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Whither Woke Culture in an Era of Pandemic?

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Last week, in the New York Post, Kyle Smith made a thoughtful argument that, in the COVID-19 era, “the woke virus,” too, “is spreading faster than ever.” He quoted a statement on Twitter by actress Fran Drescher that the Chinese virus is a product of capitalism; he noted the “vomitatious ‘Imagine’ video praising open borders, socialism and atheism” that was posted online by Gal Gadot and other C-list celebrities in response to the pandemic

What effect might this plague have on the Left’s pampered soy boys and pussy-hat feminists?

By: Bruce Bawer

Last week, in the New York Post, Kyle Smith made a thoughtful argument that, in the COVID-19 era, “the woke virus,” too, “is spreading faster than ever.” He quoted a statement on Twitter by actress Fran Drescher that the Chinese virus is a product of capitalism; he noted the “vomitatious ‘Imagine’ video praising open borders, socialism and atheism” that was posted online by Gal Gadot and other C-list celebrities in response to the pandemic; and he cited inane claims by various activists that the coronavirus disproportionately disadvantages women or people of color. “Next year,” Smith concluded, “there will probably be a vaccine for coronavirus. But there will never be an inoculation for woke stupidity.”

President Donald Trump speaks during press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Washington, as Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma, Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listen (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

He may be right. But during these strange weeks when all the world has been united in being apart, I’ve kept nourishing the hope that woke culture may turn out to be one of the casualties of this plague. In fact I’ve pretty much talked myself into believing that it will be. After all, what could more effectively expose the absurdity of the concept of microaggressions than a macroaggression on the scale of the coronavirus? When an increasing number of Americans are infected by a very real and malignant corporeal contagion, how many people are going to keep buying the leftist fiction that no country on earth is more riddled with the contagion of prejudice than the United States? In a time when we’re all “social distancing” to save our skins, who will dare to carry on about the need for “safe spaces” as protection from mere words?

If the religion of intersectionality survives the pandemic, how can its adherents not come to discern that if there are indeed legitimate victim groups in twenty-first-century America, they’re not women or gays or Muslims or racial minorities but the old and infirm? (Unless, of course, you’re talking about the Christians, Jews, Hindus, women, gays, and others who are the victims of systematic Islamic oppression.)

And what about the whole “trans” business – the insistence that men can become women, that women can become men, that there are more than two sexes, and that sexual identity is determined not by chromosomes but by how a given individual feels on a given day? Not only do some of these contentions contradict others – they all defy biology. And when everyone on the planet is preoccupied with a virus, biology is one thing that’s very hard to deny. If a lethal contagion came along that took down only men but not women, who would be more worried for his or her own life – a biological man who identified as a woman or a biological woman who identified as a man?

To be sure, as Kyle Smith points out, the mainstream media are still playing the same old tune. For example, they charge that calling the Chinese virus the Chinese virus is racist. On March 18, the New York Times ran a ridiculous piece that was presented as a news article and credited to no fewer than three reporters – Katie Rogers, Lara Jakes, and Ana Swanson. Its lede read as follows: “President Trump on Wednesday defended his increasingly frequent practice of calling the coronavirus the ‘Chinese Virus,’ ignoring a growing chorus of criticism that it is racist and anti-Chinese.”

Trump’s continued use of this term, we were informed, “has angered Chinese officials and a wide range of critics, and China experts say labeling the virus that way will only ratchet up tensions between the two countries, while resulting in the kind of xenophobia that American leaders should discourage.” Naturally, the article (which failed to acknowledge that the Times itself had used the term “Chinese virus” in a January 20 headline) went on to claim that Trump’s word choice had made Asian-Americans the targets of “racial slurs and physical abuse.”

Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus, at the main market in Gaza City, Thursday, March 19, 2020. The Middle East has some 20,000 cases of the virus, with most cases in Iran or linked to travel from Iran. The vast majority of people recover from COVID-19. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Notably, the Times article referred to “the erroneous perception that China is the cause of the virus.” Of course, no one thinks that China is the virus’s “cause,” whatever that might mean; but it’s an established fact that China was its place of origin, that the virus would never have arisen if not for certain disgusting cultural and culinary traditions that are indigenous to China, and that the virus probably would never have spread so widely and taken so many lives if not for the treacherous duplicity of the Chinese Communist Party. Scott Kennedy, a “China expert” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Times that the term “Chinese virus” was “fueling a narrative in China about a broader American hatred and fear of not just the Chinese Communist Party but of China and Chinese people in general.”

Yes, there is a narrative to that effect taking root in China: it’s a narrative that’s being pushed, in the most devious and cynical fashion, by the Chinese Communist Party. (Note, moreover, the implication here that hating and fearing the Chinese Communist Party, or any Communist Party, is a bad thing.)

On March 20, the Washington Post ran a similar story, which also masqueraded as a news article, by Allyson Chiu, who, like her compeers at the Times, maintained that Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” had dismayed certain “critics.” (As with the Times, there was no mention that the Post itself had used the term “Chinese virus” on January 17, January 21, January 22, January 24, and January 27.)

These critics, charged Chiu, worried that Trump’s word choice “could lead to increased discrimination and racism toward Asian Americans — a marginalized group with a long history of being scapegoated amid public health crises.” Chiu quoted Harvey Dong, who teaches Asian American studies at Berkeley, as saying that Trump’s word choice was “racist” and “dangerous”; she cited Gilbert Gee, who teaches public health at UCLA, as saying that Trump & Co. had “made it okay to have anti-Asian bias”; and Charissa Cheah, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland, told Chiu that Trump was throwing Americans “of Chinese and Asian descent ‘under the bus.’” Like the Times reporters, Chiu asserted that “[s]cores of Asian Americans nationwide” had been “targeted in verbal and physical attacks linked to coronavirus fears.”

In treating the coronavirus as yet another excuse to cry bigotry, the Times and Post are hardly alone. Other major media, such as CNN, have also sung from the same hymn sheet. These are, needless to say, the same media that were quick to heap scorn on President Trump’s January 31 ban on visitors from China — a ban now recognized as having saved lives. On February 5, the Times ran an op-ed headlined “Who Says It’s Not Safe to Travel to China?”

Dr. Giorgio Palù, a virologist at the University of Padova, told CNN that “a proposal to isolate people…coming from China” was rejected outright by the Italian government because it was “seen as racist” – and this decision, he said, was the chief reason for Italy’s brutal death tolls. Photo Credit: sovereignnations.com

Accusing Trump of “xenophobic rhetoric,” the author, Rosie Spinks, suggested that the reason for his China travel ban was that “destinations perceived as ‘Western’ benefit from a kind of cultural familiarity and presumption of safety that so-called foreign or exotic places do not.” Who’s Rosie Spinks? A virologist? No. She’s a “global tourism reporter.”

Good try, Rosie. But at a time when we’re all constantly washing our hands in an effort to avoid perishing, how many of us are going to be inclined to wring our hands over the claim that hordes of Asian-Americans (none of them, to be sure, ever identified by name) are being verbally bashed or physically beaten from coast to coast because of the Wuhan plague? In any event, in the weeks after Spinks’s piece appeared as the U.S. and scores of other countries cut off travel to and from almost anywhere abroad, the media finger-pointers, instead of issuing apologies, began attacking President Trump for not acting sooner. At one White House presser after another, reporters have shown themselves to be less interested in obtaining information about the pandemic that might be of use to the public than in using the world crisis to try to tear down the president.

Again, Kyle Smith is right: they’re still stuck in pre-pandemic propaganda mode. But by taking this route at a time when they should be playing a critical role in the reliable dissemination of vital information, they’re proving themselves more useless – and downright dangerous – than ever. Most Americans, knowing that they’re being fed fake news rooted in woke ideology, already distrust the news media. How can the media’s decision to stick with propaganda in a time of crisis not send their approval ratings even further south?

As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to want to see the woke mentality quashed, this crisis has given us a new reason. Just as fear of being called racist kept colleagues and neighbors from blowing the whistle on the San Bernardino and Fort Hood terrorists (among others), and kept British police officers, social workers, journalists, and public officials from sounding the alarm about Muslim grooming gangs in that country, so the same woke-engendered fear reportedly kept Italian authorities from taking prompt, sensible action against the coronavirus.

Dr. Giorgio Palù, a virologist at the University of Padova, told CNN that “a proposal to isolate people…coming from China” was rejected outright by the Italian government because it was “seen as racist” – and this decision, he said, was the chief reason for Italy’s brutal death tolls.

