts of the world, ritual baths, or mikvahs, have continued to operate even as all other Jewish institutions have closed.
2 p.m. Crown Heights cluster in Israel: At least 65 young men who returned to Israel after the Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn was closed for the first time ever have tested positive for the coronavirus.
11:23 a.m. “Painful and deep” cuts ahead: Jewish nonprofits are anticipating layoffs, downsizing and closures during the economic downturn that will most likely deepen over the course of the pandemic. And even as Jewish philanthropic leaders work to shore up short-term funding, the longer-term prospects for Jewish organizations, as for so many others, appear increasingly bleak. Read our story for more.
11:03 a.m. Fast day called: Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau in an open letter calls for a fast day of at least half a day Wednesday in response to the coronavirus epidemic. “The Jewish people are suffering, as is the entire world. At this time, we must engage in soul searching,” he wrote.
10:51 a.m. No more McBurgers: McDonald’s Israel announces it will completely shut down operations on Monday, though it will continue to operate five branches on an emergency basis, to supply free food to hospitals, Magen David Adom workers and security forces, the Israeli news organization Globes reports.
10:44 a.m. Closed to worshippers and tourists: The Temple Mount is practically deserted in photos posted on social media, hours after the site was closed to both Muslim worshippers and tourists. It is the first time that the Islamic authority in charge of the holy site has ordered it closed, according to the Jerusalem Post.
— Suleiman Maswadeh סולימאן מסוודה (@SuleimanMas1) March 23, 2020
Sunday, March 22
5 p.m. Harvey Weinstein diagnosed in prison: Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood director recently sentenced to 23 years in prison after a high-profile sexual assault trial, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Niagara Gazette. Weinstein was transferred last week to an upstate New York prison from New York City’s Rikers Island, where cases are rising swiftly amid conditions that prisoners and people who work there say are dangerous.
4:10 p.m. The death toll rises in Europe: In addition to the French rabbi who died this weekend, at least two Orthodox Jews in London have died because of the coronavirus. Top British Jewish leaders are pressing for Jewish coronavirus victims to be buried in accordance with Jewish customs.
4 p.m. Idan Raichel concert brings Israeli musician to homebound fans: The Jewish Agency for Israel is among the many groups hosting online performances by popular artists, today broadcasting Israeli pop star Idan Raichel from his home studio. The concert can be viewed here.
3:45 p.m. Israel closes open-air markets: Popular markets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv closed abruptly on Sunday, leaving supermarkets as the only places where Israelis can buy food.
3:10 p.m. White supremacists in the time of coronavirus: An FBI report says that white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are urging members to spread the coronavirus to Jews and others, and propagating rumors that Jews created the virus, ABC News reports. Earlier this month, a scholar of Jewish history explained in a JTA column that Jews have throughout history been blamed for epidemics.
3 p.m. Satmar rabbi diagnosed with the coronavirus: Aaron Teitelbaum, 73, leads one branch of the Satmar movement based in Kiryas Joel, New York. He reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus late last week.
2:56 p.m. Amazon scales back in Israel: Amazon has canceled its popular free-shipping deal in Israel and appears to have blocked the shipping of most products to Israel, due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ynet reported.
2:45 p.m. Israel plans airlifts: Israel’s national airline, El Al, said it would send rescue flights to bring home hundreds of Israelis stranded in several countries that have closed their doors and canceled international flights.
2:32 p.m. Orthodox leaders in the United States urge social distancing compliance: The leaders of six major Orthodox Jewish organizations, in a joint statement, called on their members to follow social distancing rules, including limits on daily group prayers and weddings.
2:26 p.m. Synagogues shuttered in Argentina: Synagogues throughout Argentina closed on Friday as part of a “preventive and compulsory” total lockdown of the country through at least March 31 to stem the spread of coronavirus.
2:20 p.m. First coronavirus cases diagnosed in Gaza: Gaza reported its first two coronavirus cases Sunday, while the West Bank began a 14-day lockdown.
2:07 p.m. Jewish weddings in New Jersey result in criminal charges: Police in Lakewood, New Jersey, have arrested at least two Jewish men for hosting weddings with more than 50 people present, in violation of state rules designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
11:30 a.m. Pluralistic prayer in New Orleans: Rabbis from the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements in New Orleans joined together online Saturday for a havdalah service marking the end of Shabbat. The service was one of countless examples of online innovation that have arisen as synagogues have had to abandon in-person prayer. New Orleans has one of the biggest concentrations of coronavirus diagnoses in the United States.
