Cases spike in Israel, Brooklyn temples to merge, AIPAC cancels ’21 conference


Health Minister Yuli Edelstein yesterday urged Israelis to comply with health regulations as the number of coronavirus cases spiked, warning that the surge in new infections might force the country back into a lockdown, according to Times of Israel. A sharp increase in confirmed infections over the past several days appears to come from a combination of the economy opening up and citizens failing to wear masks and keep social distancing as people embraced a “return to normality.”

Officials in recent days closed several high schools around the country where new outbreaks occurred, including a central Jerusalem high school where 80 students and teachers were infected by a suspected “super spreader.”

AIPAC has canceled its 2021 policy conference, scheduled for next March in Washington, D.C., due to concerns regarding future waves of the novel coronavirus, Jewish Insider reports. Officials of the pro-Israel lobbying organization confirmed the cancelation yesterday. In an email sent to supporters, AIPAC President Betsy Berns Korn said that “given the continued uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and without a predictable avenue to safely bring together thousands of pro-Israel Americans, we have been forced to cancel the 2021 AIPAC Policy Conference.”

The conference had been scheduled for March 7-9, 2021 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  “AIPAC will continue to find new and creative ways over the coming year for us to connect online and in person to advance the U.S.-Israel relationship,” the AIPAC memo read.

Some 16,000 participants attended this year’s conference. In the days following, at least six attendees tested positive for the virus, forcing AIPAC to send a string of follow-up communications alerting participants to possible exposure.

Two historic Reform synagogues in Brooklyn are entering merger discussions to address their financial challenges, JTA reports.

Congregation Beth Elohim and Union Temple announced the talks, which began in April, in emails to congregants last week.

Beth Elohim, a large synagogue in the Park Slope neighborhood, saw declining revenue at the start of the pandemic as it was forced to cancel several of its programs. Union Temple’s financial woes preceded the pandemic; Leaders of the synagogue, located a half-mile from Beth Elohim, announced last year that they would soon run out of money.

A new Jewish initiative is stepping in with much-needed grants and an emergency relief fund for the struggling arts community, the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) has announced. CANVAS, a partnership of five Jewish foundations working with JFN, is awarding grants to five Jewish arts and culture networks totaling $736,000 in operating support, and an additional $180,000 in immediate emergency relief for Jewish artists/creatives whose livelihood has been devastated by Covid-19 and its economic consequences.

CANVAS expects to surpass $1 million in funding commitments by September, and “seeks to strengthen and build capacity in the field, with the ultimate goal of helping fuel a 21st-century renaissance in Jewish arts and culture.”

CANVAS’ first grantees are Asylum Arts, the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM), the Jewish Book CouncilLABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture, and Reboot, which collectively represent nearly 2,000 artists and creatives and more than 100 Jewish museums. The five grantees will distribute the $180,000 emergency funds to individual artists in need.

Lab/Shul, the Manhattan-based “pop-up” congregation, raised over $50,000 for Covid-19 relief during the 24-hour “Reveal-A-Thon,” held May 30-31. The online event included discussions and performances by artists, musicians, educators, comedians and storytellers.

UJA-Federation is seeking at-home volunteers to virtually connect with those in need, including Holocaust survivors, the elderly, and high-risk or quarantined individuals. In-person volunteer opportunities are also available through the philanthropy’s nonprofit partners who confirm that their programs meet the latest government regulations and safety protocols. For information:


Long Island native Robert Ullian, who became a longtime advocate of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, has died of Covid-19 in Amherst, Mass., JTA reports. He was 75.

Mr. Ullian, who moved to Israel in the 1980s and earned a living as an English teacher and author of several tourist guides, had grown alarmed by efforts to erase the boundary between Israel and what many hoped would become a future Palestinian state. So he snuck out of his home in the mixed Jewish and Arab neighborhood of Abu Tor and marked out the route of the Green Line, the boundary splitting pre-1967 Israel from the West Bank, with green spray paint.

He “was a protest child of the sixties,” said his friend Rabbi Andy Bachman. “When he saw in Jerusalem that those lines began to get blurred, for him it was a matter of principle. He wanted to make a statement. It was a symbolic gesture there are borders we can’t allow them to be erased so easily.”

The rabbi said Mr. Ullian knew all of the under-appreciated spots in Jerusalem. “He never made a lot of money, never had children and had his share of troubles, but he was always a symbol of peace and hope and justice, and that is a beautiful legacy to leave behind.”

In Jerusalem, Mr. Ullian lived in Abu Tor, the only Jew on the Arab side of the street, and he used his teaching position to establish a youth dialogue group to help promote coexistence and advance the cause of peace. One of his students, Sadek Shweiki, became almost a surrogate son and is now a Jerusalem social worker who works with inmates in Israeli jails.


A webinar on “The Israeli Response to COVID-19” will be sponsored Monday at noon by several organizations, including UJA-Federation and IsraAID. It will feature Yotam Polizer, IsraAID global CEO.

In advance of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s public reopening on Tuesday, after being closed for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Museum will sponsor video screenings by seven Israeli artists on Monday at 1 p.m. “Through a Balcony” will be simultaneously played both on the front of the main building of the Museum in Tel Aviv and on the ZAZ10TS billboard in Times Square. To watch: Instagram: @telavivmuseumofart X @ZAZ10TS, or Facebook: @tamusueum X @ZAZ10TS

In honor of Pride Month, the 92nd Street Y will present a limited online release of the June 2016 performance of “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” through all of June, starting on Monday at 8 p.m.

The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy will sponsor an online speech by Dr. Sharon Keller on “Women in The Hebrew Bible: Magic, Miracle, and Medicine in the Ancient World,” on Tuesday at 7 p.m. She serves on the classics faculty of Hofstra University.

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.