Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs

 

April 10, 2020



Israelis could face random coronavirus tests at supermarkets

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Health Ministry and the Weizmann Institute of Science will conduct random sample coronavirus tests in supermarkets to determine where the virus is spreading.

The tests had been scheduled to start Monday in branches of three major supermarket chains, but were delayed after the locations of the tests leaked to the public. That raised fears of people with COVID-10 symptoms rushing to the supermarkets in order to get a test, potentially infecting others, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

The ministry had coordinated the visits with supermarket managers but now will not provide advance warning.

The random samples will be taken from shoppers and cashiers, according to the report.

While most businesses in Israel have been shuttered due to directives from the Health Ministry, supermarkets remain open since they are considered an essential service.

Jewish Canadians returning home from US cause spike in coronavirus rates

By David Lazarus

MONTREAL (JTA)—Jewish Canadians streaming from Florida to outrun the coronavirus and beat the pre-Passover rush unwittingly helped stoke one of the highest virus-positive rates in Quebec province.

Cote St. Luc, a Montreal suburb with the densest and most elderly Jewish population in Quebec, reported some of earliest cases and has declared a state of emergency.

According to news reports, too many of the snowbirds were bent on restocking their pantries and refrigerators instead of directly self-quarantining for 14 days in their homes as mandated by provincial authorities. The infection rate is so high, a virus test center opened Sunday in the parking lot of a Cote St. Luc shopping mall.

One-third of the city’s population is over 65.

On Sunday in Boisbriand, a Hasidic enclave of 4,000 just north of Montreal, community leaders begged authorities to help them enforce a 14-day quarantine. According to reports, some members traveled to New York for the Purim holiday and helped spread the virus at a 40 percent infection rate in their own community upon return.

As is the case everywhere, Canada’s Jews are struggling with the virus. All schools, synagogues and institutions are physically closed as Jewish federations figure out ways to deal “virtually” and in other ways with the crisis. Jewish nursing homes are allowing only deathbed visits.

1 in 3 residents of Israeli city Bnei Brak tested for coronavirus are positive

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—One in three residents, or 34 percent, of the mostly haredi Orthodox city of Bnei Brak in central Israel who have been tested for the coronavirus are positive.

The high percentage of positive tests reported Tuesday by the Health Ministry compares to 6 percent in Tel Aviv and 10 percent in Jerusalem.

There are 505 confirmed cases of coronavirus among residents of Bnei Brak compared to 568 in Jerusalem, which has a population five times higher.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who is haredi Orthodox, said that he proposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Deri to impose a total lockdown on Bnei Brak to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“The situation there is horrible,” Litzman said, according to Ynet. “Every day we stall, we put lives at risk.”

He rejected accusations that the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, community was flouting government rules regarding coronavirus.

“You cannot accuse an entire public of the actions of several rogue groups here and there,” Litzman said. “Ninety-nine percent of the public listen to the state and the rabbis.”

In recent days, high-profile haredi rabbinic leaders have called on their followers to follow government restrictions, including against praying in a synagogue with a minyan.

Emergency fund launched to help Israeli nonprofits amid coronavirus

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An emergency fund has been launched to help Israeli nonprofit organizations slammed by the coronavirus crisis stay afloat.

The Emergency Fund for Nonprofits is a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the nonprofit lender Ogen, formerly known as the Israel Free Loan Association. The project will provide consulting services and low-interest loans with no requirement for guarantors.

The initiative aims to operate throughout the coronavirus crisis, offering loans of up to about $110,000 for a period of up to 60 months, with a six-month grace period and without guarantors.

The money for the fund includes about $1 million each from philanthropic sources of the Jewish Agency and donors to Ogen. Ogen has allocated about $10 million in capital for the loans.

There are about 16,000 nonprofit organizations in Israel with hundreds of thousands of employees. They account for 16 percent of Israel’s labor force, according to the Jewish Agency.

Sheldon Adelson donates 2 million face masks to hospitals and first responders in New York and Nevada

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Billionaire casino magnate and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson has donated about 2 million face masks to hospitals and first responders in New York and Nevada.

The Jewish Insider website first reported the donation, citing an unnamed source close to Adelson.

The masks were made in China and paid for by Adelson.

Some 250,000 of the masks will go to the Trump administration’s program to assist health workers.

Adelson is a supporter of President Donald Trump and a mega-donor to the Republican Party and candidates. His wife, Miriam, is a medical doctor.

Western Wall stones sanitized after notes removed

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Western Wall stones were cleaned and sanitized ahead of Passover.

Every year, the prayer notes tucked between the stones in the wall are removed at Passover and before the High Holidays, and buried with other sacred papers according to Jewish law in the cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

This year, according to a statement from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, “the Western Wall stones, visited and touched by thousands of people from Israel and around the world all year round, were sanitized and cleaned in order to protect those who come to the Western Wall even now.”

The cleaning took place Tuesday morning. The notes were removed with gloves and disposable wooden tools.

The statement noted that since Rosh Hashanah, over 8,000 prayer notes sent from around the world via the Western Wall Internet site have been placed between the stones.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, supervised the cleaning and prayed there for the recovery of all those who have become ill with the coronavirus, according to the statement.

Netanyahu limits gatherings in Israel to 2 people

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Gatherings of Israelis are limited to two people except nuclear family members living in the same home, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday evening from his home, where he is in self-quarantine.

Netanyahu and his advisers entered self-quarantine after his Knesset adviser, Rebecca Paluch, tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday. The next evening, Netanyahu and his family tested negative, though the prime minister will remain in quarantine per Health Ministry regulations.

Netanyahu announced in a nationally televised address from his home that “there won’t be gatherings of over two people who are not from the same nuclear family.” This includes outdoor prayer services in open areas and respecting social distancing, which had previously been permitted. Funerals remain limited to 20 mourners and circumcisions to 10 people appropriate social distancing.