10 a.m. Jewish Brazilian cosmetics magnate donates gel alcohol: “Our essence is to be agents of transformation in everything we do. If we save a life, we save humanity. This is Judaism,” Miguel Krigsner, the founder of O Boticário, told JTA about why he donated 1.7 tons of gel alcohol to Curitiba’s health department.
8:30 a.m. Israeli emergency medical services leader in serious condition: Eli Beer, the director of Israeli Hatzalah, an EMS service in Israel, is ventilated in a Florida hospital where he has been a patient since last week. Beer was in Florida to raise funds for his organization and interacted with a local rabbi who has been diagnosed with the virus, according to the Jerusalem Post.
8 a.m. French rabbi dies of coronavirus complications: Massoud Toubol, who led a 2,000-student girls school in Paris, has died, Arutz Sheva reports. The 63-year-old rabbi was an emissary of Chabad.
Saturday, March 21
10 p.m. Shabbat report: Jewish communities around the world were still this week as the coronavirus kept synagogues closed and people at home, disrupting deep-rooted traditions.
For Jews who use technology on Shabbat, many options for prayer and song were available online. But Jerusalem, usually bustling, was “eerily quiet,” according to an account in the Jerusalem Post. So was a heavily Orthodox area of Brooklyn, according to a woman who lives there who shared her observations on Twitter.
6/ This Shabbat morning, the streets were empty. Unprecedented isn’t really the word. Prayer services were held between people standing on rooftops, balconies, and their front steps. This neighborhood has never been so quiet. #StayHomeSaveLives #StayHomeStaySafe
— Chani Krinsky (@ChaniKrinsky) March 22, 2020
Some Hasidic communities in New York were slower to adopt social distancing practices than the rest of the city, but by this weekend, most had caught up. Still, several hundred men reportedly turned out for outdoor prayers in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Friday, March 20
4:21 p.m. First coronavirus death in Israel: An 88-year-old man has died in Jerusalem, the first person to die of the virus in Israel. The country is now in an almost total lockdown in an effort to curb the disease’s spread.
3 p.m. Snapshots from Europe: Our Europe correspondent Cnaan Liphshiz has a series of reports about how European Jewish communities are coping with the pandemic. Here’s what a leading French rabbi is doing right now and how Polish Jews are giving back to elderly Poles who helped Jews during the Holocaust. Plus, the leader of Budapest’s Jewish day school shares how she’s managing the transition to remote learning — while also juggling her own kids at home.
2:30 p.m. Mikvahs are open for business — for now: In many communities, even as other Jewish institutions have closed, women’s ritual baths have remained open. An epidemiologist told JTA that should probably change, but our new story explains the stakes for women who observe Jewish family purity laws, and what’s being done to keep mikvahs safe for now.
“To be stuck here in the midst of a global pandemic, where there’s a lot of people dying and it’s emotionally challenging, and to not be able to have human contact is something that my husband and I are very much dreading,” one Jerusalem woman says in the story.
12:10 p.m. Canadians assured of access to Passover food: The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a Canadian organization, issued a statement aimed at calming fears about access to kosher-for-Passover food. “We have consulted with all suppliers, importers, distributors and retailers of meat, poultry, dairy and dry goods foods and all have expressed full confidence in the continuing ability to ship and stock everything normally accessible for everyone’s Passover needs in the same quantities as previous years,” the state says — while also exhorting Canadians not to overbuy out of panic. Passover begins April 8.
11 a.m. Antwerp Jewish community warns of high toll ahead: Antwerp’s Jewish community released its own dire projection of the potential toll of the coronavirus there. “If the average Belgian person has a circles of 15 close friends and family, then with Antwerp Jews it’s 150 people,” a Belgian Jewish lawmaker told JTA. Read our story.
9 a.m. Dean of Conservative rabbinical school is recovering: Rabbi Danny Nevins, the dean of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical school, is recovering from the coronavirus, he told community members in an email Thursday. “It took a week, but my Covid 19 test came back today — positive,” he wrote. “The good news is that I have been mostly self-quarantined since March 9, when I first felt ill, so that’s 10 days. My symptoms were fairly mild at the worst.”
