What yeshivas do in the shadows, Israel opens railways, FEMA assists houses of worship


Some New York City yeshivas are operating in the shadows, defying city coronavirus regulations, JTA reports.

Residents in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn say they have observed children walking to school buildings with or without uniforms or with homework in shopping bags instead of backpacks. And groups of children have been seen entering basements and side entrances of school buildings, even as signs on the front door indicate that the buildings are closed.

Some schools have had teachers call parents individually to tell them school is reopening, avoiding the robocalls and hotlines typically used for announcements or written communication, according to JTA.

But at least one school sent a letter last week indicating its plans — and the strategies families should use to avoid calling attention to themselves. Written in Yiddish, the letter provided instructions for the return to school “in order to not be disturbed by foreign (outside) elements.”

The letter instructed parents to send their children with masks, but not to bring them to school using non-Jewish car services or to leave strollers in front of the building while dropping off children. “Do not stop in front to talk with one another,” the letter said. “Only come and go quickly.”

Trains will finally return to Israel’s railways on Monday after authorities yesterday approved the renewal of services under tight health restrictions. In addition, the ministers decided that cultural events will be permitted with crowds limited to 250 attendees, or 500 attendees if approved by the director-general of the Culture and Sport Ministry.

The meeting held at the Foreign Ministry took place as official data showed that Israel had recorded its largest number of daily cases in two months. Some 288 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry reported, bringing the total number of active cases to 3,993.

At last count, 19,783 cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in Israel, and the death toll was 302.

A Jewish-American scientist who helped pioneer a Covid-19 saliva test — one of the earliest successful coronavirus tests — is preparing to provide and analyze 50,000 tests per day, many of which will be harvested by patients in their own homes, the Times of Israel reports. This would more than double its current capacity of 20,000.

In May, Jay Tischfield, the founder  and CEO of Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository’s Infinite Biologics, received emergency-use authorization from the FDA for the lab’s saliva coronavirus test. Test results can be provided by his lab in roughly 48 hours, he said.

The Federal Emergency and Management Agency is offering online guidance to houses of worship that hope to open safely amid the coronavirus crisis. Churches, synagogues and mosques can open accounts on the agency’s Grants Portal, and FEMA is hosting a series of “how-to” webinars to instruct local community leaders on how to navigate the portal system. FEMA will also be conducting overview webinars on the application process for COVID -19 assistance.

Agudath Israel of America called it “another concrete step in providing houses of worship the full measure of participation in federal disaster relief.”

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Jewish Federations of North America will hold an online conversation about race in America, with Bakari Sellers, CNN commentator and former member of the South Carolina State Legislature, on Friday at 2 p.m.

The Be’chol Lashon and Keshet organizations will hold a Juneteenth Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday at 5 p.m.

The IPPI – Israel Public Policy Institute and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Israel will hold a webinar on Fact-Checking in Times of Covid-19 on Thursday at 6 p.m.

The American Zionist Movement, the World Zionist Organization Department of Diaspora Activities and the Canadian Zionist Federation have convened a new online initiative, Tachles:  Hebrew on Zoom. The weekly series of practical Hebrew classes continue until August 4.

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.