Israel on Lockdown, an Orthodox OK for Video Seders, and Emergency Food Programs


The government of Israel has approved a set of restrictions on public life to reduce the incidence of coronavirus, which has infected more than 2,000 people by Wednesday and taken five Israeli lives, the Times of Israel reports.

The new policies include “a prohibition on people venturing more than 100 meters from their homes, apart from under certain circumstances, and the shuttering of synagogues.”

Additional restrictions: Public transport will be drastically reduced; and only two people may travel in a car at one time and they may only be traveling to or from an approved place of work or to the grocery store, pharmacy or a medical appointment. Private taxis will be available but only one passenger and the driver can be in the car at a time.

Israel’s Supreme Court will also allow the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, to track the cell phones of Israelis who are infected with coronavirus, JTA reports. The court lifted an injunction on the action after the Knesset convened and formed committees. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will review the practice on Thursday, the Times of Israel reported.  Critics have said the tracking would infringe on civil liberties.

A group of Orthodox rabbis in Israel has declared that it will be permissible for separated members of the Jewish community to join each other at Passover seders via video.

According to the scholars — including Rabbis Eliyahu Abergel, head of Jerusalem’s rabbinical court; Shlomo Ben Hamo, chief rabbi of Kiryat Gat; and Aharon Cohen of Yakir — people who will be alone on the first nights of the holiday because of coronavirus isolation can use the popular Zoom webinar technology if it is opened before the start of the holiday.

The rabbis state in their ruling that there is no need to worry about violating the sanctity of the holy day by operating the program, since it is launched before the start of the holiday. The use of electronic devices is normally forbidden on Passover, Shabbat and other holidays.

The Union for Reform Judaism has tips for a holding a seder in “a year of coronavirus.”

(The Jewish Week’s Andrew Silow-Carroll offers some tongue-in-cheek tips for an online seder.)

The Orthodox Union’s Kosher Food Lifeline has launched several programs to combat the anticipated significant increase in food insecurity during the coronavirus crisis, especially for the Passover holiday.

It has arranged for the Masbia kosher soup kitchen network to deliver kosher airline meals, not being used because many flights have been cancelled, to the needy. And KFL has initiated a resource on its website to help match excess food with those who are in need. The online portal allows for people all over the country to submit information about available kosher food (both chametz for before Passover or kosher-for-Passover food) in different communities. “Those in need can access the website and search by city and state to find food which is free or low-cost so that they can properly nourish themselves during this difficult time,” according to the OU.

Chai Lifeline, the international children’s health support network, has launched an emergency response campaign to help children with life-threatening illnesses. “Children with weakened immune systems and their families are especially at-risk right now. In the past few days and weeks, we’ve seen a surge in demand for our services and we’re committed to helping everyone as best we can,” said Rabbi Simcha Scholar, CEO of Chai Lifeline.


Chabad-Lubavitch is offering online an array of resources for homebound members of the Jewish community to prepare for Passover. Its resources include information on preparing for the holiday, celebrating Pesach, and selling one’s chametz.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs will sponsor a webinar on “Coronavirus and Israeli Democracy: Crisis and Opportunity,” featuring author Yossi Klein Halevi, on Friday, March 27 at 10:30 a.m. Brooklyn-born Halevi, who now lives in Israel, is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and co-director of its Muslim Leadership Institute, which teaches emerging young Muslim-American leaders about Judaism, Jewish identity and Israel.

Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side and its Ramaz day school will present an online discussion about “Keeping Your Sanity During These Insane Times” with psychologist Dr. Jessica Hirsh Weiss on Wednesday at 8 p.m. It will be the first in a series of Zoom programs, under the auspices of the two institutions’ Parents Council.

Moving Traditions, the Jewish educational program for teenagers, is offering new online resources “to help people feel inspiration and meaning in this difficult moment.” The resources include a “Blessing for B’nai Mitzvah Impacted by the Coronavirus” ( and an opportunity to “Share Your Stories – and Inspire Resilience.”

The Jewish Book Council has announced that its annual conference, scheduled for May 19-21, will take place as a virtual conference on June 2-4. The event will include the opportunity for authors promoting their books to speak for two minutes to increase interest in them giving public speeches.

Natan Sharansky, the former chairman of the Jewish Agency who spent nine years in the Russian gulag as a Jewish prisoner-of-conscience, has prepared a YouTube speech to inspire people stuck at home during the Covid-19 crisis. “I have some experience of spending time in solitary confinement,” he states in the video.

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