8:20 a.m. Florida rabbis warn against Passover travel: Dozens of Orthodox rabbis and medical professionals in Florida have issued a letter urging Jews in no uncertain terms not to travel to the state this year for Passover. “To all those from out of state considering spending Pesach here in Florida,” the letter says in bold, “it’s halachically prohibited and medically irresponsible to come.” Among the signatories is Sholom Lipskar, a prominent rabbi who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
8 a.m. Jewish farmers pitch in: People who work with Urban Adamah, a Jewish farm in Berkeley, California, are delivering fresh produce to seniors who are shut in their homes, according to the Jewish News of Northern California. Urban Adamah is one of the flagship sites of a growing Jewish farm movement.
7:30 a.m. Israel’s cycling team wants company: Israel’s professional cycling team was supposed to participate in the Tour de France for the first time this June. With that event and so many others up in the air, the team is offering supporters a chance to train with its members today at 3:25 p.m. EDT from their homes on a digital cycling platform called Zwift. “A group ride in uncertain times like this, with the Covid-19 crisis, is a great opportunity for cyclists who love our team,” Israeli cycling champion Guy Sagiv said from quarantine in his home in Israel in a press release announcing the event.
7:15 a.m. Meet an Israeli doctor on the coronavirus front lines: JTA spoke to Elli Rosenberg, an immunologist who runs the coronavirus ward at the largest hospital in southern Israel. Here’s what he said.
7 a.m. Brandeis calls off commencement: Brandeis University has announced that it will not have a graduation ceremony this spring. The historically Jewish university in Massachusetts is among the growing number of colleges calling off commencement ceremonies that had left open the possibility that students might reconvene in May after studying remotely this spring. With the pandemic likely to stretch on for months, that window of possibility is closing.
Thursday, March 19
3:30 p.m. Israel tightens stay-home guidelines: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Health Ministry guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus will be tightened and will be enforced by police and security services, as the number of Israelis diagnosed climbed to 573.
2 p.m. British Jews begin distancing: Until this week, the United Kingdom stood out for not implementing many restrictions meant to curb the coronavirus’ spread. Now that that’s changing, British Jews are set experience the same end to communal Shabbat services that many American Jews faced last week. “I was still going,” one English Jew told JTA’s Cnaan Liphshiz in a new story out now.
12:54 p.m. Imagine there’s no coronavirus: Israeli actress Gal Gadot posted a video of her and 23 other celebrities singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Some sing more in tune than others.
12:13 p.m. A tribute to doctors and nurses: Throughout the country tonight, Israelis went outside their homes or on their balconies at 6 p.m. and applauded for two minutes to salute the medical teams treating coronavirus patients. Israel now has more than 500 confirmed cases.
מצדיעים מהמרפסת: בכל רחבי הארץ ישראלים מוחאים כפיים לאות תודה לצוותים הרפואיים pic.twitter.com/wpRuTNSPHr
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 19, 2020
9:18 a.m. Cellphones on Shabbat: Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef told religious Jews to leave their cell phones on during Shabbat in case they receive coronavirus updates from the Health Ministry. The decree surprised many because Orthodox religious leaders in Israel have never before permitted electronics to be used on Shabbat, but the need for people to understand whether they may have been exposed to the coronavirus outweighs any prohibitions, Yosef said.
9:04 a.m. Fasting to combat coronavirus: Several Orthodox groups called for a half-day fast and day of intense prayer for today to ask God to intercede and stop the coronavirus pandemic. The council also said in an open letter that the community should adhere to directives such as closing synagogues and yeshiva study halls and remain at home.
8:30 a.m. Israeli president reads to children from a distance: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin read the classic children’s story “Dira Lehaskir,” or “Apartment for Rent” online for Israeli youngsters sheltering at home. He said in a message to parents: “I know that this not an easy time and that children are home, and even though we all love being together as a family, this is a challenge. So, I decided to give you a short break, to be with you – from afar – but with you.”
Wednesday, March 18
2:45 p.m. Eurovision 2020 canceled: The Eurovision song contest scheduled to be held in Rotterdam, Holland, in May has been canceled due to the spread of coronavirus. Israel had been set to be represented by Eden Alene, an Ethiopian Israeli who planned to sing “Feker Libi,” which features verses in Amharic, Hebrew, English and Arabic.
