Sharansky donates prize money, Arab Israelis call strike, death of a subway conductor


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Natan Sharansky’s $1 million winnings from the eighth Genesis Prize will be used to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and support individuals most affected by it in Israel, the United States and seven other countries, JTA reports.

Sharansky, the former Soviet prisoner-of-conscience and ex-chairman of the Jewish Agency, and the Genesis Prize Foundation also announced the formation of a new competition to reward Israeli innovations working to stop the pandemic. The coronavirus is a “new challenge, a new enemy,” Sharansky said. His other interests, he said, “can wait a little bit.”

In Israel, the grants will fund nine organizations working to help the most vulnerable populations affected by the pandemic and advance medical and scientific innovation. Grants will also help isolated and elderly Jews in Rome, Madrid, Paris, Moscow, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Belarus.

Sharansky, 72, has been helping Jews around the world during the pandemic by speaking to Jewish schools, groups and communities about living in isolation.

A new Jewish organization hopes to fight climate change by coalescing the community’s “rapid and widespread collective action” in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Action, hopes to be a “spiritual, religious, and moral voice in the national and global movements confronting the climate crisis. Dayenu aims to transform climate policy, end financing of fossil fuels and through the united voice of the American Jewish community, and pressure candidates and elected officials to take real action creating climate solutions”

Dayenu is led by Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, who served as vice president for community engagement at HIAS, and Phil Aroneanu, a veteran organizer and political strategist.

Partners in Torah is seeking to preserve the coronavirus crisis memories of members of the Jewish community – “the kind of memories that we’ll share with our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, which they’ll talk about for generations to come. To participate:


The toll of people in Israel who have died of coronavirus stands at 232; the number of men and women diagnosed with the disease has risen to 16,202.

The Committee of Local Arab Authorities has called a general strike, beginning on Tuesday, explaining that it is taking the step because of the “serious neglect it has been facing from the government amid the coronavirus crisis,” the Jerusalem Post reports, “The government continues to abandon us and not raise a finger,” Joint List Knesset Member Yousef Jabareen wrote on his Twitter page. “I back this important decision and demand that government ministries remember that 20% of its citizens are Arabs and also need to cope with the crisis.”

A recent report by the Health Ministry showed that a high percentage of Arab coronavirus patients, in addition to haredi patients, infect their family members.

In preparation for the month of Ramadan, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he had spoken with Arab mayors and concluded that there is an urgent need for increased law enforcement and coronavirus evacuations in the Arab sector.

Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month during which Muslims fast during the daytime and pray, feast and socialize at night, has been a major worry in Israel amid the coronavirus outbreak, as large gatherings in the evenings may lead to the spread of the illness.

Most Arab-Israeli towns fear coronavirus will peak in their regions and they must therefore be provided with more resources to combat the spread.

Ramadan this year began on April 23.


Benjamin Schaeffer, a veteran subway conductor in New York City, has died of Covid-19 at 58. He was one of 96 New York transit workers to succumb to the disease.

One of just two Orthodox Jews who worked as MTA conductors, in October he made headlines when MTA asked him to prove that he observed Rosh HaShanah to get the day off from work, the Daily News reports. The year before, he was hailed as a hero when he quickly evacuated a subway car in Brooklyn after a passenger poured gasoline over the floor of the train. The MTA awarded Schaeffer a medal for his efforts.

In the days before his death, his wife, Lisa Smid, and others led a frantic online push for blood plasma donors from those who had recovered from Covid-19. “Unfortunately, by the time Ben received the treatment, he had already been on a ventilator for some time,” Rapid Transit Operations Vice President Eric Loegel wrote in a statement.

“We’ve had our last subway ride together,” Smid wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “And it wasn’t his turn to get off.”


Chai Lifeline is offering “Going Through It, Growing Through It: Torah Perspectives and Mindful Coping in the Age of COVID-19,” a new lecture series with words of moral support, psychological, and practical guidance during the current health crisis. The series will include video and audio recordings of prominent rabbis and mental health experts. The first video in the series features Rabbi Eytan Feiner, spiritual leader of the White Shul in Far Rockaway, and Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox, Project Chai director of Interventions and Community Education.

Torah Umesorah has compiled a collection of educational resources for families trying to handle at-home schooling while day schools are closed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Included are materials, programs and general advice it. For information:

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, presents a Zoom seminar offering measures for ensuring the “health and safety” of the Jewish community, and for protecting human rights and civil liberties, on Monday at noon. Participants will include experts from Israel and the U.S.

The America-Israel Friendship League will hold an online celebration of Theodor Herzl’s 160th birthday, featuring Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, today, May 4, at noon.

American Jewish University will host a webinar on Jewish Traces: The Lost Synagogues of Los Angeles, with Artist Hillel Smith, today, May 4, at noon.

Mexico’s leading Israeli folk dance group drew thousands of online views by sharing choreography it was set to premiere at a traditional regional festival canceled due to coronavirus, the Times of Israel reports.

Each quarantined dancer of Anajnu Veatem – Hebrew for “We and You” – and several musicians were recorded from their homes in Mexico, Israel, and Costa Rica. The nearly 10-minute video shows the choreography that was planned for the 47th edition of Festival Aviv. One of Latin America’s major events to highlight Israeli folklore, the festival was supposed to be held on March 21-29 in Mexico City. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was canceled like all other events of the country’s 50,000-strong Jewish community.

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.