New UJA grants, a global loan program, Israelis test a marijuana treatment


In a third round of emergency funding, UJA-Federation has announced nearly $9 million in new Covid-19 relief grants to support “newly vulnerable families seeking to access Jewish life, front-line workers, and needy Jewish congregants in the New York region.”

The grants will fund Jewish summer camps, day school scholarships, synagogue funds for the vulnerable and personal protective equipment.

UJA has so far allocated approximately $44 million to help respond to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“At the core of the New York Jewish community is an incredible infrastructure of organizations that underpin our ability to sustain and strengthen Jewish life into the future. In this third round of relief, we’re helping to ensure that the tens of thousands in our community directly impacted by Covid-19 are still able to access these critical Jewish resources,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York.

Aid so far has supported New Yorkers facing food insecurity, UJA partner organizations providing essential health and human services, Jewish Community Centers, low-income students and single parents. Funding has also ensured dignified burials, and supplemented the $75 million NYC Covid-19 Response & Impact Fund with other leading philanthropic organizations.

The philanthropy had earlier announced allocations of up to $6 million to support residential and day camps even as no final decisions have yet been made regarding this summer’s camping season.

“It’s evident camps will face enormous budget shortfalls,” said Goldstein.

Two weeks ago, UJA-Federation also allocated more than $1 million in emergency funds to support counseling for caregivers, loan funds for small businesses and nonprofits, and networks coordinating leaders and volunteers.

The Jewish Agency for Israel has launched a “COVID-19 Loan Fund for Communities in Crisis,” together with its partners Keren Hayesod and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). This comes in response to urgent calls from communities and organizations in countries such as Italy, Spain, South Africa, South America and others to provide immediate cash flow. This fund will provide no-interest loans to organizations providing services essential to the continuing existence of Jewish communities which are now at risk.

The Jewish Agency COVID-19 Loan Fund for Communities in Crisis will provide immediate working capital loans, with no interest, to communities in-danger outside North America. In its initial phase, the fund will total $10 million and will provide loans of up to $350,000 to each community or organization, enabling them to continue functioning during this challenging period.

The Covid-19 crisis has impacted communal life throughout the Jewish world, bringing significant economic distress to many communities – including those that were previously financially stable. Educational activities have been discontinued, and essential welfare services are in danger of being closed.

The loans will be provided for four years and will be repaid – with no interest – at the end of the first year, in four installments.

Philanthropic foundations and organizations interested in joining the Jewish Agency rescue effort may contact:

More than half of Jewish organizations in this country that applied for loans in the first round of funding under the federal Paycheck Protection Program were approved. According to Jewish Federations of North America, 1,131 organizations applied last week and 579 were approved. These organizations reported receiving a total of $264 million in loans from the PPP. An additional 418 organizations reported that they submitted their applications for PPP loans and are waiting to hear from lenders about whether their application will be approved.

JFNA estimates that that Jewish organizations may receive as much as $500 million from the PPP in total, enabling these groups to continue to address basic needs. The survey statistics will continue to be updated as additional organizations apply for and receive funding.


Israel reports 14,592 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 191 people dead of the disease.

Nurses and doctors in Israel who are forced to enter quarantine after being exposed to Covid-19 in the line of duty and have money docked from their pay checks are “furious,” the Times of Israel reports. Thousands of health professionals saw a decrease in their latest salary payments, because time spent in compulsory quarantine after coming in contact with an infected person was treated as sick days, which are accounted at a reduced rate.

Uri Fleischmann, general director of the Israeli Nurses Association, said the policy is affecting his members across hospital departments. Anger peaked after Ephraim Malkin, a senior Finance Ministry official, called health workers’ demands for full pay when quarantined “excessive and unbalanced.”

Researchers working towards a vaccine against COVID-19 at MigVax, an affiliate of the Migal Galilee Research Institute, have announced a $12 million investment to accelerate its efforts. Jerusalem crowdfunding investment platform OurCrowd led the investment in the Kiryat Shemona research facility.

MigVax, which aims to have the material ready within “a few months,” is working to adapt a vaccine previously developed against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), a coronavirus strain causing bronchial disease in poultry, into a new oral human vaccine against Covid-19.

“The experiments we have carried out so far show that because the vaccine does not include the virus itself, it will be safe to use in immune-suppressed recipients, and has fewer chances of side effects,” said Migal Galilee Research Institute CEO David Zigdon.

Tel Aviv University has built an emergency COVID-19 testing lab, which will allow Israel to perform an additional 2,000 coronavirus tests per day, the university announced. The new facility is a joint effort of the school’s researchers, graduate students, Sackler School of Medicine and the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences.

Construction for the lab, designed by architect Daniel Zarchi, was completed within four days last week. The lab will be operational and ready for testing shortly.

The United States has granted a patent to Tel Aviv University’s Jonathan Gershoni for an innovative vaccine design for the corona family of viruses, the school announced. He is on the faculty of the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology at TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences. The vaccine targets the novel coronavirus’s Receptor Binding Motif (RBM), a critical structure that enables the virus to bind to and infect a target cell.

“This will be the basis for a new vaccine, which could be ready for use within a year to a year and a half,” said Gershoni.

InnoCan Pharma Corporation, based in Herzliya, is hoping to develop a Covid-19 treatment using one of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). The company has entered into a sponsored research agreement to help develop the novel approach by using cannabidiol (CBD) loaded exosomes.

Anti-inflammatory CBD-loaded exosomes hold the potential of helping in the recovery of infected lung cells. This solution, which is expected to be administrated by inhalation, will be tested against a variety of lung infections.

The team is led by Prof. Daniel Offen, a researcher specializing in Neuroscience and Exosome technology at Tel Aviv University.


Mark Steiner, a mathematician/philosopher at Hebrew University, died of Covid-19 on April 6, JTA reports. He was 77.

Born in the Bronx in 1942, Dr. Steiner received an Orthodox day school education before entering Columbia University, where he graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1965. After a Fulbright Fellowship at Oxford University, Dr. Steiner went on to receive his doctorate from Princeton before returning to Columbia as an instructor for most of the 1970s. He moved to Israel in 1977 and became the chair of the philosophy department at Hebrew University in the 1990s.

Among his books was “The Applicability of Mathematics as a Philosophical Problem” (Harvard University Press, 1998).

A former classmate, Curtis Franks of Notre Dame University, recalled how Steiner would explain a philosopher’s mathematical insight by drawing “a completely unexpected analogy with a legal ruling from a celebrated rabbi like the Chasam Sofer or, most frequently, the Chazon Ish (whose writings are the texts that I believe Mark knew the best).”


Columbia professor and world-renowned happiness guru Tal Ben-Shahar will be in conversation with journalist Abigail Pogrebin, sponsored by UJA-Federation, on Thursday, April 23 at 7:30 pm. The topic is “Finding Happiness in Tough Times.”

American Friends of Soroka Medical Center will sponsor a webinar on “The Future of COVID-19: Testing and Treatment” on Thursday at 11 a.m. Email questions to

Reboot, an arts and culture nonprofit, has launched three “humorous, and engaging” podcasts about life in quarantine and three video series, all from a Jewish perspective. The topics are “Dispatches From Quarantine,” “Coming of Age” and “The Joy of Quarantine,” and podcasts “Kasher vs. Kasher,”  “In Quarantine” and “Closening.”

For information about each new podcast and video series: Reboot — Quarantine Video Series & Podcasts Information One Sheet.

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