2:39 p.m. Israel closes its borders to foreigners: Israel has completely closed its borders to all foreign nationals, effective immediately. Prior to Wednesday, travelers who are neither citizens nor residents were permitted to enter only if they could prove they had a place to self-isolate for 14 days.
2:28 p.m. Rivlin reaches out to Abbas: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin reached out to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in light of the coronavirus crisis. “The world is dealing with a crisis that does not distinguish between people or where they live,” he said in a statement from his office. “Our ability to work together in times of crisis is also testament to our ability to work together in the future for the good of us all.”
2:17 p.m. Iconic Brooklyn synagogue closes its doors: The century-old Shomer Shabbos shul in Borough Park for the first time in its history closed its doors indefinitely Wednesday after a tripling of coronavirus cases in the area.
1:59 p.m. New Rochelle attorney wakes from coma: Lawrence Garbuz, the attorney at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York, “is awake and alert and seems to be on the road to full recovery,” his wife, Adina, wrote on Facebook. “Now that we, as a family, can see a light at the end of the tunnel, my family — even children — are all on board to offer what we can to medical research to see if it can help bring a cure or stop the damage of this virus. I truly hope we can be of help.”
1:20 p.m British synagogues ordered closed: British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis ordered the closure of all synagogues affiliated with United Synagogue, the largest network of Orthodox synagogues in the country. Until this week, the U.K. has not advocated extensive social distancing, and houses of worship have remained open.
12:10 p.m. Last man flying: Ilan, a 21-year-old from Argentina, was the only passenger on a flight out of Israel’s Ben Gurion airport to Barcelona earlier this week, following the exit of most tourists from the country and the near shutdown of air travel.
12:01 p.m. Conservative movement approves virtual minyan for Mourner’s Kaddish: The leaders of the Conservative movement’s Jewish law committee issued a crisis declaration allowing the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish with a virtual online prayer quorum. My Jewish Learning, one of JTA’s sister sites, has launched a Virtual Minyan for those looking for an online opportunity to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish.
11:15 a.m. 770 Eastern Parkway is closed: The international headquarters of the Chabad movement shut down for the first time ever overnight after rabbinic leaders in Crown Heights ordered synagogues closed. Before shutting its doors, the building hosted one final prayer service and dance party.
10:47 a.m. Jewish mom influencer Arielle Charnas announces her diagnosis: Jewish mom of two Arielle Charnas announced to her 1 million-plus followers on Instagram that she has tested positive for the coronavirus. She also documented the process of getting the coronavirus test.
10:29 a.m. White House urges New York rabbis to comply with coronavirus rules: Avi Berkowitz, an assistant to President Donald Trump who also is an Orthodox Jew, led a conference call with local Orthodox rabbis, telling them that not following health guidelines could lead to “a serious issue of pikuach nefesh,” or saving a life.
10:14 a.m. Stranded in Peru: About 1,000 Israelis stranded in Peru after the South American nation announced that it would close its borders will return home on a special El Al flight.
10 a.m. Shiva in the coronavirus era: We have a new story out now about the ways that the pandemic is upending Jewish burial and grieving rituals. “Normally we’d sit in the same room crying, holding hands. We’re a very close family,” the grandson of a Holocaust survivor who died this week told JTA. “We couldn’t do that.”
9:20 a.m. Encouragement from space: Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir is orbiting the Earth, making her one of only a few people with no risk of coronavirus exposure. On Tuesday, she tweeted a photo of Tel Aviv that she took from space with a message: “This too shall pass.”
Gazing down at the city in which my father was raised, I take to heart one of his most uttered expressions, “This too shall pass”. Wise words to remember, in both good times and bad. Goodnight #TelAviv #Israel! #GoodnightFromSpace #TheJourney #EarthStrong pic.twitter.com/oHoMLdBytD
— Jessica Meir (@Astro_Jessica) March 17, 2020
8:30 a.m. Two more AIPAC-connected cases, in California: An Oakland, California, couple who self-quarantined after returning two weeks ago from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Jewish News of Northern California. They bring to at least eight the number of people who have tested positive after attending the conference; attendees who returned to Israel were ordered into quarantine, but other attendees did not face similar restrictions.
Tuesday, March 17
3:30 pm. Hotspot emerges in Hasidic Brooklyn: More than 100 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the heavily Orthodox neighborhood of Borough Park, a representative of an urgent care clinic there told JTA.