It’s a consummation devoutly to be wished, then, that this bad dream we’re all dreaming together will put an end, once and for all, to the whole woke package, from microaggression to intersectionality to phony victimization. Is it a realistic wish? Am I kidding myself when I think that the experience of this plague might be a sobering, maturing experience for at least some of America’s privileged, pampered soy boys and pussy-hat feminists, turning them into rational grown-ups with a mature understanding of the challenges, uncertainties, tragedies, and responsibilities of life?

            (Front Page Mag)

What to Watch in Quarantine: 10 Great Jewish Films

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Gentleman's Agreement (1947) Photo Credit: imdb.com

This story was originally published courtesy of American Jewish Committee

You’ve tried to behave by limiting your screen time and staying off the couch. But cut yourself a little slack and pop some corn. Why not use this time at home to brush up on your knowledge of Jewish issues by watching some of the most memorable movies ever made? Here are 10 films—with some trivia to boot—that reflect the AJC mission to stand up for the Jewish people and Israel.

 

  1. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

This black and white film tells the tale of a journalist who goes undercover as a Jew to research antisemitism in New York City and certain affluent Connecticut suburbs. Gregory Peck accepted the role as leading man against his agent’s advice; Cary Grant already had turned it down.

The controversial film was a box office hit and won that year’s Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. But it also caught the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Its director, producer, and two of its cast members were called to testify. The two cast members refused to cooperate and landed on the Hollywood blacklist as a result.

Though no reporters went undercover, the most recent piece of journalism documenting a surge of antisemitism and other dangerous bias in the U.S. has been Documenting Hate, a collaborative project over the last three years by ProPublica and 180 other newsrooms across the country. Journalists tracked underreported hate crimes and white supremacists, leading to arrests and proposed legislation to improve hate crime reporting.

Available on Apple TV, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Google Play, and Amazon Prime Video.

 

  1. Raid on Entebbe (1977)
Raid on Entebbe (1977) Photo Credit: imdb.com

Made for TV and starring the legendary Charles Bronson, Raid on Entebbe recounts one of the greatest covert missions in modern history: the heroic rescue of more than 100 hostages at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport by the Israel Defense Forces just one year prior to the film’s release.

On June 27, 1976, Air France Flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists who redirected the flight from its stopover in Athens to Entebbe, Uganda. After the 148 non-Jewish passengers were released by the terrorists, Captain Michel Bacos, along with the other 11 crew members, elected to stay with the Jewish hostages. The crew and the 94 Jewish passengers, most of them Israeli, were held hostage and threatened with death.

During the rescue raid on July 4, Yonatan_Netanyahu (Yoni) Netanyahu, brother of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and three of the hostages, were killed. A fourth hostage, an elderly woman who had been hospitalized, was murdered by the Ugandans.

In 2016, AJC bestowed Moral Courage Awards to Bacos and Tzvi Har-Nevo, lead navigator for the Israeli commandos who flew 5,000 miles round-trip to carry out what was arguably the most daring rescue operation in the country’s history.

Available on Amazon Prime Video.

 

  1. Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations (2020)
Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations Photo Credit: imdb.com

Who knew there would be an actual virus spreading around the world to poignantly illustrate the analogy in Andrew Goldberg’s latest documentary? In Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations, Goldberg depicts how the latest wave of anti-Jewish hatred has been impossible to stop as it mutates, moves, and wreaks havoc across borders.

Goldberg travels through four countries – France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Hungary – to interview victims, antisemites, and leaders on the frontlines of the battle against the far right, far left, and radical Islamist instigators. The film features an appearance by AJC Europe Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, along with Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, a rebellious Holocaust survivor in Budapest, and others.

Hear Goldberg discuss his documentary on People of the Pod, a weekly podcast brought to you by AJC and the Times of Israel.

Airs May 26 on PBS. Check local listings. The DVD is also available for pre-order on Amazon.

 

  1. Exodus (1960)
Exodus (1960)

Pop a lot of kernels for Exodus, the three-and-a-half hour smash hit that portrays the story of Israel’s birth as written by novelist Leon Uris. Legendary producer and director Otto Preminger tapped Dalton Trumbo, who had been on the Hollywood blacklist for more than a decade, to write the screenplay. Paul Newman played the lead role.

The movie was filmed in Israel and on the British-controlled island of Cyprus, which had been the actual location of British internment camps for Jewish refugees.

Many believe the film fueled Zionism and support for Israel in the U.S. It’s also believed to have contributed to the end of Hollywood blacklisting.

Available on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and Redbox.

 

  1. Denial (2016)
Denial (2016)

At first, the trial seemed too tedious for a screenplay. But when renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt published a memoir about what it was like to be sued by a Holocaust denier, Hollywood pounced. Rachel Weisz was cast to star as Lipstadt, the Emory University professor and author of History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.

Because British law places the burden of proof on the accused, Lipstadt an academic with limited means, stood to lose a lot of money and her scholarly reputation if the team failed to prove plaintiff David Irving purposely twisted facts to deny the mass murder of Jews during World War II.

Spoiler Alert: Lipstadt remains an icon of Jewish historical scholarship and a favorite guest on People of the Pod.

Available on Apple TV, Hulu, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, FlixFling, Redbox, FandangoNOW, Kanopy, and Vudu

 

  1. Schindler’s List (1993)
Schindler’s List (1993)

You thought we forgot about this one, didn’t you? Starring Liam Neeson in his breakout role, Schindler’s List recounts the real-life story of Oskar_Schindler, a German magnate who, together with his wife Emilie, saved more than 1,000 Jews from deportation to Auschwitz by employing them in his enamel and ammunitions production plants during World War II.

Little known fact: There wasn’t just one list. Schindler and his associates compiled seven lists during the war. Only four are known to still exist. Two are housed at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, and one is at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The other is privately owned. The movie focuses on the first two lists drafted in 1944, dubbed “The Lists of Life.”

Schindler is recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. Learn about other heroes named as Righteous Among the Nations here.

Available on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, FandangoNOW, Apple TV, Vudu, Starz.

 

  1. The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)
The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)

You won’t be visiting any resorts any time soon, so dive into this film instead. The Red Sea Diving Resort refers to a fictional vacation spot in Sudan to which European tourists flocked for its seaside yoga, but which also served as the base of a complex operation to rescue Ethiopian Jews.

The film is loosely based on the events of Operation Moses or Operation Joshua in the mid-1980s, in which Israeli spies set up the resort as a façade to secretly evacuate Jewish Ethiopian refugees. After nightfall, intelligence agents drove thousands of Ethiopians from camps and loaded them on to rescue boats to be ferried to Jerusalem.

“Anyone who saw Ethiopian Jews in their impoverished villages in Gondar Province, and now sees a growing number of Ethiopian Jews in universities, in the diplomatic corps, in the IDF as officers, and in other spheres of Israeli life, can’t help but marvel at a story of literally biblical dimensions that happened in our era,” wrote AJC CEO David Harris in The Times of Israel. “And how inspiring that it was Israel which did it!”

Available on Netflix.

 

  1. Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)
Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)

Leading man Kirk Douglas gets most of the credit for the success of Cast a Giant Shadow. But in truth, it was Western film hero John Wayne who rescued this pro-Israel blockbuster.

Inspired by real-life events, Douglas stars as U.S. Army Reserve Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, who is asked to help prepare Israeli troops to defend the newly declared State of Israel against an invasion by its Arab neighbors.

Marcus ends up commanding units of the nascent Israel Defense Forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Many of the soldiers are newcomers to Israel and to armed combat. Though Marcus calls them the “schnooks,” he realizes he is proud to stand alongside them as a fellow Jew. The real-life Marcus became the IDF’s first general.

Because of its content, the film faced some difficulty reaching the silver screen. Writer and producer Mel Shavelson said both Jewish and non-Jewish elements of Hollywood wanted to avoid drawing attention to the Jewish background of anyone in the industry. But with the support of John Wayne, the film eventually was financed and distributed by United Artists. He also played a supporting actor role.

Available on Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video.

 

  1. Operation Finale (2018)

There have been a number of films made about the 1960 capture of one of World War II’s most notorious criminals Adolf Eichmann, including The House on Garibaldi Street and The Man Who Captured Eichmann. But the most recent was Operation Finale, a historical drama about the audacious mission by Israeli Mossad agents to spirit the Holocaust mastermind out of Argentina to stand trial for war crimes in Israel.

