Cuomo OKs small religious services, a warning from the ADL, members save a JCC


After two months of shuttered synagogues and empty pews, religious services will be allowed to resume with restrictions in New York state beginning on Thursday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in his daily news conference yesterday that religious services may begin if limited to 10 or fewer participants with social distancing and masks in place.

Cuomo stressed that caution must be exercised to make sure the religious gatherings do not become an opportunity for the virus to spread further, pointing to the case of  Young Israel of New Rochelle, which was at the center of a cluster of cases in March.

“The last thing we want to do is have a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected,” Cuomo said. “We know from New Rochelle, Westchester, the first hot spot, that religious ceremonies can be very dangerous.”

As New Yorkers grow weary of a months-long shutdown, some of the schools are resuming operation in violation of the state’s rules, JTA reports.  One Orthodox school was shuttered by police on Monday.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to shut down and penalize schools that convene students illegally during the pandemic. “There’s been reports for weeks now of quote-unquote underground schools,” he said in an interview with 1010 WINS Tuesday, according to the New York Post. “If we find them, we’ll shut them down and they won’t come back.”

Leaders in the Orthodox community say they do not condone school reopenings in violation of Gov. Cuomo’s executive order shuttering schools. But in a statement Tuesday, Agudath Israel of America said schools need guidance about how and when to reopen.

“Religious expression and children’s education should not be last on the list of priorities for safe reopening,” the organization said, while stressing that it does not run or oversee any yeshivas. “In fact, by both legal and moral imperative, they should be among the first.”

A group of 18 Los Angeles Orthodox rabbis issued a letter opposing “any minyanim or learning groups (outside of immediate family) whatsoever over Shavuot.”

In a May 15 letter on Facebook and their own synagogue websites, the rabbis note that Los Angeles County is not allowing the opening of houses of worship. Per the guidelines of the Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America, they will reconsider reopening their synagogues only “at least two weeks after the local government has allowed public gatherings of more than ten persons, and have not seen upticks in disease.”

Extremists are exploiting the uncertainty of the coronavirus and using fear to spread “dangerous and hateful messages,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told Congress.

Speaking at a House of Representatives Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism Wednesday, Greenblatt said, “Virus-related conspiracy theories are proliferating. These antisemitic, anti-Asian-American, xenophobic, hateful messages have spread misplaced blame and pushed out misinformation into the mainstream. And while some of these messages are indeed new, many of them are simply old tropes repackaged during a modern pandemic.”

He said that extremists are targeting Jewish communities with antisemitic myths of Jewish control, “as if Jews somehow started the coronavirus or are uniquely responsible for spreading it.”

Repair the World is launching an online platform to provide Jewish nonprofits with expert support in areas like marketing and communications, web development, operations and strategy.

“Skills for Impact” will be a “central, go-to resource for Repair to drive the Jewish community to take action virtually at a time when many people have more time and a deep desire to contribute their skills and resources safely,” said Cindy Greenberg, CEO of the Jewish service organization.

Run by Catchafire, a site that matches professionals with “social-good” organizations, the project is a . partnership with Avodah, JCC Association of North America, JDC Entwine, JFNA, JPRO Network, Moishe House, OLAM, Birthright Excel, and Honeymoon Israel.

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo, which shut down last month, was saved by its members, WKBW-TV reports. Rob Bari, the assistant director of membership, said 75 percent of the community center’s members, many of them not Jewish, asked to turn their dues to donations. Memberships generate  about a quarter of the center’s revenue for the year. As some parts of the state un-PAUSE, the JCC is preparing to reopen operations.

Israel’s Tzomet Institute, which develops technology that accords with Jewish law, has introduced a thermometer that can be used in synagogues and hospitals on Shabbat, the Jewish Press reports. The infrared thermometer operates automatically, without the need to press any buttons. The device could allow Sabbath-observant institutions to fully comply with government screening regulations for temperature checks, without the violation of any Shabbat laws.

Shulem Lemmer, a chasidic cantor who has broken into pop music stardom, entertained health care workers in New York City last week.


The Jerusalem and Tel Aviv municipalities have announced separate pedestrian projects that will see streets closed off to cars, the Times of Israel reports.

Prof. Gabby Sarusi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has invented an “almost instantaneous, affordable breath test” for COVID-19, based on spectroscopy, which outputs the positive or negative result in less than a minute, the university has announced.

The device, which can test one’s breath or nasal or throat swabs, is still undergoing validation, a process of another two to three months. Mass production may begin in September or October.


The Jewish Theological Seminary will livestream its commencement exercises on Thursday at 11 a.m. For information:

Drisha faculty member Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier will participate in an online conversation with Israeli philosopher Rabbi Yuval Charlow on Thursday at 2 p.m. Their topic: “The influence of Rav Kook and the Rav on the US and Israel.”

Rob Eshman, national editor of The Forward, will take part in a Zoom demonstration of making a dairy-based cocktail and beet soup on Thursday at 8 p.m. He will also discuss “how the Jewish community can help people meet the challenges of this pandemic and what the post pandemic future will look like for the Jewish world.”

United with Israel will hold an online celebration of Jerusalem Day on Thursday at 11 a.m. Rabbinic Director Ari Enkin will discuss “Jerusalem’s Temple Mount: World’s Most Explosive Piece of Real Estate.”

A group of cantors will perform in a livestreamed fundraising concert for the Hatzilu Rescue Organization, which delivers kosher food and cash grants to the struggling, infirm and elderly on Long Island, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. For information: or

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces will host a virtual Jerusalem Day celebration on Thursday at 7 p.m. It will include a panel discussion consisting of veteran and active-duty soldiers of the Paratroopers Brigade that liberated Jerusalem in 1967. For information:

The Jewish Experience Institute of the American Sephardi Federation has launched “The Global Nação Conference,” a virtual conference uniting dispersed Spanish and Portuguese communities, through May 27. Go here for a calendar of online events.

A group of female Israeli emissaries will sponsor an online leadership program for girls, “Leading Ladies of Israel,” on Thursday at 2 p.m.

The Yeshiva University Museum will host a Jerusalem Day program, a “Musical Journey through the City of Gold,” featuring selections from Yeshiva University Museum’s collection, on Thursday at 1 p.m.

The Jewish Theological Seminary will host a pre-Shavuot learning program about the uniqueness of the Ten Commandments on May 26 at 1 p.m.

Rabbi David Novak, president of the Union for Traditional Judaism, will discuss “the halakhic and pragmatic issues involved in opening our synagogues” in a Zoom webinar, on Thursday at 8 p.m.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, will be in conversation with Bishop Robert Stearns, president of Eagles’ Wings Christian Zionist organization, about the Jewish and Christian perspectives on Yom Yerushalayim on Thursday at 9:11 p.m.

Join The Jewish Week and UJA-Federation for a powerful virtual evening with Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Thursday, June 4, 6:00 PM – 8:00 p.m. Friedman and Andrew Silow-Carroll, The Jewish Week’s editor in chief, will discuss and take questions on the domestic and global ramifications of the coronavirus crisis and other international affairs challenges. The event is free, but you must register here.