Leaders plan global response, rare good news for Jewish media, El Al’s woes mount


Jewish leaders from around the world convened a videoconference yesterday to prepare for when the crisis ends, JTA reports. The leaders of 30 regional umbrella organizations held a roundtable forum convened by The Jewish Agency for Israel and Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to assess the devastating implications of the coronavirus on the communities and the steps to address their most pressing needs.

While newspapers around the world are fighting for survival, Canada’s Jewish community has welcomed the near-simultaneous birth of two publications: The Canadian Jewish Record (CJR) and TheJ.ca, which made their online debut only 20 minutes apart, according to the Times of Israel.

The demise of the six-decade-old Canadian Jewish News last month, in parallel with the near-death of the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish News in Great Britain, sent shockwaves through the world of Jewish journalism. “It was a stark reminder of its vulnerable state, especially since Covid-19 dealt a gut-punch to national and local economies,” the Times of Israel reported.

The New Jersey-based Russell Berrie Foundation announced $4.48 million in emergency grants to support organizations “on the front lines of combatting the pandemic as they deliver Covid-19 relief efforts.”

Of the $4.48 million, a total of $1.82 million in grants have been approved to serve organizations based primarily in Northern New Jersey, including $235,000 granted to Jewish communal institutions supporting the foundation’s local community. The remaining $2.66 million in grants have been approved to serve emergency needs in Israel.

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah has prepared a Shavuot 5780 reader in collaboration with Yeshivat Maharat and the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

Recommended reading: “Montreal Addicts and Alcoholics Get Online Help During Pandemic,” By Karen Schwartz. Chabad.org reports on Chabad Lifeline, a Montreal-based center that provides services to people in recovery from addictions of every kind, has had to adapt its activities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bonnie Shloush, who runs the pre-school (Aleph Bet NY Pre-School of Murray Hill) of Congregation Adereth El in the east Manhattan neighborhood, is hosting an Ice Cream Social on Zoom on Thursday, the afternoon before Shavuot starts.

Shloush, whose husband, Rabbi Gideon Shloush, is the synagogue’s spiritual leader, are inviting two dozen boys and girls in her pre-school, and the 17 students in the shul’s Sunday School, to call in at 4 p.m. It will be a BYOIC – bring your own ice cream, and “favorite topping” – event. Participants will hear music and videos and thoughts on the significance of the holiday. “We won’t be just sitting and eating,” she said.

Rabbi Shloush has prepared a lineup of lectures by scholars to take place on Zoom on Thursday from 5-7 p.m., in place of the all-night Shavuot learning sessions that have been cancelled due coronavirus restrictions.

“We need to keep that spark [of interest in Judaism] going … in a food-friendly way,” says Shloush, who has continued her pre-school going despite the lockdown. “The ability for the kids to see each other is super important.”

For information about joining the event: alephbetNY@gmail.com.


Restaurants, pubs, hotels, pools and other establishments began opening up and hosting patrons on Wednesday, hours after authorities gave the go ahead to ease pandemic restrictions and allow some of the last businesses remaining shut amid coronavirus to reopen, the Times of Israel reports. The government yesterday announced that it had given final approval to the businesses to reopen, two months after they were shut in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Most other locations, including schools, malls, gyms, beaches and other types of stores have already been allowed to reopen as daily infection totals have slimmed to a few dozen or less. Despite the green light, many bars and restaurants are expected to stay shut due to financial hardships and hygiene and distancing guidelines that could make it difficult to recoup losses.

An estimated 4,500 restaurants will remain shuttered, leaving 70,000 employees without work.

Americans and other non-Israeli citizens studying in Israeli yeshivas and religious seminaries will be permitted to return to Israel to resume their studies, Israel’s Interior Ministry has ruled, Arutz Sheva reports. In a letter written by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the ministry announced that non-citizens carrying valid student visas will be permitted to return to Israel, ending the ban on their return that had been put in place during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because of the importance of Torah learning and the return of regular studies” in yeshivas, wrote Deri, “I have decided, in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry and the Health Ministry, to permit married yeshiva students learning in established institutions, along with their families, to return to Israel, if they’re carrying valid visas.”

Unmarried yeshiva students will also be able to return to Israel to resume their studies, Deri wrote, so long as the yeshiva declares that the student has a place in a separate dormitory to isolate returning students, in accordance with Health Ministry regulations.

Israel’s economy contracted by 7.1 percent in the first quarter of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the sharpest decline in 20 years, according to an estimate based on partial data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Times of Israel reports. The CBS noted that the contraction of the economy was more severe than after the 9/11 attacks and the 2008 global financial crash.

The most damage was in private consumption — clothing, household goods, cars, small electrical goods, furniture and jewelry.

Adding to the troubles of Israel’s struggling national carrier, the Airports Authority has reportedly demanded that El Al pay back tens of millions in fees it owes for office space and parking for its planes at Ben Gurion Airport over the past three months, the Times of Israel reports. El Al has failed to pay the fees since February, when international air travel was almost wiped out worldwide in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ynet news site reported Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the carrier warned it was in danger of collapse if bailout negotiations with the government fail.

One hundred and fifteen Indian nationals boarded an Air India flight from Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday, returning home to their native country after being stranded in Israel for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Indian English-language daily The Hindu. The passengers on board the flight included unemployed caregivers, pregnant women and students, as well as five Israeli diplomats who were posted to Delhi.

The evacuation was part of the “Vande Bharat Mission” that the Indian government launched in early May, which aims to help Indians abroad return home due to the coronavirus restrictions limiting travel worldwide.


The JCC Association of North America will present a Shalom Sesame Shavuot Special, “Countdown to Shavuot!” on Facebook Live on Wednesday at 3 p.m. The program features Shalom Sesame’s Avigail and Brosh and other Muppets to learning about Shavuot.

Beth Tzedec Congregation of Toronto will host a musical rendition of the Book of Ruth, which is read on Shavuot, on Wednesday at 7:40 p.m.

Chabad-Lubavitch will present a pre-Shavuot Yizkor program on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Names of deceased people submitted in advance will be read during the program.

“A Very Israeli Pre-Leil Tikkun” program will presented by the Israel Forever Foundation on Wednesday at noon.

The BTS Center, a Maine-based religious think tank, will present an online panel discussion, featuring Rabbi Michael Knopf of Richmond, Vir., on religious challenges during the pandemic, on Wednesday at 8 p.m. They will discuss “how parents are experimenting with faith and identity formation at home.”

Ohr Torah Stone, founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, will hold an all-night study session in honor of his 80th birthday, starting on Wednesday at 1 a.m. until Thursday at 1 a.m. Two concurrent Zoom classes will be offered during each half hour period.

Excel, a fellowship for young Jewish adults with a passion for business, technology and innovation, which is affiliated with Taglit Birthright-Israel, will host a webinar on “The Gift of Torah: Midrash and Halacha for Shavuot,” featuring educator Danny Siegel, on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Camp Ramah in the Berkshires will hold a Community Town Hall meeting on Wednesday at 8 p.m. to discuss the camp’s plans for this summer.

Reboot will present “DAWN: An All-Night Cultural Arts Festival Celebrating Shavuot,” on Thursday at 10 p.m., until Friday at 9 a.m.  “We will spend the night immersed in the arts, music, comedy, food, film, learning and conversation – all presented by some of the greatest artists, rabbis and thinkers of our generation,” Reboot announced.

Israeli entrepreneur Jonathan Medved will discuss “Startup nation at war: How Israel is leading the race to the vaccine and so much more in the Covid-19 battleground,” online Wednesday at 4 p.m. The event is sponsored by Hillel@Home.

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.