After Germany’s defeat in 1945, American forces captured Eichmann, who then escaped from a detention camp. He lived in Lower Saxony until 1950, when he emigrated to Argentina using false papers. Argentina had a history of turning down extradition requests for Nazi criminals, so in 1960, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion authorized Eichmann’s covert capture. The stunning operation and subsequent trial captured the world’s attention and enabled many Holocaust survivors to talk about their experiences for the first time.

Available on FandangoNOW, Vudu, Google Play, Apple TV, Redbox, Hulu, Epix, and Amazon Prime Video.

 

  1. School Ties (1992)

This film is chock-full of young but familiar faces – Matt Damon, Brendan Fraser, Ben Affleck, and Chris O’Donnell. It may have been released more than 25 years ago, but it has taken on new significance in the 21st century with antisemitism on the rise.

Fraser plays David Greene, a working-class Jewish teen from Scranton who wins a football scholarship to an elite preparatory school in his senior year. It soon becomes painfully clear that his new buddies don’t like Jews and Greene becomes the target of antisemitic attacks.

School Ties is set in the 1950s, but high schools and colleges have once again become a fertile ground for antisemitism. According to AJC’s recent landmark survey of American Jews on this topic, young Jews are significantly more likely to have been victims of anti-Jewish hate. Nearly half of those surveyed, ages 18-29, said that they have been targeted by antisemitic remarks or have been physically attacked for being Jewish.

AJC offers LFT (Leaders For Tomorrow) to give high school students the tools to talk about the issues impacting world Jewry today, and the confidence to stand up for these issues in college and throughout their lives, no matter how difficult the situation.

Available on Tubi, Amazon Prime Video, Redbox, Vudu, Google Play, Pluto TV, FandangoNOW, and Apple TV.

Now More Than Ever, ‘Prayer is the Highest Form of Existence’

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It was recently published in English by Maggid Books and titled "Prepare My Prayer" Recipes to Awaken the Soul," after being adapted by Reut Brosh and beautifully translated with a readable, flowing text by Leah Hartman.

“Prepare my Prayer” is a spiritual, emotive and also practical how-to guide for ascending in one’s level of prayer and making each word count, reassuring comfort that G-d is with us and we must search for Him always, even if He seems far away.

By: Rochel Sylvetsky

(The following article has been republished with the permission of the Arutz Sheva editorial staff)

Rabbi Dov Singer is the charismatic dean of Mekor Chaim Yeshiva High School in Gush Etzion and founding head of the Beit Midrash Lehitchadshut (Study Center for Renewal). He is renowned for his innovative and inspiring ability to deepen the connection of students and educators to Torah-true life and for planting the desire to be closer to Hashem through spearheading a revival of Hassidic thought, especially that of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, in Israeli non- hassidic circles.

“Prayer is the highest form of existence,” he asserts and his pocket-book sized handbook of prayer “Tikon Tefillati” – possibly the only book of its kind extant– published in 2017, sold like wildfire in Israel. Its strength lay in an emotive analysis and presentation of the different forms and experiences of prayer, spiritual in nature, while including practical, behavioral suggestions on how each kind of prayer can enter the reader’s heart to become an integral part of his life. It was recently published in English by Maggid Books and titled “Prepare My Prayer” Recipes to Awaken the Soul,” after being adapted by Reut Brosh and beautifully translated with a readable, flowing text by Leah Hartman..

Each chapter and subheading awakens us to thoughts about prayer which we will be aware of from now on, using a rich medley of sources as set induction. There are excerpts from classic Judaic texts, biblical verses, midrashic insights, Talmudic discourse, the Rambam, the Zohar, Rabbi Nachman’s Likutei Tefillot, Rabbi Kook, as well as modern poetry, always followed by a lyrical, flowing poem-essay by Rabbi Singer that seems to emanate from his very soul. Every topic ends with practical “recipes” and skills, for as the Baal Sefer Chinuch instructs, “our hearts follow the path of our actions.” These are behaviorist tips that will aid the reader in reaching the goal set by each of the eleven chapters.

The chapters include thoughts like these:

Let me enter Your house: Don’t rush into shul and begin to pray, prepare for speaking to the Creator, just as a musician tunes his instrument before he begins to play.

Soul Movements in Prayer: Traverse the range of prayers from the song of the heart to crying out, a form of communication which precedes language.

The elevator metaphor: As we being morning prayers, we can imagine ourselves in an elevator, ascending from level to level, beginning with prayers dealing with body awakening on the first floor to the wonders of the world in Pesukei dezimra, up to the world of the angels in the paragraphs before Shema and then to the world of closeness and whispered intimacy in the Silent Prayer, the Amida.

The Body’s Gestures: Know that bowing is itself a prayer, one performed by the body, as is standing, lifting up one’s hands to heaven, falling.

The Torah Reading – the entire Torah is names of G-d, and the word for “reading” is also used for “calling out” in Hebrew, so the entire Torah reading calls out G-d’s Name.

The Priestly Blessing is a change in direction because now G-d is the Speaker, while we listen and receive.

Prayer differs from other commandments in that by definition, it needs kavana, intention (although there are those who say that the words themselves have mystic, intrinsic power.) In fulfilling other mitzvot, intention is important but performance is the only requirement. One cannot say that about prayer, which is all about addressing the Almighty in a meaningful way. The intention requirement is what makes daily prayer a challenging mitzva to fulfill.

The handbook addresses the problem of intention, especially relevant since opposition to praying at set times with set words is a common problem among many of today’s young people, who are so used to individuality and self-expression that they find it hard to be tied to the words written centuries ago. Rabbi Singer gently guides them back:

The written prayer is a fixed prayer, We must make it new, To bring the ancient words inside, To say them again – refreshed, renewed…to reveal the movement from which the words were born before they were expressed, before they were written.

That is the most basic meaning of intention in prayer: To transform mumbling into facing, to turn the word toward their destination, to aim them in the right direction…The Reading of the Shema can be read as a public declaration… and alternatively, it is possible to read it as a quiet statement to myself, to listen to the secret of existence whispering from within reality: G-d is One.

To each verse a different address, a different melody. Don’t make your prayer fixed.

I gave a copy of the Hebrew book to each of my children’s families and therefore can vouch for the fact that the English version, which I read for this review, is true to the original. In English, as well as in Hebrew, the book is a soul-lifting spiritual trek.

But nothing happens by chance in this world. Full disclosure: This article was almost done, timed for posting a few days after Rabbi Singer’s flight to the US for the launching of the English edition. Other responsibilities intruded before it could be finished, and by then Rabbi Singer was back in Israel and in isolation, having contracted coronavirus while out of the country. I could not bring myself to continue writing the article until yesterday, when, baruch Hashem, Arutz Sheva ran an interview with the beloved Rabbi as he convalesces in one of the rest homes Israel has set aside for those recovering from the virus.

Perhaps that delay is all for the best, because as the coronavirus pandemic erodes our security in so many ways, it seems fitting to be able to suggest finding sustenance and strength in a book which raises spiritual consciousness as we approach G-d – now, sad to say, most often in supplication.

People for whom prayer is part of everyday life and who, like all of us, sometimes let their minds wander, are now concentrating on their daily prayers as if every day is Yom Kippur- and rightly so. My heart tells me that, like the radically secular MK who revealed years ago that as an IDF soldier he said Shema when he thought it was the end, many people for whom prayer was not part of everyday life have begun feeling that they want to talk to G-d.

In that vein, yesterday morning, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the month of renewal*, I joined hundreds in festive, inspiring prayer online by Rabbi Singer’s Beit Midrash Lehitchadshut–with only ten socially distanced people in view and religious singer Yitzchak Meir leading the service. Rabbi Singer spoke from where he is recuperating.

Festive prayers are one of the best known activities of Rabbi Singer’s welcoming Beit Midrash, one of whose stated goals is increasing motivation to pray and elevating feelings during prayer. The services take place, as do lectures and workshops, in a house of prayer in memory of Segen David Golobechich Hy”d in the picturesque Nahlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem – a gathering place for young adults and for famous Israeli musicians and singers who often join the Rosh Chodesh services.

May G-d hear all our prayers and may we see a full recovery for all those who are ill and be worthy for the Redemption in this Month of Redemption.

Notes: The book is also available at Koren Publishers.