Netanyahu said this is the year of the “lockdown seder,” and that Easter and Ramadan in the country should be observed the same way.

At the start of his address, Netanyahu said that the camera was at least 6 feet away and that “I did my own makeup and hair, which is why it looks like this.”

Netanyahu and outgoing Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also announced a $22 billion economic rescue package that allocates $2.8 billion to the health system, $8.4 billion to welfare and unemployment, $9 billion to help small and large businesses, and $2.2 billion for economic stimulus.

As of Monday evening there were 4,695 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Israel and 16 deaths.

6 employees and 4 residents of Jewish-operated assisted-living facility in suburban Atlanta test positive for coronavirus

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Six employees and four residents of a Jewish-operated assisted-living facility in suburban Atlanta have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Jewish HomeLife, which operates Berman Commons in Dunwoody, Georgia, sent a letter on Sunday to residents of the facility and their families, the Atlanta Jewish Times reported.

Two days earlier, four residents in the memory unit tested positive for COVID-19.

Some 43 employees were tested on Friday as a precaution, according to the facility, including those who work in the memory unit.

The employees found to have the virus were asymptomatic, according to the letter. Employees are asked screening questions and have their temperatures taken before entering the facility, and visitors were barred early in the pandemic.

On Friday, residents of the Berman Commons assisted-living wing were directed to remain in their apartments and communal dining was stopped. Meals have been delivered to the residents’ apartments.

Israel’s spy agency acquires ventilators, coronavirus test kits and 10 million surgical masks from unnamed countries

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad, has acquired ventilators and other medical equipment, along with 10 million surgical masks, in the fight to halt the coronavirus, all from unnamed countries.

The agency brought in 27 ventilators and 20,000 test kits, as well as N95 masks, which include air filters, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported. The Mossad is expected to obtain another 180 respirators in the coming days after obtaining components for 400,000 test kits last week.

The Israeli media have speculated the equipment came from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Mossad would take over the purchase of medical equipment from other countries.

The Mossad also brought in 700 overalls for Magen David Adom ambulance personnel. Magen David Adom is handling the initial diagnosing and transporting of suspected COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo renames hate crime legislation to honor Monsey stabbing victim who died

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is renaming proposed state hate crime legislation in honor of the Monsey stabbing victim who died on Sunday.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Josef Neumann, who suffered brutal stab wounds after an attacker invaded the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg on the final night of Hanukkah three months ago,” Cuomo said in a statement Monday.

“This repugnant attack shook us to our core, demonstrating that we are not immune to the hate-fueled violence that we shamefully see elsewhere in the country.”

Neumann had remained in a coma from the time of the Dec. 28 attack to his death. He was 72. Four others were injured in the attack.

Following the attack, Cuomo proposed legislation that equates hate crimes with domestic terrorism. The legislation will be called the Josef Neumann Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act.

Cuomo called on the state legislature to pass the act in the budget due this week.

“We owe it to Mr. Neumann, his family and the entire family of New York to get it done now,” the governor said.

Larry David wants ‘the idiots out there’ to stay home and watch TV

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Comedian Larry David called on “the idiots out there” to stay home and watch TV in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

David’s 90-second rant is a new public service announcement for the state of California was released Tuesday by the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom on social media.

“You’re going out—I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re socializing too close, it’s not good,” the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” creator and star said.

“You’re hurting old people like me—well, not me. I have nothing to do with you. I’ll never see you. But, you know, other—let’s say, other old people who might be your relatives! Who the hell knows.”

David said that people who are going out when they should be hunkering down due to the deadly virus are missing a “fantastic opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to stay at home.

“Go home! Watch TV! That’s my advice to you,” he said in the message to Californians. “You know, if you’ve seen my show, nothing good ever happens going out of the house, you know that. It’s just trouble out there. It’s not a good place to be.”

Israel’s defense establishment is manufacturing ventilators

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s defense establishment has stopped making missiles and started manufacturing ventilators.

The assembly line building the Ventway Sparrow ventilator model was set up by the Israel Aerospace Industries at an Israeli missile factory on Tuesday, Israel Hayom reported.

Thirty ventilators made in the missile factory have already been delivered to the Health Ministry, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced Tuesday evening. This line of ventilators can be used on both adults and children, and is already in use at hospitals and emergency centers in Israel and abroad.

“The State of Israel must develop independent capabilities in everything related to dealing with the COVID-19 virus pandemic,” Bennett said. “We cannot remain dependent on procurement from other countries. We must develop independent, advanced capabilities.”

National Gallery of Art will return Nazi-looted Picasso drawing to heirs of German-Jewish banker

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., will return a drawing by Pablo Picasso to the heirs of a German-Jewish banker who sold the work at a loss because he feared the Nazis would confiscate his estate.

Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, a descendant of composer Felix Mendelssohn, sold the pastel work, titled “Head of a Woman,” in 1934, along with at least 15 other significant artworks. He died in 1935.

In 1938, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s family bank, Bank Mendelssohn & Co., founded in 1795, was seized by the Nazis and transferred to non-Jewish ownership.

“Head of a Woman” was sold to art dealer Justin Thannhauser in 1934. The National Gallery of Art acquired the work through a donation in 2001, according to The New York Times.

The museum said it decided to settle with Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s heirs “to avoid the heavy toll of litigation,” not because it agreed that the heirs’ claims were valid, according to the report.

Heirs of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, including his great-nephew, the German scholar Julius Schoeps, also reached settlements in 2009 with the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York over two other Picassos that Mendelssohn-Bartholdy sold to Thannhauser. Those artworks remain in the museum’s collections.

 

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