Layoffs at Jewish groups, Schumer pledges nonprofit aid, Israel opens malls


The pandemic is hitting a growing number of prominent Jewish organizations in the pocketbook:

Jewish Federations of North America yesterday announced layoffs and executive salary cuts, JTA reports.

A letter from its CEO Eric Fingerhut and chair Mark Wilf did not specify how many staff members were laid off, or what they do at the organization, but multiple sources familiar with JFNA confirmed that the cuts ran deep, with as many as 37 staff members laid off, out of a total staff size of about 180 in the United States and Israel.

“We need to redirect resources. Accordingly, we have today implemented a plan to reduce the number of full-time employees at JFNA so that we can aggressively pursue the priority needs that have become clear during this emergency period,” the leaders said in their announcement.

The umbrella group of communal fundraising and programming organizations is leading an emergency coalition to coordinate the Jewish response to the current financial crisis.

Senior staff of Yeshiva University will take voluntary pay cuts through the end of the year, according to JTA. University President Ari Berman told staff and students in an email that he will take a 20 percent cut, and each member of the senior staff a 5-10 percent reduction.

YU classes were moved online in March, and employees, except those considered essential, were ordered to work remotely. Rabbi Berman said in his email that some employees whose jobs cannot be performed remotely are being furloughed, which will enable them to retain their health benefits and become eligible for state and federal assistance.

He announced the establishment of an emergency scholarship campaign “to directly assist our students who are in need and who have been deeply affected by this virus.” The university will raise tuition fees for the 2020-21 academic year to $43,575, an increase of $1,575, and $2,900 in miscellaneous undergraduate fees, The Commentator student newspaper reported.

B&H Photo & Electronics, a Manhattan business with a large Orthodox Jewish staff, has furloughed hundreds of employees, a move the iconic retailer had resisted for more than a month after its megastore in Manhattan was forced to shutter because of the coronavirus lockdown, The New York Post reports. The 47-year-old electronics seller, whose owner Herman Schreiber is a member of the Satmar chasidic movement, furloughed about 400 of its 2,000 employees.

In a memo to affected employees, human resources director Izzy Friedman said B&H “waited as long as possible” before making the cuts, and noted the company had been paying and providing benefits for affected workers “through the Passover holiday break, and beyond to make this easier.” B&H was likewise waiting to “evaluate the various stimulus benefits available,” but was forced in the end to furlough workers because the “crisis has continued with no clear end in sight,” Friedman added.

Yad Vashem put 107 of its 700 employees on unpaid leave for four months, a move that its workers’ union is disputing in court, according to the Jerusalem Post. The Holocaust memorial center has been closed since March 15.

Over 100 tour guides who were put on unpaid leave when the museum closed. The entrance to the museum is free, with the museum mostly relying on public funds and donations.

Workers accuse the management of lack of dialogue and transparency in violations of the commitments agreed between the parties in the collective bargaining agreement.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, told Orthodox Jewish groups that the next round of pandemic relief will extend support to nonprofits employing more than 500 people.

“We will get this in the bill,” the New York Democrat said Wednesday in a web call with the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America.

Congress is currently negotiating what will be the fifth relief and stimulus package spurred by the damage to the economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing quarantine measures.

The $2.2 trillion relief act passed in March, the third and largest so far, included $350 billion in payroll protections for small businesses, including nonprofits. The funds dried up within two weeks.

Jewish nonprofits had failed to secure an exemption in the March bill from the definition of a small business as one employing less than 500 people. Some of the larger national Jewish groups and Jewish Community Centers in large cities, among others, were ineligible for the payroll protection, which took the form of a loan covering salaries plus extras for two months and could easily turn into a grant.

Schumer also said it was likely that the new bill would remove a $300 cap on charitable donation declarations on tax returns. The bill passed in March revived the charitable deduction, which had been removed in tax reforms that passed early in the Trump administration, but nonprofits have argued that the $300 cap in the March bill was too limiting to spur the giving that will be needed to make up the shortfalls.


16,310 people in Israel have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 239 have died. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 515 people tested positive; two people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 17 people were diagnosed, 12 of which recovered.

Malls, outdoor markets and gyms were set to reopen ThursdayIsrael has already approved a series of steps to ease the lockdown restrictions, including allowing group prayer, partial reopening of the economy and stores, and easing fines for not wearing masks in public, Haaretz reports.

Israelis who wish to gain entry to markets and malls will likely be required to download a mandatory coronavirus tracking app.

El Al will operate 60 humanitarian cargo flights from the Chinese city of Wuhan to several major European cities via Israel, the airline has announced. Flights will be carried out with El Al’s Dreamliner fleet, each carrying approximately 25 tons of humanitarian aid to assist the battle against the coronavirus outbreak. The first flight will land at Ben-Gurion Airport later on Monday, carrying masks and protective suits, before taking off for London. 

