NEW YORK CITY (JTA) — The spread of COVID-19, a new coronavirus, is reshaping Jewish communities. JTA is collecting the news flowing in from across the globe.
Thursday, March 25
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 will continue operating rescue flights and cargo flights, however.
8:01 a.m. Duke students who traveled to Israel are infected: At least 15 Duke MBA 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.
7:56 a.m. Storytime with President Ruvi: Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin invited all kindergarteners — in age or spirit —to join him this evening on Facebook for a bedtime story. Rivlin will read “Tfilayla / Night Prayer” by Maya Hanoch and Michal Cohen-Hai. It will be read in Hebrew here and in Hebrew with Arabic and English subtitles here.
7:52 a.m. Doing their part: There are no classes going on at Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion Station, Penn. 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.
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 libertie.
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: JTA 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 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 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 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 pre-existing 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, Fla., 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.
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 many 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 have tested positive for the coronavirus.
11:23 a.m. “Painful and deep” cuts ahead: Jewish nonprofits expect 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.
10:51 a.m. No more McBurgers: McDonald’s Israel announces it will shut down operations, 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.
Sunday, March 22
5 p.m. Harvey Weinstein diagnosed in prison: 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 recently transferred 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.
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. 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, N.J., 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 congregations 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 an account in 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,” said 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.
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.
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. “
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 e-mail. “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 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, Calif., 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 infected climbs to 573. He also calls again for a unity government.
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, Israelis went outside of their homes or on their balconies at 6 p.m. and applauded for 2 minutes to salute the medical teams treating coronavirus patients. Israel has more than 500 confirmed cases.
9:18 a.m. Cellphones on Shabbat: Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef issued a ruling that religious Jews must leave their cell phones turned on during Shabbat in order to receive coronavirus updates, in order that the Health Ministry can immediately inform people that they may have been exposed to the virus and need to quarantine.
9:04 a.m. Council of Torah Sages calls for half-day fast: The Council of Torah Sages of America, part of Agudath Israel, joined by The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America, called for a half-day fast and day of prayer for Thursday – today – to ask God to intercede and stop the coronavirus pandemic. The council called for people to recite extra psalms and engage in intense prayer. 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” onlinefor 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. … Read along with me, the whole family or just the children, (and take the time for a coffee, without your phone).”
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 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.
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.”
8:30 a.m. Two more AIPAC-connected cases, in California: An Oakland, Calif., 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 Chasidic Brooklyn: More than 100 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Crown Heights, the Brooklyn neighborhood that houses the global headquarters of Chabad, 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.
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.”
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 as a precaution.
All of Argentina’s schools closed today until at least March 31, and travel into the country is 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.
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.
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.
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: 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, were closed as of noon on Friday after three cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the community.
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 recent decision 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.
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 e-mail, 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.”
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.
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 60s 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.
6 p.m. Letter from Poland: The annual pilgrimage to the grave of one of the founders of Chasidism, 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. Many 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.
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.
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, Calif. 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.
Tuesday, March 10
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
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 and Shefa in Manhattan; Luria Academy in Brooklyn; and Kinneret Day School in the Bronx.
In addition, the closures of SAR and the Frisch School in 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 programwhen 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.
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.