*In the Book of Exodus, Nisan is called the Month of Springtime and Rabbi Kook wrote that “The Exodus from Egypt will forever remain the Springtime of the entire world,” alluding to the Bible’s introduction of the concept of liberty.

**A discordant note: It is unfortunate that the introduction by Elchanan Nir does what Rav Singer would never do – claims the book is important because other existing Torah messages and ideologies are not successful in reaching today’s youngsters (the ideology refers to is clear to Israeli readers, but this is not the place to argue his point). However, any educator knows that no one message reaches everyone, and truth is not measured by the number of adherents to a particular ideology. Rabbi Singer would be the first to say that he wrote his book not instead, but in addition, to the paths to G-d paved by others. (Israel National News)

Rochel Sylvetsky is Senior Consultant and op-ed and Judaism editor of Arutz Sheva’s English site. She is a former Chairperson of Emunah Israel,1991-96, was CEO/Director of Kfar Hanoar Hadati Youth Village, member of the Emek Zevulun Regional Council and the Religious Education Council of Israel’s Education Ministry as well as managing editor of Arutz Sheva (2008-2013). Her degrees are in Mathematics and Jewish Education.

Ignoring All Others, Anti-Israel Campus Groups Use Coronavirus to Attack Israel

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As the first coronavirus cases reached Gaza, anti-Israel groups launched a social media campaign to falsely smear Israel for allegedly blocking needed medical aid. Photo Credit: frc.org

By: Ariel Behar

As the first coronavirus cases reached Gaza, anti-Israel groups launched a social media campaign to falsely smear Israel for allegedly blocking needed medical aid.

“This could become one of the worst outbreaks of #coronavirus in the world,” the group IfNotNow (INN) wrote on Facebook. “If the Israeli Government does not immediately lift its own military blockade of Gaza and deliver medical supplies like masks and ventilators, thousands of Palestinians could die.”

The anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) circulated a petition asking Congress to end the Gaza blockade, and claimed that coronavirus was “uniquely threatening to Palestinians.”

“We call upon members of Congress to tell Israel to end its death sentence for the people of Gaza and lift the blockade,” they demanded.

JVP held a virtual rally Tuesday. One speaker made clear that he was not just concerned about Palestinian health and welfare, but about getting rid of Israel altogether.

You hear a lot about Sderot,” said Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) Kamel Hawwash. He called the Israeli city that is subject to relentless Hamas rocket fire, “one of these Israeli settlements that was built very near Gaza that is actually on the side of a little village…whose inhabitants were moved to Gaza. It isn’t about the first rocket being fired from Gaza, it is about the Nakba [Israel’s creation] and the right of return … and clearly this siege, this immoral siege is adding to the difficulties that they have and the fears that we all have for the virus to cross into Gaza. And let’s hope that they are spared that. And let us work together to ensure that Palestine is free and the reconnection of people with every part of Palestine is reestablished.”

Other anti-Israel groups have kept more focused on blaming Israel for what happens in Gaza, despite Israel’s 2005 complete withdrawal from the area.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters bemoaned Gaza’s healthcare system, saying it will prove impossible for Palestinians to cope with coronavirus compared to richer countries who are struggling to deal with the pandemic as well.

“The Gaza Strip’s health system is already on the verge of collapse as a result of a 14-year-long Israeli blockade,” the Ohio State SJP chapter wrote on Facebook. “How are two million Palestinians trapped in the world’s largest open-air prison expected to cope?”

In fact, Israel has sent medical aid for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to help combat the spread of the virus.

“Daily life has been disrupted for millions with the outbreak of #COVID19, but COGAT’s regular operations of transferring goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip continue,” Israel’s Coordinator of Government and Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced Wednesday. “145 tons of medical supplies were transferred through the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza last week.”

COGAT also said Tuesday that it sent a large shipment to the Palestinian healthcare system, transferred from Jordan through the Allenby Bridge, which included hundreds of medical supplies and testing kits.

On Monday, COGAT oversaw a transfer of medical equipment which the World Health Organization (WHO) donated to help repair defective machines located at the European Gaza Hospital. The head of COGAT’s Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) Col. Iyad Sarhan emphasized that they were working nonstop to help stop the spread of the virus in Gaza.

Israel’s efforts haven’t stopped Hamas from blaming Israel for the spread of coronavirus. Hamas statements have been “accompanied by direct and indirect threats, and by demands,” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported. “Some demands include that Israel release terrorist prisoners in Israeli jails because of the potential for transmission of coronavirus” and “the demand that Israel lift the [so-called] ‘siege’ of the Gaza Strip.” These demands have been parroted by INN, JVP, and SJP.

For instance, JVP advocated releasing Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. “Free them,” it wrote above a Facebook post about Palestinian prisoners protesting a lack of protection against the virus.

“Israel & its U.S. benefactor are responsible for the health and safety of all Palestinians struggling under Israel’s occupation, especially political prisons who are mostly vulnerable in the time of #COVID as it spreads dangerously fast in Israeli prisons. #PalestineLandDay,” the National SJP chapter shared on Facebook. “Free all political prisoners,” read the image shared with that post.

“Gaza hospitals are stretched in normal times and experience shortages of beds, medical equipment and doctors, meaning that any new virus outbreak would be highly problematic and would lead Hamas to quickly demand assistance from Israel,” the Jewish Journal reported. “The way that Hamas usually demands such help is by threatening to fire rockets at Israeli cities.”

That’s exactly what happened last Friday night. Hamas launched a rocket toward the south of Israel but injuries were not reported.

Rocket fire from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorists are part of an infrastructure used to foment more terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, often at the expense of improving the quality of life for Palestinians. It is the reason Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza – to try to inhibit the terrorists’ ability to dig attack tunnels or make more explosives to fire at civilians. It is a reality the anti-Israel activists and campus groups fail to mention.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar – the man in charge of Gaza – issued a more direct threat this week:

“If ventilators are not brought into [Gaza], we’ll take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of 6 million Israelis,” Sinwar said.

Those threats do nothing to help people in Gaza. But they will not be mentioned, much less condemned, by those obsessed with demonizing Israel.

Egypt, meanwhile, has imposed its own blockade on Gaza for security reasons. But when it comes to coronavirus fears, neither Egypt nor Hamas, which governs the area, is blamed. Only Israel.

Despite the rhetoric from Hamas, more than two-thirds of Palestinians surveyed support “cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” a Palestinian Center for Public Opinion poll found.

This goes against the narrative groups like IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Students for Justice in Palestine consistently push.

But the groups and their leaders have shown they are not interested in cooperation.

An ex-SJP leader at New York University (NYU) named Leen Dweik responded to Israel’s first coronavirus death by wondering “should i (sic) paint my nails red or green today.”

Israel’s first coronavirus death was an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor named Aryeh Even.

“Now tell me again that anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism” wrote British activist and blogger David Collier. He shared a screenshot of anti-Zionist activists celebrating the death of the Holocaust survivor. “This is the sickening way that some received the news of the death of a survivor on Twitter.”

Don’t let these groups fool you into thinking they care about Palestinian lives. Their goal is to use yet another tragedy to push their anti-Israel agenda.

             (Investigative Project on Terrorism)

The Labor Zionist Movement and the Bombing of Auschwitz

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Aerial image of Allied bombing of an industrial zone near Auschwitz-Birkenau on September 13 1944. Bomb shells can be seen in the upper right corner of the image (photo: USAAC; National Archives/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Wikimedia)

Jews around the world worked hard to influence allied forces to bomb gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Labor Zionists were among the leading forces in that campaign. Tragically, they did not prevail

By Dr. Rafael Medoff

Labor Zionist leaders in Palestine, Europe, and the United States repeatedly urged the Roosevelt administration and its allies to bomb the railway tracks and bridges leading to Auschwitz or the gas chambers and crematoria in the camp itself. Labor Zionist representatives were not the only Jewish officials to press for bombing; but they were among the earliest and most active of the bombing advocates. Sadly, the bombing never happened.

A Polish soldier crosses the railroad tracks at Auschwitz (photo: AP Photo/Alik Keplicz, FILE)

One of the first Jewish officials known to have lobbied for bombing was Yitzhak Gruenbaum, chairman of the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency (and a future Minister of the Interior in Israel). He raised the issue in a telegram to the U.S. government’s War Refugee Board on June 2, 1944.