The international airport in Wuhan, where the Covid-19 outbreak originated, reopened in early April after two months of closure.

Judo world champion Sagi Muki will auction off personal items and memorabilia to purchase and donate respirators to the Laniado Medical Center in Netanya, where he was born, the Jerusalem Post reports. “I hope I can raise as much money as I can for the purpose of saving lives,” he said. “When we are in hard times like this, the Israeli people and the Jewish nation are very strong.”


Ann Einhorn, a Holocaust survivor from Forest Hills who had worked as a seamstress and in retirement became a successful gambler, died at her home April 13 following a suspected coronavirus infection. She was 96.

Blonde and blue-eyed, she was the only member of her family who survived Auschwitz. She was eventually liberated from another camp, Theresienstadt.

She was sent to Hungary and then Italy, where she met her first husband, Izidore, a tailor who was substantially older. They moved to the United States, settled in the Bronx, had a daughter and eventually divorced. She and her daughter, Susan, then moved to Forest Hills and she married her second husband, Otto. After they retired, the two traveled twice a week to Foxwoods, where she became a proficient gambler.

Henri Kichka, a Belgian Holocaust survivor who did not discuss his wartime experiences for most of his life, then started telling his life’s story at schools in his homeland and accompanied schoolchildren to Auschwitz, has died at 94.

“His personal suffering during the Holocaust became the prism through which he saw and understood the world and humankind,” Kichka’s son, Michel, told  JTA. “It became a mission in his eyes,” said Michel, who wrote a graphic novel, “Second Generation: The Things I Didn’t Tell My Father,” based on the family story. “His audiences were captivated by his words, by the direct way he expressed himself—in simple terms and with much emotion.”

Alvin Donald, cantor emeritus at Temple Emanuel in Randallstown, Md., and a popular Jewish wedding officiant, died April 13 due to complications from the coronavirus at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown, the Baltimore Sun reports. He was 92.


UJA-Federation will host a Zoom seminar on resiliency on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who will share stories of her life. The popular sex therapist will be joined in conversation by Ari Ackerman, philanthropist and entrepreneur.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will host an online lecture by Harvard Historian Ruth Wisse on “The Dark Side of Holocaust Education,” on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Wisse will discuss her thesis that “liberal pluralism” has turned Holocaust education “against the Jews.”  For information: Note: Tikvah sponsored this lecture, not the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces presents the head of the Technological Division of the Israeli Army Ground Forces, Brig. Gen. Tal Aharon, in a webinar on Thursday at noon. He will discuss the supply chain and technological development in the IDF in relation to the spread of Covid-19.

Chabad of Midtown’s Jewish Women’s Circle will hold a virtual Challah Bake on Thursday at 5 p.m. To take part: Zoom ID – 684- 033-2491; password – CHALLAH.

Actress Mayim Bialik is taking part in a half-hour story time session on Mondays at 7 p.m. as part of an initiative of Afterschool Village, a “holistic, non-profit family center” in California that offers afterschool programs and family support. Bialik reads an assortment of unique picture books, chosen by her and the Afterschool Village staff.

Hillel and Sharsheret will sponsor an online panel discussion on “Coping Skills For Living At Home After Living It Up At School” on Thursday at 3 p.m. Participants will be psychotherapist Shera Spar Dubitsky; Sharsheret Senior Advisor; Sharsheret Florida Regional Director Briana Schwarz,  and Jamie Zinn, Hereditary Cancer Awareness Advocate.

The American Jewish Committee’s Advocacy Anywhere project will sponsor two online programs this week: “Combating Hate and Misinformation Online,” Thursday at noon, during which Facebook and Twitter representatives will discuss what their platforms are doing to counter hate speech and address the “ever-present misinformation around the coronavirus”; and “From Tragedy to Triumph,” Friday at noon. AJC CEO David Harris will discuss Israel’s creation in the wake of the Holocaust, the “remarkable journey from the depths of despair to the joy of redemption.”

The Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre will sponsor a series of online programs.

May 7, May 14, and May 21 at 7:30 p.m., “Zalmen Mlotek’s Living Room Concerts.”

May 12, 7:30 p.m., a discussion with producer Emanuel “Manny” Azenberg, “From the Bronx to Broadway,” moderated by Budd Mishkin.

May 13 at 7:30 p.m., Ron Tal, “A Celebration of Israeli Music.”

May 19 and May 26, 1 p.m., a 15-minute Yiddish lesson with Motl Didner.

May 27, 7:30 p.m., Lisa Fishman in concert.

The Community Alliance for Jewish-Affiliated Cemeteries will hold a webinar on Thursday at noon on issues that cemeteries face during the pandemic.

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.