3 p.m. A message for the diaspora: The country’s doors might effectively be closed, but Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has sent a video message to Jewish communities around the world with his prayers for their health and wellbeing in light of the coronavirus.
2:47 p.m. Passover looms: In a Jewish calendar packed with ritual observances and religious feasts, the Passover seder is the quintessential shared holiday experience and perhaps the most widely observed Jewish holiday ritual in the world. But all of that has been upended by COVID-19 and the restrictions necessary to contain its spread.
“Throughout the Haggadah, we read about many accounts of our ancestors, whether it be in Egypt or whether it be hiding in caves or any other times, that are going through some very challenging times,” one person who lives alone says in our new story. “I’m an extrovert. I like being around people, but I also know that there are sources saying that if one is doing seder by themselves, they should ask the Mah Nishtana of themselves. If that’s what I have to do this year, I accept it.”
2:20 p.m. “Big Brother” contestants learn about the pandemic: Imagine being sequestered from the news and not knowing that the coronavirus pandemic has upended life on Earth. That was the situation for the Israeli contestants on the “Big Brother” reality show until this week.
11:49 a.m. Tracking coronavirus patients through their cellphones: The Israeli government passed emergency regulations that allow security services to track the cellphones of coronavirus patients. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit approved the move, which circumvented the approval of the entire Knesset and the oversight of several committees.
9:14 a.m. Synagogues Down Under asked to close: The Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand in a statement on Tuesday called on all synagogues to close their doors for all social and religious gatherings, including prayer services, the Australian Jewish News reported.
9 a.m. Israelis to stay home: Israel’s Health Ministry has tightened restrictions once again in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. Now, Israelis are instructed not leave their homes at all except for essential needs such as groceries and medicine. Similar “shelter in place” restrictions have started to be placed elsewhere, including in San Francisco.
8 a.m. Lakewood yeshivas are now closed: Even as the coronavirus prompted school and synagogue closures elsewhere in New Jersey, many remained open in the Orthodox community of Lakewood. That’s changing now that the state has ordered all schools closed and gatherings curtailed. Among the closures: Beth Medrash Govoha, the world’s second-largest Jewish school with nearly 7,000 students.
Monday, March 16
4 p.m. Mel Brooks promotes social distancing: Mel Brooks, the 93-year-old Jewish actor, plays a (nearly) non-speaking role in a public service announcement by his son Max Brooks about the need of social distancing. “If I get the coronavirus, I’ll probably be OK,” Max Brooks says. “But if I give it to him, he could give it to Carl Reiner, who could give it to Dick van Dyke, and before I know it, I’ve wiped out a whole generation of comedic legends.”
— Max Brooks (@maxbrooksauthor) March 16, 2020
3:45 p.m. Germany closes synagogues and other houses of worship: German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a news conference on Monday announces severe nationwide measures to try to control the spread of the coronavirus. The government announced a ban on gatherings in synagogues, churches and mosques and ordered stores and playgrounds closed, AFP reported.
2:09 p.m. Public memorial of Argentina’s Israeli embassy bombing canceled: 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.
All of Argentina’s schools closed today until at least March 31, 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 in Argentina 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.
1 p.m. A coronavirus dividing line: “Coronavirus is upending our world by the minute, and when it comes to parenting, it also is yet another reminder of the divide between the haves and have-nots,” Amy Klein writes on Kveller.
12:44 p.m. Netflix film starring Gal Gadot halts production: The production of “Red Notice,” a Netflix film starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, has been suspended for at least two weeks at the request of co-star Dwayne Johnson, Deadline Hollywood reports. 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.” Many local synagogues have ceased in-person operations already.
11:00 a.m. A muted swearing-in in Israel: 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.
— IsraelB (@IsraelBayit) March 15, 2020
8:30 a.m. Changes at the Western Wall: People are still visiting the Western Wall, but they 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 six 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.
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 NCov2019.live, 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 extra curricular Purim events: Seven of Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community schools announced in an email to parents that it has cancelled all extra curricular 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 extra curricular 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 [email protected]
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 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, cancelling 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.
מצדיעים מהמרפסת: בכל רחבי הארץ ישראלים מוחאים כפיים לאות תודה לצוותים הרפואיים pic.twitter.com/wpRuTNSPHr
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 19, 2020
This article originally appeared on JTA.org.