Restrictions eased on Israel programs, Agriprocessors patriarch dies, groups offer Shavuot study


Participants in the Masa Israel Journey program, an umbrella organization for gap-year experiences in Israel, will be able to enter Israel from other countries despite Israel’s closure due to the coronavirus crisis.

The program announced Wednesday that Israel’s Ministry of the Interior confirmed it will approve entry for travelers with Masa visas, including those who were in Israel and left during the coronavirus pandemic and those who will enter Israel as new participants.

Fellows who arrive in Israel will be required to remain in quarantine for 14 days, during which they will receive orientations, Hebrew-language course and educational seminars. The organization, founded by The Jewish Agency and the government of Israel, has 7,000 Fellows registered for the coming year.

Aaron Rubashkin, whose family operated Agriprocessors, at one time the largest kosher meat producer in the United States, died April 2 of Covid-19 at the age of 92.

Before a series of financial and labor scandals at the company led to a federal prison sentence for his son Sholom, the elder Rubashkin was known for having transformed the way kosher meat was produced and distributed in the United States. His name adorned the Aaron’s Best brand that Agriprocessors produced.

A lengthy obituary on the website details the stories of Rubashkin’s generosity. Crown Deli, which the family opened on 13th Avenue in Brooklyn, effectively functioned as a soup kitchen, feeding anyone in need.

He denied the allegations against the company, which federal agents said was employing hundreds of undocumented workers. Sholom Rabashkin would be convicted only of financial fraud and sentenced to 27 years in prison, of which he served eight years before President Donald Trump commuted the sentence in 2017.

“How can we do something which is wrong,” he told JTA in an angry 2008 interview conducted on the street outside his shop, the first he had given after the raid. “If I want to, God forbid! We are ethical people. We don’t do no injustice to nobody, not to a cat.”


Thousands of Israelis yesterday flocked to Tel Aviv’s restaurants and bars on the first day on which they were allowed to open since the coronavirus shutdown in mid-March, the Times of Israel reports. Wednesday marked the first day since mid-March that the businesses were allowed to open after the coronavirus lockdown, and while many eagerly headed out to eat, virus fears remained present in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, leaving some locations half empty throughout the day.

But by nightfall, things picked up with many taking the advice of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged the people to celebrate, but responsibly.

Scientists from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have developed smart disinfectants that destroy the coronavirus infection mechanism and remain active over time. The solution is an improvement over standard bleach-based disinfectants, which evaporate quickly and break down rapidly when exposed to sun/UV light.

The new disinfectant technology developed by Assistant Professor Shady Farah and his research group is based on low-cost and readily available raw materials.

The Ponevezh yeshiva will allow its students to return to the study hall, becoming the first time the institution has opened in more than two months. The yeshiva will be open in time for Shavuot. The entire study hall will be set up in various divisions in order to comply with safety regulations and allow for people to properly protect themselves. The dormitories will remain closed.

Rabbi Shimon Ragovey, a senior medical advisor to the charedi sector in Israel, has warned against opening shuls and stated that it could be dangerous especially on the night of Shavuot, the news site reports.

In an interview with Kikar Hashabat, Rabbi Ragovey said that “Shavuos night holds a much more potent danger since it involved a very large meeting of a group of people for many hours and I am very concerned that even if the regulations are kept in shuls, the danger on Shavuos is still existent.” He cited the example of South Korea, which was very successful in initially containing Covid-19, but earlier this month a sick person there infected hundreds of people, leading to a second outbreak.

Rabbi Ragovey recommends studying in courtyards, homes or porches on Shavuot night despite the difficulty involved.

Recommended reading: Israel’s pandemic response was fast. I worry a rapid return to normal is a mistake.” Journalist Dina Kraft writes on the website that Israel may be emerging too quickly from its Covid-19 lockdown. “The change is bewildering. In early March, the first flights from Europe were halted; soon after all daily flights but one from the United States stopped. Quarantine was mandatory for Israeli nationals returning from abroad. Israelis were given strict social distancing restrictions, including a measured distance from each home. Even protests of the government were held in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square with each protester standing a marked six feet apart. And infection rates reflected that enormous effort.”

“Abraham Lincoln and the Shavuot Controversy of 1865”: Jews in this country had a delicate choice in 1865, writes Ari Lamm: Celebrate Shavuot or mourn the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A “religious controversy that erupted during the subsequent weeks of national mourning would raise enduring social and moral questions about what it means to be both deeply patriotic and religiously observant in America.” the article states.

“How to Celebrate Shavuot at Home,” advice from

The AlephBeta educational organization has prepared a Shavuot study guide, focusing on the Book of Ruth, which is traditionally read on the holiday.


The Jewish Council for Public Affairs will sponsor a webinar on “Public health and Privacy in the Covid-18 Era” on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. will sponsor a Shavuot 24-hour virtual learning session, starting Thursday at 5 p.m.

Pre-recorded Shavuot services by the Hampton Synagogue will be carried on the Jewish Broadcasting Service Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m.  Rabbi Marc Schneier has requested that viewers pre-program their smart televisions or electronics devices to JBS TV, and then “daven along with the congregation, just as they would in the person in the Synagogue’s sanctuary.”

Rabbi Schneier will be in conversation with Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau to discuss Shavuot on Thursday at noon. The conversation will be available on the Hampton Synagogue YouTube page.

The Atlanta Rabbinical Association’all-night Shavuot learning session under the auspices of the “Shavuot-palooza,” will begin Thursday at 6 p.m. and continue until 1 a.m. on Thursday. Included will be Torah study as well as sessions on Jewish culture, music, food, ethics, Israel, and sexuality. To register:

Jewish Wisdom & Wellness will sponsor a “Festival of Online Learning” on Sunday at 2 p.m. The theme: “Clinical Ethics: Challenges During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” with Dr. Robert Fine and Rabbi Mark Washofsky.

The Israeli-American Council and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation will sponsor a four-day IAC-PC Global E-summit on May 31 to June 3. It will focus on Israel’s economy, innovation, medical breakthroughs, and social adaptability,  all in “our new reality in the wake of the Coronavirus.”

The Community Synagogue of Rye will present a webinar on “Practical Ideas for Effective Parenting During COVID-19” on Sunday at 10 a.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.