Health Dept. warns Brooklyn shul, Bob Kraft offers Super Bowl ring, Lag B’Omer marked online


The New York Health Department has sent a warning to the Brooklyn synagogue whose funeral for its spiritual leader two weeks ago led Mayor Bill de Blasio to lash out at the entire Jewish community, Jewish Insider reports. The cease-and-desist order applies to Congregation Tolaas Yaakov, in the Williamsburg neighborhood, which has continued to violate the state’s executive order prohibiting gatherings and religious services.

If the synagogue continues to defy the executive order prohibiting non-essential large gatherings, then it will be shut down, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office told Jewish Insider. The synagogue held a memorial for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, with the participation of at least 100 people, a week after the April 29 funeral and a week before the order was served.

Some 2,500 mourners attended the funeral for Rabbi Mertz and did not observe the proper social distancing rules. Police, who had been contacted about the funeral and set up barricades, later dispersed the crowds.

You can own one of New England Patriots owner’s Robert Kraft Super Bowl rings while helping those in need facing food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic. “But it’s gonna cost you,” ESPN reports.

Kraft is putting his Super Bowl LI championship ring up for auction as part of the All-In Challenge, a digital fundraiser created by Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin.

Included in the purchase of the ring is a trip on the Patriots’ team plane to Gillette Stadium in suburban Boston, where the buyer will receive the ring in the team’s trophy room and be invited to a personal meeting with Kraft. Kraft said he picked the Super Bowl ring from the 2017 game because of the Patriots’ stunning 34-28 comeback win in overtime over the Atlanta Falcons — the Pats were down 28-3 in the third quarter — and the parallels that can be drawn with the current struggle in the United States against the coronavirus.

Kraft, a winner of the Genesis Prize, the so-called Jewish Nobel, for his philanthropy, has earned six Super Bowl rings as owner of the Patriots.

For the first time since the coronavirus crisis erupted, a global roundtable will meet to assess the damage caused by the virus on Jewish communities and to prepare a plan to rehabilitate those harshly impacted after the crisis subsides.

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog and Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Tzipi Hotovely have asked Jewish organizations worldwide to join the roundtable, which is set to convene online for the first time on May 26. It will identify situations of “significant hardship requiring a systemic response, and the communities’ needs looking ahead to the post-pandemic period.” The forum will also discuss preparation for a possible second Covid-19 outbreak and identify new opportunities, initiatives and communal structures, as well as ways to help redesign communities. The roundtable is expected to convene every two weeks.

According to data collected by The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and The Jewish Agency for Israel, thousands have died in Jewish communities worldwide. In many areas, Jewish institutions are completely paralyzed or in the process of collapse.

Last month, The Jewish Agency for Israel, together with Keren Hayesod and Jewish Federations of North America, launched a $10 million loan fund to help Jewish communities impacted by the virus.

At least 1,300 members of France’s Jewish community have died of Covid-19, the country’s Jewish burial society told JTA.  That makes the French Jewish community the worst hit in Europe by far. 

Hundreds of bodies have been flown to be buried in Israel, according to the report, and some estimates speak of 2,000 Jewish fatalities. Among the French Jews who contracted the virus and recovered was Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire group that provides religious services for Orthodox Jews.

The United Kingdom has recorded burials for 372 Jews. France has about 500,000 Jews, double the number of the U.K. community.

Claiming a major breakthrough in coronavirus research, researchers in Israel have confirmed that they have made significant progress in isolating an antibody that could be used to treat those sickened by coronavirus, Forbes reports. Although the antibody has not been tested on animals or humans, it appears to meet three key clinical components necessary for a viable treatment, giving hope that the development of a treatment could be shortened substantially.

Israeli researchers claimed in a statement that “as far as we know, according to comprehensive scientific publication from around the world, the Biological Research Institute is the first in the world to achieve this breakthrough in these three parameters at the same time.”

Raza Designs, a New York manufacturer of Shabbat robes and other loungewear for observant Jewish women, is making and donating medical masks to hospitals, medical providers, ambulance corps and senior citizen centers. The “Mask Project” has distributed more than 5,000 in the last month. For every pack purchased, Raza Designs donates two packs to New York and New Jersey medical facilities to help boost their supplies. Purchases help  cover materials and labor costs for continued donations.


Israel’s death toll from the novel coronavirus has reached 258, and the Health Ministry said the number of confirmed infections had reached 16,506.

Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, one of the most important figures in the Israeli government response to the coronavirus outbreak, announced that he will step down from his post following the installment of a new health minister when the new government is sworn in on Thursday.

The move comes days after the cabinet voted to significantly ease restrictions on movement, against the recommendation of Bar Siman-Tov, the Times of Israel reports.

Bar Siman-Tov, who has taken a hardline approach in favor of broadly shutting down the country since the beginning of the pandemic, has sparred with Finance Ministry officials who have warned that such drastic measures would make it difficult to recover from the impending recession.


Dr. Elliot Samet, a popular pediatrician in Passaic, N.J., died on April 7 of a heart attack while battling Covid-19. He was 69.

For nearly 40 years, Dr. Samet had a pediatric practice in Passaic where he cared for countless children in the local Orthodox community, JTA reports. He was known for his willingness to interrupt his Shabbat meals when parents showed up with medical questions. He was also a founding board member of the local branch of the Hatzolah emergency services organization.


American Friends of Migdal Ohr will sponsor an online fundraising Lag b’Omer concert on Tuesday at 5 p.m. It will feature performances by Mordechai ben David, Ishay Ribo and Yaakov Shwekey. Proceeds will go to the Israel COVID Relief Fund. Registration is $18.

Shlomo Brody, an Israeli scholar, has prepared a video with suggestions for taking part in an outdoor minyan that conforms with Israeli social distancing regulations. Such gatherings are still discouraged in the U.S. under various state regulations and guidelines by Jewish groups.

The Rosh Chodesh Project, a worldwide video curriculum project under the auspices of the Vahashayvosa Foundation, will hold a Lag B’Omer virtual event, featuring music and words of religious inspiration, on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The event will also include “One Chance,” a short film about Shimon bar Yochai.

Shurat HaDin legal advocacy organization will hold an online panel discussion on China’s legal liability for its role in the global pandemic on Tuesday at 1 p.m. The Israeli NGO said it plans to file a class action lawsuit against China over its alleged negligence in treating and containing the coronavirus.

Kosher Travelers will host a virtual Lag b’Omer concert by the Solomon Brothers Band on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel will sponsor a Lag b’Omer webinar about “inclusivity and egalitarianism” on Tuesday at noon.

JCC Camps of North America will hold its first “Flagpole” gathering on Wednesday at 8 p.m. The solidarity musical event will feature singing artist Rick Recht, Nefesh Mountain, Hadar and Sheldon, as well as “inspiring news from JCC Camp community leaders, directors, counselors, campers and alumni.”

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.