There has been a definite German decision to proceed as rapidly as possible with systematic deportation of Hungarian Jews to [death camps in] Poland,” Gruenbaum wrote. “Every day a transport is to be sent and 8,000 from Carpatho Russia have already been taken. Suggest deportation would be much impeded if railways between Budapest and Poland could be bombed.”

The deportations of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz had begun two weeks earlier, on May 15. They continued through July 9. Some 440,000 Jews were transported in cattle cars over those rail lines to their doom. By that time, the Allies controlled the skies of Europe. They frequently bombed railways and bridges, because the Germans used them to transport troops and military supplies. Railway tracks sometimes could be repaired relatively quickly; bridges, however, took much longer to fix.

 

Confusion at the Jewish Agency

One of the first Jewish officials known to have lobbied for bombing was Yitzhak Gruenbaum, chairman of the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency (and a future Minister of the Interior in Israel). He raised the issue in a telegram to the U.S. government’s War Refugee Board on June 2, 1944.

On June 11, Gruenbaum reported on his efforts at a Jewish Agency Executive meeting, in Jerusalem. JAE chairman and future prime minister David Ben-Gurion presided over the meeting.

It is obvious from the transcript that the members of the Executive did not yet understand that Auschwitz was a death camp. Although some internal Jewish Agency documents prior to June 1944 had mentioned mass murder in Auschwitz, the information was not fully understood or absorbed by all the members of the executive. Thus Ben-Gurion remarked at the meeting that he opposed asking the Allies to bomb Auschwitz because “we do not know what the actual situation is in Poland.”

Another member of the executive, Emil Schmorak, agreed, saying they should not request bombing because “It is said that in Oswiecim [the Polish name for Auschwitz] there is a large labor camp. We cannot take on the responsibility for a bombing that could cause the death of even one Jew.”

No vote was taken, but Ben-Gurion concluded the discussion by summarizing what he said was the consensus of the participants: “It is the position of the Executive not to propose to the Allies the bombing of places where Jews are located.”

The majority of Hungary’s Jewish population was murdered in Auschwitz between May and July 1944

Two weeks later, however, Ben-Gurion and his colleagues learned the truth about Auschwitz.

During the last week of June 1944, they received a letter from the head of the Jewish Agency’s office in Geneva, Richard Lichtheim, summarizing detailed information about Auschwitz that had been provided by two recent escapees from the camp, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler.

Lichtheim explained that the information revealed that the Agency’s previous belief about Auschwitz being a labor camp was wrong:

“We now know exactly what has happened and where it has happened. There IS [emphasis in original] a labor camp in [the] Birkenau [section of Auschwitz] just as in many other places of Upper Silesia, and there ARE [emphasis in original] still many thousands of Jews working there and in the neighboring places (Jawischowitz etc). But apart from the labor-camps proper [there are] specially constructed buildings with gas-chambers and crematoriums….The total number of Jews killed in or near Birkenau is estimated at over one and a half million….12,000 Jews are now deported from Hungary every day. They are also sent to Birkenau. It is estimated that of a total of one million 800,000 Jews or more so far sent to Upper-Silesia 90% of the men and 95% of the women have been killed immediately…”

Prime Minister David Ben Gurion meets Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt in his home in Tel Aviv

During the weeks following receipt of the report, Jewish Agency officials in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States actively promoted the bombing proposal. The president of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, Chaim Weizmann, together with the head of the Agency’s Political Department (and future Israeli prime minster) Moshe Shertok, met with British Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs George Hall on June 30 and urged that the “death camps should be bombed.”

On July 6 1944, Weizmann and Shertok met with British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, and urged the bombing of both “the death-camps at Birkenau and other places” and “the railway lines leading to Birkenau.” Shertok later sent Ben-Gurion a telegram reporting on the meeting.

ילדים ניצולי אושוויץ לאחר השחרור (צילום: Alexander Voronzow and others in his group, ordered by Mikhael Oschurkow, head of the photography unit/ wikimedia).

Concurrently with Shertok and Weizmann’s meeting with Eden,, other Jewish Agency representatives met with American, British, and Soviet officials to make the case for Allied air strikes on Auschwitz or the rail lines leading to the camp. Advocates of the strikes included Nahum Goldmann (cochairman of the World Jewish Congress) in Washington; Joseph Linton (later an Israeli ambassador, under several Labor governments) and Berl Locker (a longtime Poale Zion leader) in London; Richard Lichtheim and Chaim Pozner (former head of the Labor Zionists in Danzig) in Geneva; Eliahu Epstein (later Elath, Ben-Gurion’s first ambassador to the United States) in Cairo; Moshe Krausz in Budapest; and Chaim Barlas in Istanbul.

 

Golda’s position

While the Jewish Agency pursued advocacy for the bombing, the Histadrut labor movement also acted to advance the cause, Many reports about the ongoing massacres in Europe were sent to Histadrut headquarters in Tel Aviv. The information was often handled by Golda Meir (then known as Goldie Myerson), chair of the Histadrut’s political department. She had become a member of the Histadrut’s executive board in 1934 and was also responsible for the Histadrut’s ties to the United States, including contacts with its American representative, Israel Mereminski.

Golda frequently sent the information she received about Auschwitz to Mereminski, in New York, who in turn provided it to leaders of the War Refugee Board. The board was a small government agency that had been established by President Roosevelt in early 1944, under strong pressure from members of Congress, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., and Jewish activists.

Golda Meir visiting a transit camp, 1950

On July 29, 1944, Golda and another Histadrut executive committee member, Heschel Frumkin, cabled Mereminski that they had received “horrible details concerning Hungarian Jews deported to Poland,” which they said were provided to them in “a letter from Lvov [Poland] underground.” They reported that “four trains arrive at Oswienzim daily, consisting of forty-five coaches each containing twelve thousand people to be exterminated.” The message asked that the Allies be urged to undertake “the bombing of Oswienzim and railway transporting Jews” to the death camp.

The War Refugee Board undertook rescue activities in Europe that involved financial transactions or delicate negotiations, such as bribing Nazi officials, paying underground groups to shelter Jews, and financing the work of Raoul Wallenberg in Nazi-occupied Budapest. The board did not have the authority to utilize military resources; so when it received requests to bomb Auschwitz, it forwarded them to the War Department (today known as the Defense Department).

Mereminski replied to Golda that he had contacted the War Refugee Board concerning her request for “destruction of gas chambers, crematories, and so forth,” and the board in turn had submitted the proposal “to competent authorities.”

Almost simultaneously, Jewish Frontier, the monthly magazine of the U.S. Labor Zionist movement, published an unsigned editorial calling for “Allied bombings of the death camps and the roads leading to them…”

This editorial, which appeared in the magazine’s August 1944 edition, is the only known instance of an official organ of an American Jewish organization publicly calling for bombing of the camps; other Jewish groups confined their appeals to private channels. It seems likely that the editorial grew out of discussions among Mereminski and his colleagues regarding Golda’s telegram.

 

The “diversion” lie

The Labor Zionists’ requests, like the other Jewish pleas for bombing Auschwitz or the railways, were rejected by the Roosevelt administration.

Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy was assigned to write the rejection letters. He informed the Jewish groups that the War Department had undertaken “a study” which concluded that any such bombings were “impracticable” because they would require “the diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations” elsewhere in Europe.

McCloy’s explanation was false. No such “study” was ever conducted. No “diversion” of airplanes would have been necessary — because U.S. bombers were already striking German oil factories in the Auschwitz industrial zone, just a few miles from the gas chambers.

The real reason for the rejections was the Roosevelt administration’s policy of refraining from using even the most minimal resources for humanitarian objectives, such as interrupting genocide.

President Roosevelt’s public persona is anchored in his image as a liberal humanitarian, someone who cared about the downtrodden and the mistreated. In his first presidential campaign, he presented himself as the champion of “the forgotten man.” But when it came to the plight of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust, it was Roosevelt who did the forgetting.

Dr. Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, DC, and author of more than 20 books about the Holocaust and Jewish history.

Passover Tours Dealt Major Blow as Some Refuse to Return Money

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The Doral Miami, owned by President Trump, which costs $12,000 for room and food for two adults, gave back 100% of the money to its participants. Photo Credit: trumphotels.com

By: Lieba Nesis

As Passover arrives, the formerly joyous holiday has lugubrious undertones as all global programs have been canceled. Over the years Passover travel has skyrocketed with over 170 tours offering kosher food and entertainment for hefty prices. It is not uncommon for a large family to spend a quarter of a million dollars for the holiday. The bevy of options available from Thailand to Miami has turned the holiday from one associated with onerous preparation into a more relaxed vacation style eight-days. That was until coronavirus hit: forcing Jews to hold lockdown seders with small family gatherings of ten or less replacing the mega-meals associated with prior years.

