Upstate Orthodox camps want to open, Chelsea shul delivers aid, federations allocate millions


Orthodox-run Jewish summer camps are asking upstate officials to let them open as early as the end of June.

More than 50 camps asked in a May 5 letter to Sullivan County officials that they not contact Gov. Andrew Cuomo about shutting down the operations, which host thousands of children from Orthodox families, according to the New York Post.

The Brooklyn-based Association of Jewish Camp Operators, in the letter dated May 5, also promised the camps would be “run differently this summer” because of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

All children and staff members would be tested before coming to the camps, they said, and a “full and complete lockdown” would be enforced once on site, with no field trips or outside visitors allowed. Staff members could not leave the grounds on their days off. If an outbreak would occur, the group pledged that local hospitals wouldn’t be “overwhelmed” because anyone who falls ill would be taken to city hospitals by Hatzolah, a volunteer emergency medical services group.

Sullivan County’s health director, Nancy McGraw, told town supervisors that she opposed opening any summer camps in the county this year, according to

Summer camps run by the Reform movement have already announced that they will not open for the summer. Other Jewish camps and other movements are expected to follow suit.

A Prague-based Jewish foundation has started to ship medical material to New York’s Jewish community to help it fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Times of Israel reports. “The first 150-kilogram [330-pound] batch left on Thursday,” Aaron Gunsberger of the Hatikva Josefov foundation said.

Gunsberger said he decided to send help to New York while soliciting aid for the Czech Jewish community, including elderly Holocaust survivors and their relatives at high risk from coronavirus complications. For donations, he contacted Czech companies operating with kosher certificates. Companies provided money and face masks or shields that are being shipped the DHL transport company, which has donated 150 kilograms of freight space on its planes

“The United States is the biggest market for many of them, so I thought they might want to do the right thing when the New York community has been bringing them money for years,” he said.

A Passover program has evolved into an all-out-initiative to provide meals for the homebound and first responders during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Jewish Press reports.

Rabbi Chezky Wolff, the Chabad spiritual leader of the Chelsea Shul in Manhattan, said the volunteer effort is providing twice-weekly kosher food packages to the homebound and others in need of assistance, including recovering coronavirus victims. 

Earlier this year, an e-mail blast and media coverage yielded a team of volunteers who assembled more than 100 Seder-To-Go kits, which included seder plates, Haggadahs, matzah, grape juice, and step-by-step seder handbooks for the disadvantaged homebound.

The Jewish United Fund in Chicago has made $26 million available to help area residents of all faiths deal with the coronavirus crisis.

In addition, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia announced that it is releasing $7.3 million in unrestricted grants for some 30 Greater Philadelphia organizations, plus an additional $2.5 million for organizations in Israel to help them weather the coronavirus crisis. The funds are separate from the federation’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund. More than $1.3 million has been raised in that fund, with about half already distributed to over a dozen organizations in Philadelphia and in Israel.

UJA-Federation of New York has allocated more than $45 million to date to meet needs across the New York region and Israel.


16,477 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, and 252 people have died from the disease.

Israel is easing its quarantine requirements for arrivals from overseas. Instead of requiring a 14-day quarantine at state-overseen isolation hotels, it will allow returning Israelis and others whose lives are centered in Israel to self-quarantine if they can do so, the cabinet has announced. According to the Times of Israel, an entry ban on nationals from other countries whose homes are not in Israel remains in force.

The cabinet also eased some Ramadan lockdown restrictions and reopened parks and nature reserves. The steps came as the containment measures introduced to stem the outbreak have successfully brought the number of daily cases down to dozens.

The Israel Institute for Biological Research in Ness Ziona has achieved “a significant breakthrough” in its effort to find an antibody to the Covid-19 novel coronavirus, according to an announcement by the Institute and the Ministry of Defense. The antibody in question attacks the virus in a unique manner and can neutralize it in the body of the individual who contracts the illness.


Holy Blossom, a Reform congregation in Toronto, will sponsor a “Holy Blossom Folks Telling Jokes” program on Monday at 8 p.m. The Zoom event is designed “to share humour with our community and help release a little tension during these challenging times.”

A fundraising concert on behalf of Uganda’s small Jewish community, which is facing food shortages during the current pandemic, will be conducted on Monday at 8 p.m. by the Cantors Assembly.

A webinar program on the work of Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, an Orthodox author and thinker for several decades, will be held on Zoom on Monday at 2 p.m. “The Eighties, the New Heresy Hunting and the Trial of Rabbi Yitz Greenberg” will feature Rabbi Seth Farber, an Orthodox activist in Israel.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage has announced several upcoming virtual programs.

Tuesday, 2 p.m., “Remembering the MS St. Louis,”

Thursday, 2 p.m., “Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America” Book Talk

May 19, 2 p.m., “Suing Nazis: A Case Update And Discussion With Integrity First For America,”

May 21, 2 p.m., “I Want You To Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir Launch With Esther & Jonathan Safran Foer,”

The Jewish Museum is offering a video of “Once Upon a Time: Narrative in Art,” a conversation with artist Rachel Feinstein and filmmaker Lisa Yuskavage. The Museum’s schedule of upcoming Instagram activities includes conversations with artists Beatriz Milhazes (May 7), Andrea Bowers (May 14), and Laurie Simmons (May 21). Beatriz Milhazes (May 7), Andrea Bowers (May 14), and Laurie Simmons (May 21).

The Jewish Community of Rye will host a virtual talk by Deborah Feldman, author of “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots,” on May 24 at 3 p.m.

Former Soviet refusenik Marina Furman, executive director of Jewish National Fund’s National Major Donor Advancement, will share her story of “survival, strength, and resilience” at JNF-USA’s Women for Israel Zoom Conversation on Monday at 3 p.m.

JLens will host its 2nd Jewish Impact Investing Summit virtually on May 18 and 19 at noon-3 p.m. It will “transition from the ‘why’ to the ‘how’ of impact investing, uniquely framed for the Jewish community.”

Former basketball star Tal Brody, Israel’s Goodwill Ambassador, will headline the first in a series of monthly Zoom events sharing stories of “heroes of Israel” on Thursday at 10 a.m. Brody, a Trenton native who became an Israeli citizen and led the Israeli national team to two European championships, will share his experiences in this Zoom series organized by the American Friends of Kaplan Medical Center. Other participants will include a former operations officer from the Israeli Army’s Elite Unit 669 responsible for international rescue missions, and Niv and Sigal Nehemiah, victims of a 2017 terrorist attack.

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Or Halev, the Center for Jewish Spirituality & Meditation, will host “Opening the Heart Virtual Retreat” on May 17 at 4 p.m. The virtual meditation retreat “will provide a container for deep practice and for finding stability in these uncertain times.” For information:

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.