Israel halts reopening plans, El Al frets it future, couple donates bio lab


Israel is hitting an “emergency brake” on its ongoing reopening of the economy due to a sharp rise in the rate of coronavirus infections in recent days, JTA reports. Some 800 new Covid-19 cases were identified in the past week, as opposed to a total of about 300 infections of the coronavirus confirmed in the two weeks before that.

Plans to reopen railway transportation have been scrapped but will be revisited next week. The reopening of cultural and sport venues will be pushed back at least a week from June 14, and the Education Ministry also announced that 130 schools and kindergartens have closed in the past 10 days due to student and staff coronavirus infections.

According to Haaretz, medical labs in Israel are struggling to keep up with a high volume of coronavirus tests as the number of samples taken each day has almost doubled over the past week, with nearly 16,000 tests performed on Friday. The high load is also causing slow diagnoses, with people waiting up to four days to receive their test results.

The Jewish Press reports that foreign workers in Israel are “particularly vulnerable” to Covid-19, and Yeshiva World News reports that the prestigious Ponevezh Yeshiva, located in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, since 1944, has opened a branch in Jerusalem for students who can’t travel to Bnei Brak due to the coronavirus restrictions.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has announced that a factory has opened in Sderot to make millions of high-spec N95 face masks to prepare for a possible second wave of Covid-19 coronavirus, according to Ynet. “We are preparing for a second wave of the virus,” Gantz stated.

Ahead of the upcoming anniversary of the death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, senior rabbis of the Crown Heights Beis Din Tzedek have called on the public to not visit for the time being, the Jewish Press reports. Followers of the movement would normally have flocked to visit the neighborhood in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn to pay their respects.

Philanthropists Brad and Sheryl Schwartz of Great Falls, Va. have donated $1 million to help build a top-level bio-safety lab, the first of its kind dedicated to non-governmental research in Israel, to assist researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in deconstructing the virus that causes Covid-19. The gift, through American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU), will enable direct-contact research with the live virus, rather than virus components used in current labs.

The projected cost for the lab, which will feature low air pressure, filtration systems, custom protective gear and an animal research wing, is more than $5 million.

The Schwartzes are founders of Blue Canopy, a large data analytics and cybersecurity services firm, which in 2017 was acquired by Jacobs Engineering.


El Al has extended unpaid leave for 5,800 workers until July 31 and said that without state aid it will not be able to resume operations once the country’s borders, shut over the coronavirus crisis, reopen, the Algemeiner reports.  The airline has extended its suspension of scheduled commercial flights until June 30, but said it would continue to use its aircraft for cargo and occasional passenger flights.

While Israel has eased its coronavirus restrictions in the past few weeks, incoming passengers are still required to self-isolate, and a ban on foreigners entering the country remains in place. Due to weak demand, El Al halted flights in late March and the suspension has been extended repeatedly.


Ira Beer, a food service design consultant who opened his own firm, Beer Associates, then sold it in 2012 in order to devote himself to Jewish study, has died at 82 of Covid-19. A resident of Oceanside, L.I., he was a native of Brooklyn who attended yeshiva at Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

As a young man he sang in his synagogue choir and performed with  many of the famous cantors of the period, and attended college briefly before leaving to become a professional draftsman.

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How Philadelphia’s creative Jews are handling the coronavirus pandemic.” Artists and others have come up with unique ways to deal with the tedium of social isolation.


The Midreshet Lindenbaum of Israel’s Ohr Torah Stone is offering a Virtual Beit Midrash program for young women completing 10th and 11th grades.  The three-week program, June 22-July 9, will focus on Torah and Talmud, the land of Torah, and contemporary halacha. Virtual tours of the country are part of the curriculum. Classes will take place on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. For information:

Filmmaker Aviva Kempner will discuss fighting social justice through film in a webinar on Tuesday at 7 p.m. sponsored by the Lawrence Family JCC.

The Jewish Link will sponsor a webinar on “NOT Business as Usual: 10 Things Employers Need to Know to Survive and Thrive as Lockdown’s End: on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County will host a lecture on The Art of Marc Chagall: War and Peace Through Yiddish Eyes on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.

The Berkshire Jewish Film Festival, one of the longest running film festivals in the United States, has announced that its 34th season will be virtual. Films from around the world that examine Jewish history, heritage and culture will be available online on six consecutive Mondays from July 6 through August 10 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.