Orthodox pols want playgrounds opened, cancelled trips hit Israeli economy


New York State Senator Simcha Felder said yesterday that he and two other Orthodox lawmakers, City Councilman Kalman Yeger and state Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, would open closed parks in New York City themselves if the mayor refused to do so, JTA reports. Felder said the trio vowed to cut the chains of the park gates if Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t accede to their requests.

“We’ve asked nicely and waited patiently. We’ve made every logical argument” about the need to reopen the parks that have been closed as a social distancing measure, Felder stated in a tweet. “The people have spoken and they’re running out of patience. If @nycmayor won’t open ALL our playgrounds @SEichenstein @KalmanYeger and I will cut the locks open ourselves.”

The statement came as videos circulated on social media showing a local Orthodox radio personality, Heshy Tischler, cutting the chains off the gates of a Brooklyn park, to the cheers a crowd of adults and children. Tischler had previously organized rallies in support of opening the parks.

The cancellation of trips for Jewish youths and young adults due to the coronavirus crisis will cost the Israeli economy about $200 million, JTA reports. Trips for about 60,000 young Jews planned for the spring and summer have been canceled; the heritage trips include programs sponsored by Birthright Israel-Taglit, Masa, and Jewish schools and youth groups.

The estimated loss does not include revenue from air travel.

Israel closed its borders to the entrance of non-citizens on March 18. It has twice pushed back reopening to foreigners, with a tentative date set to allow in non-citizens for July 1. The Ministry of Interior approved special visas to people attending Masa’s long-term programs in Israel, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Israel is likely to be struck with both seasonal flu and another wave of the novel coronavirus next winter, according to health experts quoted by the Jerusalem Post. “Israel’s healthcare system has been working at capacity or above capacity for years – under-funded and under-staffed,” said Eyal Leshem, director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. “When you add on to a system like that an event that mandates a lot of skilled personnel, laboratories, health investigation teams – it is difficult.”

He said changes need to be implemented before the winter. “We know there will be influenza in the winter and we know we won’t be able to differentiate influenza from COVID-19,” Leshem said. “When we have thousands of influenza patients coming to the ER every week, even if they test negative for COVID, we won’t know they don’t have it… The hospital will be overwhelmed.”

An Israeli man serving a prison sentence in a Peruvian jail has died of the coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday, according to the Times of Israel. Hebrew media named the man as Tzachi Moalem and said he was serving a 20-year sentence for his involvement in the trafficking of cocaine. The ministry said that it was providing assistance to the man’s family but could give no further details.

Suggested Reading

How do you have a simcha on Zoom? Aish.com has some advice.

Suggested Viewing

Chai Lifeline has prepared a “Going Through It, Growing Through It: Torah Perspectives and Mindful Coping in the Age of COVID-19” lecture series that offers moral support, psychological insights, and practical guidance during the current health crisis.


Eden Village Camp, closed for the 2020 camping season, has announced that its online HOME(in)STEAD program will available from June 28 to July 17. “Our goal is to bring the spirit of Eden Village into your homes, not necessarily your computers,” the camp stated. The initiative will offer DIY Videos of Eden Village classics – “anything from whittling to poi to tincture to natural dyeing” – as well as cooking classes, a weekly scavenger hunt, and an Eden Village radio show.

The National Museum of American Jewish History will sponsor a three-part online series, Songs of Our People, Songs of Our Neighbors, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The next parts of the series will be offered on June 24 and July 1. The programs explore music from varied Jewish traditions and diverse cultures, from the historic and “traditional to the contemporary and reimagined.”

Join The Jewish Week and UJA-Federation of New York for “On the Trail of Kafka’s Literary Afterlife with Benjamin Balint,” Thursday, June 25, 6:00 pm. Balint, winner of the 2020 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for his book “Kafka’s Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy,” will be in conversation with Sandee Brawarsky, culture editor of The Jewish Week. The event is free but you must register here.