The sold-out Waldorf Orlando which costs $10,000 for a double occupancy room with food, returned 75% of the money-since they were still on the hook with vendors-allowing an additional 10% towards either of the next two years. Photo Credit: Agoda.com

The community will face one of its biggest challenges yet as it must not give into the temptation to socialize. Repeating the parties of Purim which led to hundreds of unneeded hospitalizations and deaths would be tragic. Crowding stores and streets to buy seder plates for the holiday must be avoided-we have lost too many lives already. The flouting of laws to remain six feet apart and avoid gatherings of more than 10 has resulted in thousands of clustered cases in Williamsburg, Boro Park and Lakewood. Paradoxically, this past Sunday, April 5th, two heavily attended funerals took place in Brooklyn to mourn two people who lost their lives to an illness attendees were exposing themselves to. This must stop as it places health care workers, the elderly and those with underlying conditions in unnecessary jeopardy.

– The Arizona Biltmore returned 70% of the money, with an option to carry forward 100% of the payment the following year. Photo Credit: ArizonaBiltmore.com

Due to the current crisis, there are currently no Passover programs proceeding, with each tour taking a different course concerning refunds. The Doral Miami, owned by President Trump, which costs $12,000 for room and food for two adults, gave back 100% of the money to its participants. The sold-out Waldorf Orlando which costs $10,000 for a double occupancy room with food, returned 75% of the money-since they were still on the hook with vendors-allowing an additional 10% towards either of the next two years. The Arizona Biltmore returned 70% of the money, with an option to carry forward 100% of the payment the following year. The “Kosher Travelers” tour in Havana, Cuba refunded 70% of the money.

Similarly outrageous is the Eden Roc hotel which has refused to return a $2.3 million deposit given by Magen David Yeshivah who booked 621 rooms for 1,200 guests to eat and enjoy the beautiful Miami Beaches. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.com

Some less generous operators include Kosherica’s Bonaventure which is only refunding 65% or allowing a credit toward the following year. Koltuv events which was planning programs in Italy offered guests a 50% refund permitting the remainder to be used within the next two years. Sarah Tours in El Jadida Morocco is offering a 50% credit and 50% towards 2021 (not bad).

Yad Rema Pesach in Cartegena, Colombia is giving a 40% credit for the following year or an 8-night free stay at the hotel during the year. Kosherica Bahamas is offering 56% now or a full credit for 2021. Finally, Lasko Kosher Tours, who own and operate Turnberry, Miami have not refunded anything as of April 3rd and were vague as to whether they were planning to do so.

Similarly outrageous is the Eden Roc hotel which has refused to return a $2.3 million deposit given by Magen David Yeshivah who booked 621 rooms for 1,200 guests to eat and enjoy the beautiful Miami Beaches. After a school representative called to cancel, VP of Sales, Sergio Rivera, had the audacity to ask for the remaining $1.2 million. The private Sephardic school stayed at the hotel in 2018 and 2019. They subsequently signed a three-year contract that allowed for the trip to be canceled in the event of a “disease outbreak.” Moreover, under current Floridian laws hotels have been closed with gatherings strictly prohibited. While the court will undoubtedly rule the deposit must be immediately returned there will nonetheless be a permanent stain on the Eden Roc’s reputation ensuring future boycotts.

The best option for families staying home is ordering take-out from Kosher Marketplace, or Zabars or hundreds of other online options. Even the omnipresent FreshDirect and Amazon are getting in on the Passover game with FreshDirect offering a leg of lamb that feeds 8 for the paltry price of $165-far cheaper than the $6,000 per person programs.

Remembering the Novominsker Rebbe, ZT’L & Other Rabbonim Who Fell to COVID-19

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The Novominsker Rebbe, Harav Yaakov Perlow, z’tl, was niftar early Tuesday morning at the age of 89, plunging all of Klal Yisrael into deep mourning. Photo Credit: COLLive.com

By: YWN

The Novominsker Rebbe, Harav Yaakov Perlow, z’tl, was niftar early Tuesday morning at the age of 89, plunging all of Klal Yisrael into deep mourning.

The Rebbe has served as a leader of the American Jewish community, the head of Agudas Yisrael of America and the Nasi of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. The Rebbe was known for his rhetorical skills and was the keynote speaker for many years at Agudas Yisrael and Torah Umesorah gatherings.

The Rebbe, who was ill with the coronavirus, collapsed in his home in Boro Park at 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Hatzalah volunteers who arrived at his home spent many long moments trying to resuscitate him but to their sorrow, they were unsuccessful and were forced to declare his death.

HaModia reported that the Rebbe was a towering figure in the leadership of American Jewry, and served as Rosh Agudath Yisrael of America since 1998.

The Rebbe was born in New York in 5691/1931. He was the son of the previous Rebbe, Harav Nachum Mordechai Perlow, zt”l, and Rebbetzin Beila Ruchama, a”h. He was named for his great-grandfather, Harav Yaakov Perlow, zt”l, the first Novominsker Rebbe. His maternal grandfather was Harav Yitzchak Zelig Morgenstern, zt”l, the Sokolover Rebbe, a descendant of the Kotzker Rebbe, zy”a.

Following his father’s death in 1976, Harav Perlow was appointed as the next Novominsker Rebbe and he established a shul as a center for Novominsker chassidim and yeshivas Kol Yehudah in Boro Park.

The Rebbe also authored the sefer Eidas Yaakov on Shas.

When he came of age, he married Rebbetzin Yehudis, a”h, the daughter of Harav Avraham Eichenstein, zt”l, the Ziditchover Rebbe of Chicago.

After his father’s petirah in Elul of 5736/1976, he was appointed Rebbe.

In 1998, after the petirah of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z”l, the Rebbe was named Rosh Agudath Israel of America.

The Rebbe’s beis medrash was on 48th Street and 16th Avenue in Boro Park.

The Rebbe was a mainstay and keynote speaker at events related to Torah Umesorah and Agudath Israel. He was the head of Agudah’s Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.

The Passaic Jewish Community is in shock on Tuesday morning upon hearing of the Petira of Dr Elliott Samet Z”L. He was in his 60’s.

Dr Samet has been one of the leading pediatricians for the Jewish community in Passaic for decades. Dr. Elliott Samet was a prominent board-certified pediatrician in the community, who was in practice for around 38 years.

In addition to being an incredibly dedicated doctor, Dr Samet was a brilliant Talmid Chochom, and a tremendous Baal Tzedakah. His patients were always treated like his own children. So much so, that there was always a long line of kids and their parents at his house to show him and his wife their Purim costumes. He proudly hung all of the photos in his office.

He was a founding Board Member of Passaic Hatzolah.

Hundreds of families & thousands of patients are mourning this tremendous loss.

The Flatbush Community is reeling from the news of the petirah of Hagaon HaRav Nachum Cooper ZT”L from coronavirus yesterday, at age 58.

As Rav Elya Brudny explained, Rav Nachum was “a towering gadol and a true gaon in the guise of a working person. His tzidkus, his yiras shamayim and his bekius were awe-inspiring.”

Rav Yisroel Reisman, in whose Shul Rav Nachum delivered a popular Daf Yomi Shiur every night for many years, said that Rav Nachum “was one of the few true tzaddikim I was fortunate to know in my life. He was a genuine oved Hashem in everything that he did.”

Rav Brudny and Rav Reisman said that when they were with Rav Nachum they felt “Shal N’alchah M’eal Raglechah, Ki Hamokom Asher Atah Omed Alav Admas Kodesh.”

Rav Nachum leaves behind a tzadeikis of a wife, and a large family, with six children still at home. She now has a heavy burden to bear. It is an impossible burden, emotionally, physically and financially.

A fund administered by Rav Elya Brudny and Rav Yisroel Reisman has been established for the Cooper Family.

Reb Yisroel Horowitz Z”L, 72.

