Israelis protest gov’t response, JCC Manhattan cuts staff, historical society gets digital grant


Thousands of Israelis protested the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in a dramatic rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on July 11.

The protesters called for swifter aid to people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. About 850,000 Israelis have lost their jobs, swelling the unemployment rate to 21%.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an aid package for individuals and businesses last week, including a one-time $2,700 payment to self-employed workers who have not previously been eligible for unemployment benefits.

But the protesters said more was needed to get Israelis through the crisis. Many wore shirts or carried signs with pictures of bread to symbolize the basic needs that they said are not being met by the government’s response.

On Thursday, Netanyahu acknowledged that the reopening of the economy amid the coronavirus occurred “too soon.”

“We first went back to work, then we opened stores, malls, schools and restaurants. Lastly, we open event halls, clubs, bars and other places in which there are gatherings and close contact,” Netanyahu said in a transcript provided by his office. “In retrospect, as part of the trial-and-error, it is possible to say that this last stage was too soon.”

The Marlene Meyerson Jewish Community Center of Manhattan laid off 32 people and furloughed 40 last week as it faces decreased revenue as a result of the pandemic. The JCC, which operated on a budget of $34 million before the coronavirus hit, expects to cut that in half moving forward. 

Among the positions eliminated were most of the marketing department, managers of the studio arts and culinary programs, the senior athletics director and a birthday party coordinator.

Other positions dealing with the JCC’s extensive Jewish learning offerings also were eliminated. Most of the furloughed positions are on the health and wellness staff.

The Manhattan JCC had 192 employees before the pandemic. In addition to the 32 people laid off and 40 furloughed employees, those who remain at their jobs and earning more than approximately $52,000 are taking pay cuts of 5, 7 or 10%.

American Jewish Historical Society has received a new National Endowment for the Humanities CARES grant enabling it to highlight curated objects and documents through new digital storytelling methods. On Tuesday, July 28, at 1 p.m. the first episode of “Live From the Archives” will discuss the Emma Lazarus poem “Progress & Poverty,”  with AJHS Director of Collections and Engagement, Melanie Meyers; Lazarus biographer Esther Schor; and historian Ed O’Donnell, author of “Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age.”

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The Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus is isolating us even further.” Rebecca Kobrin, the Russell and Bettina Knapp Chair in American Jewish history at Columbia University, recalls the life of Polish-born and German-educated Rabbi Israel Friedlander (1876-1920) in order to show “just how essential foreign-born professors were to enriching life in the United States and abroad.” The Trump administration has announced that it will require international students to leave the United States if their course of study is online.


T’ruah presents a conversation with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, who was recently honored by T’ruah with the Raphael Lemkin Human Rights Award, July 15, 2-3 p.m. Weingarten will speak to some of the challenges faced in reopening schools.

The Orthodox Union is launching a three-part series for parents of teenagers on “Pandemic Parenting” as part of its mental health initiative, “Calm Amid Corona.” On Monday, July 13, 8:30 p.m., Kristen M. Roye, PsyD., Clinical Director at Destinations for Teens, and Rabbi Dov Rosenbluth, LMFT, Director of Guidance and 11th grade Rebbe at YULA, will discuss “Communication 101: How to Talk and Listen (Successfully!) to Teenagers.”

B’Yachad Together: Spirited by American Jewish University continues its series of online learning. On Tuesday, July 14 at 1 p.m., Greenberg, author of “Primitive: Tapping the Primal Drive That Powers the World’s Most Successful People,” will discuss “Recalibrating Professional Success During Uncertain Times.”

All Together Now, a month-long festival of Jewish ideas from the Shalom Hartman Institute, continues with an interview with Yehuda Kurtzer and Claire E. Sufrin, editors of the forthcoming collection, “The New Jewish Canon,” on Tuesday, July 14, at 8:00 p.m.  “The New Jewish Canon” includes seminal essays or debates in the Jewish world between 1980-2015. Presented with the JCC in Manhattan.