Summer camps closing, Israel eases restrictions, Rivlin chats with Cuomo


Nearly all Reform Jewish summer camps, and at least one Conservative camp, will remain closed for the 2020 summer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The decision, made Thursday afternoon, will affect 15 Reform overnight camps across the country, which collectively served some 10,000 campers in 2019. The Reform movement, the largest in the United States, is the first to suspend its official summer camp network. It’s the first time in more than 70 years that the movement is suspending its camps.

The Reform movement is also canceling all of its trips to Israel and other locations, as well as all in-person youth activities. A statement from the Union for Reform Judaism said that if it ends up becoming possible to open the camps, “doing so will be our top priority.”

New York police intervened in another funeral in a charedi neighborhood yesterday, two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized “the Jewish community” while vowing to crack down on gatherings following a funeral in Williamsburg that violated social distancing recommendations, JTA reports.

A video shared on WhatsApp showed a chaotic scene on a street corner in the heart of Borough Park, with a Judaica store visible on one corner of the street.  Dozens of police officers directed a large group of visibly Orthodox Jews away from the area, many of whom wore masks and stood in the street. Some were crowded together behind yellow police tape.

The coronavirus ward at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem has closed after the last of its patients recovered, the Times of Israel reports. The last three patients — aged 88, 91 and 93 — all made a full recovery.

The ward opened on March 9 and has since treated dozens of patients. Over the past week the hospital has closed three coronavirus wards and is reinstating its regular medical operations.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke yesterday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties New York is facing. In a telephone conversation, Rivlin expressed his solidarity with the United States, and particularly with the State of New York, and expressed his sorrow for the many who have lost their lives.

Reuven told the governor that he is closely following the New York Jewish community, which is suffering from the virus and, along with all Israelis, is praying for the recovery of all those who are sick.

The Jewish Funders Network has established a partnership to purchase and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to Jewish social service providers and institutions. Working with Jewish Federations of North America and the North American Volunteer Network, JFN has distributed more than two million masks, two million gloves and 500,000 isolation gowns to 200 facilities across North America.

The philanthropy has launched a fundraising drive to pay for more medical supplies that will go to nursing homes, eldercare facilities, hospice centers and other Jewish social service providers. For information contact:; for Israeli funders,; to take part in the Pledge to Protect drive, whose goal is $3 million in the next four days.

The Israeli-American Council will hold a virtual fundraising concert to support healthcare workers and hospital staff across the United States on Sunday at 8 p.m. The event will feature several prominent Israeli entertainers.

The Sefaria online Jewish text resource is inviting people to recite all 150 Psalms as a response to the current coronavirus crisis. The virtual “Shmira,” in lieu of the traditional recital by people who guard the bodies of deceased people who are awaiting removal for burial, would include the Scripture that accompany a soul’s departure from his or her body.

The only organized minyan still functioning in Johannesburg, South Africa, has agreed to requests from outsiders to say mourning prayers for the deceased and naming ceremonies for newborn girls.

The synagogue of the Sandringham Gardens residence for the Jewish elderly in Johannesburg, which has no known cases of Covid-19 among its 400 residents, is the largest Jewish welfare organization on the African continent, according to its communications director, Tzivia Grauman. Worshipers maintain strict social distancing, keeping two meters apart, the Times of Israel reports.

In most communities worldwide, provisions have been made for circumcisions to continue, in the presence of a minyan, amid stringent social-distancing regulations. But no such exceptions have been widely made for the naming of baby girls — which is supposed to be done during the Torah reading in the presence of a minyan. Kaddish, too, requires a prayer quorum; it can be said on behalf of a mourner if the mourner is unable to do so.

Requests for Kaddish and to name babies have come from Canada, Uruguay and Brazil, as well as locally, with the worshipers collectively responsible for keeping in mind all 1,200 names while saying the designated prayer.

Zoom brought together a scattered family for the bat mitzvah of a girl whose mother had survived cancer and never thought she would be able to have children, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

An American-born kosher chef in Paris has cooked and delivered some 60 meals to medical workers at hospitals in and around the French capital, raising $1,625, and contributing an additional $541, of her own money to cover the cost of the meals.

Jewish doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients were going empty-handed while their colleagues enjoyed free food from local non-kosher restaurants. “They say, ‘We get deliveries every day, but we can’t eat a single thing,’” chef Ellie Balouka, 35, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, told JTA. Now she delivers baguettes filled with smoked salmon, watermelon radish, red onions and caper dill mayonnaise, and other breads featuring an array of grilled vegetables — peppers, zucchini, portobello mushrooms and eggplant — with goat cheese and pesto.

Officials in Israel’s Ministry of Absorption officials report that in the past few weeks at least 60,000 Israelis living abroad have express an interest in returning home soon. “There is an awakening among Israelis living abroad,” they said. Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog told the Makor Rishon religious newspaper that he anticipated “a great wave of immigration to Israel when the coronavirus crisis ends, as has happened historically in Jewish communities around the world after many crises since the establishment of the state.”

Herzog called on the Israeli government and other parties to prepare as soon as possible for an aliyah wave, and put together a well-organized plan for a massive absorption effort for the new immigrants.


The Health Ministry said Friday that the overall number of cases of Covid-19 in Israel rose to 16,004, up 134 in 24 hours as the downturn in infections persisted.

Israel on Thursday returned to some semblance of normalcy, with much of the country opening up following two days of ramped up restrictions in place for the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays, the Times of Israel reported.


International celebrities will perform on Sunday at 1 p.m.  in a virtual event of music and comedy to honor first responders and support the United Hatzalah Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund. The show will include Jay Leno, Adam Kantor, Dudu Aharon and Amar’e Stoudemire. Kantor, of Broadway fame, recently produced a similar online event called Saturday Night Seder, which raised over $3 Million for the CDC Foundation.

Zalmen Mlotek, artistic director of the National Yiddish Theater – Folksbiene, and Matthew Lazar, director of the Zamir Choral Foundation, will take part in a livestreamed conversation about “Music In Challenging Times” on Sunday at  4 p.m. The event is hosted by Zamir Choral Foundation and HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir.

Temple Emanu-El and Temple Israel of the City of New York will Present Friday Night Live, a Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration and virtual Shabbat service on Friday at 6 p.m. it will include greetings by Consul General Dani Dayan, a performance of Jerusalem of Gold by Israeli singer Shuli Natan, and remarks by Aibi Levi, a paratrooper who helped liberate the Western Wall in 1967, and Fanny Kirsch, the first Jew born in the Old City after its liberation from Jordan.

A video, “Maskmaker, Maskmaker,” a spoof on Fiddler on the Roof’s “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” is gaining popularity on Youtube.

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.