The Niftar was brought up in Jersey City in a very beautiful family who were not yet religious. He had wanted to go to a Yeshiva but it did not work out. HIs mother was niftar when he was 12 and his father then gave permission to go to Yeshiva and he went straight to Ner Yisroel Baltimore. He joined fellow metzuyanim – and became lifelong friends- with HarRav Zevulun Schwartzman and HaRav Mordechai Yoffen. Although he started to learn at 12, by 16 he became a chavrusa of Rav Ruderman zt”l learning Maseches Zevachim together!

From Ner Yisroel he went to Yerushalayim to Yeshiva Bais HaTalmud where he became a Talmid muvhak of HaRav Dov Schwartzman zt”l. He is one of very few people in the world to receive semicha from Rav Schwartzman. He was known as an iluy who could learn for hours on end with total immersion and focus, and a minute later be concerned about another person, what they were doing, how they felt or what they needed, or talk with them in the sugya they were learning.

He mentored younger bochrim and had a profound influence on their lives.

He was described by Rav Schwartzman as having “ah glatte kop”- an unusual ability to analyze a sugya in a clear straightforward manner. Structure, stay true to the words, trying to figure out what the Gemara , Rishon, Acharon is actually saying and not what you think they are saying. He sought out consistency and uniformity within each shitah throughout Shas. He would spend hours pondering Rambam to build a beautiful complex tapestry in thinking. Rav Moshe Shapiro, who was a Maggid Shiur in Bais HaTalmud, described him as a clear thinker who could not tolerate “krumkeit”. He is the quintessential “klohr kop”!

He returned to the United States after nearly a decade in Eretz Yisroel and learned, mentored bochrim and said chaburos for years in Miami in Yeshiva Gedola Bais Moshe Chaim under Rav Yochnon Zweig.

He then came north to learn in Yeshiva Bais Yosef Novardok led by Rav Yaakov Yaffen and his old friend Rav Mordechai Yaffen. When Bais Yosef moved to Flatbush, Rav Yisroel joined the Mir Yeshiva and for the last 15 years has been learning there and saying chaburos a few nights a week for younger bochrim.

People would “talk with him” in learning all day- he was the barometer for solid analysis and thinking and he freely praised logical consistent learning.

He was very well versed in Chumash with major meforshim, Medrash and sifrei Machshava as well. A few years ago he published his sefer Yad Yisroel, a compendium filled with short, clear, incisive “lomdishe” pieces on Shas and a section on Chumash and Machshava. He was recently preparing the second volume for publication.

Rav Yisroel’s sensitivity to people and his understanding of their individual situations made all people around him re-think their own ability to analyze and plan course of action. He taught by example. Although reticent to accept from others, he deeply appreciated any effort made on his behalf and freely expressed his humble gratitude for even the smallest favor or expression of concern. He repeatedly expressed his enormous appreciation to Hanholas Mir Yeshiva for keeping him as part of the Kollel for the past 15 years and allowing him to be marbitz Torah within its walls.

He took ill last week and despite the heroic efforts of the head of Community hospital and a group of concerned friends he was niftar during the night of 12 Nissan.

He leaves behind grieving Talmidim, colleagues and friends.

             (Yeshiva World News)

Pesach–15 Steps To Freedom (Part 1)

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Children make kiddush at a model Passover seder (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

By: Rabbi Shraga Simmons

A Jewish man is waiting in line to be knighted by the Queen of England. He is supposed to kneel and recite a sentence in Latin. When it comes his turn, the Queen taps him on the shoulders with the sword — and in the panic of excitement he forgets the Latin line. Thinking quickly, he recites the only other line he knows in a foreign language which he remembers from the Passover Seder: “Mah nishtana ha-lailah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-leilot.” The puzzled Queen turns to her advisor and asks, “Why is this knight different from all other knights?”

Passover is the time when each Jew embarks on a personal journey from slavery to freedom. In order to guide us in our quest, the Sages carefully wrote a book outlining 15 steps to freedom. It’s called the hagada. The Sages say that Passover occurs on the 15th of Nissan (the Jewish month), to teach us that just as the moon waxes for 15 days, so too our growth must be in 15 gradual steps. Think of these as 15 pieces of the Passover puzzle. Assemble them all and you’ve got freedom!

  1. Kadesh

To begin the Seder, we make kiddush and sanctify the day. The word “kiddush” means special and unique. The first step to personal freedom is to recognize that you are special. You have a distinct combination of talents, skills and experiences that qualifies you to make a unique contribution to the world. In Egypt, the Jews were forced to build the store-cities of Pithom and Ramses. Why was this tortuous labor? Because these cities rested on swamp-land, and every time the Jews built one level, it sunk into the ground. Slavery is a life with no accomplishment, no achievement, and no meaning. On Passover, we begin our journey toward personal freedom by asking: What is humanity’s biggest need? What can I contribute most profoundly to nurture and protect the world? And… what am I going to do about it?

  1. Urchatz

“Why do we wash our hands at this point in this Seder?” the Talmud asks. “Because it is an unusual activity which prompts the children to ask questions.” The very name hagada means “telling,” for the goal of the Seder is to arouse curious questions, and satisfying answers. We’ve all felt the sense of awe upon meeting a fascinating person, or reading an enlightening new book. But as adults we may become enslaved by the idea that it’s more sophisticated to “know it all.” Passover teaches that to be truly free we must approach life with child-like wonderment. “Who is the wise person?” asks the Talmud. “The one who learns from everyone.” Passover is the holiday of springtime, joy and renewal. That’s why the Seder is filled with unusual activities. Be curious. Be a student of life. Be free.

  1. Karpas

We take a green vegetable and bless G-d for creating fruits from the ground. Gratitude is liberating. “Who is the rich person?” asks the Talmud. “The one who’s satisfied with what he’s got.” This appreciation comes through focusing on details. For example, to get this green vegetable to our table, it had to be planted, harvested, packed, shipped, unloaded, unpacked, displayed, and rung up by a cashier – before we even bring it home! If we truly appreciate all we have, we’ll be constantly proclaiming: “Life is a wonderful gift!” (On a deeper level, we dip the vegetable in salt water to let us know that even those things which appear bitter — a lost job or a broken relationship — are ultimately for the best.) Gratitude is an attitude. It requires constant effort and attention. A Jew strives to say 100 blessings every day. The reward is emancipation.

  1. Yachatz

We break the middle matza, and put it aside to serve later as the Afikomen. Why do we break the matza now if we don’t need it until later? Because a key to freedom is to anticipate the future and make it real. The definition of maturity is the ability to trade a lower pleasure now for a higher pleasure later. Children lack this perspective and demand instant gratification. (Why not eat 10 candies now? Because you’ll get a stomache-ache later!) The challenge of adulthood is training ourselves to look at the long-term consequences. “Who is the wise man?” asks the Talmud. “The one who sees the future.” We break the middle matza, not for now, but for later. Because true freedom is a long-term proposition.

  1. Maggid

The Sages tell us that the unique ability given to humanity is the power of speech. Speech is the tool of building and construction. G-d used it to create the world (“And G-d said: Let there be light.”). On Seder night, we use our gift of speech for the central part of the hagada: telling the Passover story. The very word “Pesach” is a contraction of the words “Peh Sach,” meaning “the mouth speaks.” The Hebrew name for Pharaoh, on the other hand, is a combination of “Peh Rah,” meaning “the bad mouth.” For just as speech has the power tobuild, it also has the power to destroy. Gossip and slander drive apart families and communities. On Passover, we use speech to “build” humanity – by communicating, connecting, and encouraging each other. We stay up long into the night, relating the story of our exodus, tasting and sharing the joy of freedom.

  1. Rachtzah

One aspect of freedom is the ability to elevate ourselves above the lowest common denominator on the street. We’ve all felt the sensory assault of billboards, gratuitous talk-radio, immodest fashions, and violence on TV. At the Seder we wash our hands as a preparatory step before the matza, in order to carefully consider what it is we’re about to eat. One who is concerned with spiritual and physical health is discriminating about all forms of consumption: which movies to watch, which friends to spend time with, and what standards of business ethics to uphold. The streets are filled with a multitude of options. But we must not consume indiscriminately. We “wash our hands” to cleanse and distance ourselves from unhealthy influences. Freedom is the ability to say: “I choose not to partake.”

  1. Motzi

We make the “hamotzi” blessing to thank G-d for “bringing forth bread from the ground.” Which is odd because G-d bring wheat from the ground – and man turns it into bread! In truth, G-d gives us two gifts:

1) the raw materials, and

2) the tools for transforming it into life.

Today, technology has pulled us away from seeing the beauty of G-d’s creation. We fine-tune our environment with air-conditioning, synthetic foods, cosmetic surgery, and genetic engineering. Mankind is perilously close to “playing G-d.” But in truth, man cannot create anything perfect; man can only tune into G-d’s ultimate perfection. Which is more awesome to behold – the world’s biggest super-computer, or the human brain? Between your two ears are 10 billion nerve cells — a communication system 100 times larger than the entire communications system on Earth. When we make “hamotzi,” we hold the matza with all our 10 fingers – reminding us that while human hands produced this food, it is yet another gift from the Creator and Sustainer of all life.

  1. Matzah

Both bread and matza are flour mixed with water, then kneaded into a dough and baked. What is the difference between them? The difference is that dough has sat unattended for 18 minutes and becomes leavened (bread). The matza which we eat on Passover has been baked quickly. The spelling of “matza” is similar to “mitzvah:” Just as we shouldn’t delay in the making of matza, so too we shouldn’t procrastinate in performing a mitzvah. The lesson of matza is to seize the moment. Delaying even one second can mean the difference between an opportunity gained or lost. Why 18 minutes? Because the number 18 is the numerical value of “Chai,” meaning “life.” They say that “baseball in a game of inches.” In reality, life itself is a game of seconds. The Talmud tells of people who had sunk to the depths of humanity, and then in one moment of insight reversed their lives for all eternity. More than just the difference between matza and bread, the Seder teaches us the difference between life and death.

  1. Maror

At the Seder we say: “In every generation they rise against us to annihilate us.” The Egyptians broke our backs and our spirits. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple and rivers of Jewish blood flowed. And so it was in every generation: Crusades, Inquisitions, Pogroms, Holocaust, Arab terrorism. Intense and irrational violence has stalked our people to every corner of the globe. Why the hatred? The Talmud says the Hebrew word for “hatred” (sinah) is related to the word “Sinai.” At Mount Sinai, the Jewish People acquired the legacy of morality and justice – a message that evil cannot tolerate. We taught the world “to beat their swords into plowshares.” We taught the world “to love your neighbor as yourself.” We taught the world equality before justice, and that admiration belongs not to the rich and powerful – but to the good, the wise, and the kind. Hitler said: “The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind – circumcision on the body, and conscience on the soul.” How right he was and how much more work we have to do.

Throughout the generations, the forces of darkness have sought to extinguish our flame. But the Jews have somehow prevailed. We have G-d’s promise that we will be the eternal nation. For without our message, the world would revert to utter chaos. At the Seder, we eat the bitter herbs – in combination with matza – to underscore that G-d is present not only during our periods of freedom (symbolized by the matza), but during our bitter periods of exile as well. He will never forsake us.

  1. Korech

The Hillel Sandwich is “bricks-and-mortar:” broken matza held together by bitter herbs and charoset. The matza was once whole. So too, the Jewish people can become crushed and divisive. But we are held together by our common links to Torah and our shared historical experiences. The Talmud says that as Jews in Egypt, we were redeemed only because of our unity. We were unified in our commitment to each other and to the future of our people. Weeks later at Mount Sinai, we stood together and accepted the Torah with one heart and one mind. Today, we are fighting amongst ourselves under the watchful eye of the world media. It is both embarrassing and discouraging. The biggest threat to Jewish survival may be from within. Our only response is to stand loudly and proclaim: Every Jew is a Jew. Period. The inclusion of the “wicked son” in the Seder expresses our conviction that no Jew is ever irretrievably lost. We are all one family, responsible to love and care for one another. The matza may be broken, but it can be restored. It is this “Hillel Sandwich” which has traditionally symbolized our commitment to glue the Jewish nation back together. On the merit of unity we were redeemed from Egypt, and it is on that merit that we shall be redeemed once again.

  1. Shulchan Orech

When we think of attaining levels of holiness, it seems strange that one of the mitzvahs of Seder night should be eating a festive meal. That is because the Jewish attitude toward our physical drives and material needs is quite different from that of other religions. Our religious leaders are neither celibate nor do they meditate all day on a mountaintop. Rather than negating or denying the physical, Judaism stresses the importance of feasting and marital relations. G-d wants it that way. The proof is that instead of creating all foods bland (or in the form of “protein-pills”), G-d concocted a variety of flavors and textures – orange, strawberry, chocolate, banana and mango. Why? Because G-d wants His people to have pleasure! Adam and Eve were put into the Garden of Eden – the Garden of Pleasure. The Talmud says that one of the first questions a person is asked when they get up to Heaven is: “Did you enjoy all the fruits of the world?” On Seder night, we eat the festive meal to teach us that true freedom is the ability to sanctify life, not flee from it.

            (To Be Continued)

                                                (Torah.org)

Finding the Spirit of Jewish Unity During the Corona Crisis

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Illustration of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt, guided by the prophet Moses, 1907, the Providence Lithograph Company. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By: Alex Traiman

Our reflection right now should bring us towards a spirit of unity. Unity between secular and religious. Unity between Israel and the Diaspora. Unity between Jews and our neighbors. Unity among our religious leaders, communal leaders and politicians.

After managing to slow the onset of COVID-19, Israel is now beginning to record thousands of new cases on a daily basis. While Efrat, a small community mostly made up of former Americans, was among the first to register a mini outbreak with several dozen people infected, it is now the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak and parts of Jerusalem with the fastest-growing numbers of new cases.

Many nursing homes across the country—with both secular and religious residents—have also been hit particularly hard, accounting for the majority of the so far few but too many funerals that have already been performed.

Around the world, Jewish Diaspora communities are also among the hardest-hit. France and the United Kingdom, where together more than 750,000 Jews live, are now following the same dangerous coronavirus pattern that is ravaging Italy and Spain.

The United States is now just beginning to feel the pain felt across Europe. In particular, New York and New Jersey are among the first states to exhibit massive outbreaks. Jewish communities in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Lakewood, N.J., are quickly spreading the virus among themselves.

There is almost nowhere in the world where large communities of Jews are safe from corona’s path.

In Israel, the country has been moving steadily towards a full lockdown with police and military enforcement. In the United States, state governors are starting to move in the same direction, although there are some, mainly in the South, that do not have mandatory restrictions.

Large economies have ground to a halt as individuals are forced indoors. Life as we know it has been suspended. We don’t know when this pandemic will end, how many of our loved ones will fall victim to this somewhat deadly plague, and what will be required of us as some semblance of order is restored and schools and marketplaces reopen.

For families with young children, now is a time when parents are forced to spend the quality time many haven’t been able to due to busy work schedules. For those without small children, now is a time to finish or invent projects to keep hands busy and minds sharp. We are all sharing knowledge and engaging with one another via technology that instantly bridges geographic distances in a moment when being across an ocean seems like being across the street.

For everyone, and particularly for the Jewish people, who have a long and storied narrative of coming closer towards as well as further away from God—and have suffered major calamities and secured triumphant victories along the way—now is also a time for reflection.

In the past several years, the tone across many of our communities has been bitterly divisive. Social media has simultaneously brought out the best and worst, where Torah and modern wisdom share space with harmful content and anti-Semitic trolling, where education and connectivity meet the useless and extraordinary wasting of precious moments. Too many of those moments are lost with loved ones just an inch further beyond our noses.

Politics are no longer about policies, and seemingly endless political campaigns are filled with toxic rhetoric. Our leaders are criminalized by the media and guilty until proven innocent. Middle ground has turned into an abyss, and political opposition has demonstrated a willingness to tear down our democracies for the sake of removing those elected to power by the public.

And yet our communities are simultaneously stronger than ever. America is a melting pot of all peoples and faiths, where nearly half of world Jewry has lived comfortably and prosperously following the horrors of World War I and World War II in Europe. Israel has blossomed into a melting pot of Jews from the four corners of the earth, where at least 12 diverse tribes of our people live together as one people while balancing varied customs and levels of tradition. In a little more than 70 years, the “Startup Nation” has quickly emerged from a resource-poor developing country into an economic, technology and military superpower.

Jewish birthrates from secular to religious are on the rise. Hebrew is spoken by more people than ever before. And the teaching of Jewish tradition and wisdom is beginning to thrive in the land of our ancestors.

During the coronavirus crisis, Jews are using their hyper-creativity to develop solutions to critical problems. Others are going out of their way to help those in need in abundant acts of kindness. Individuals are spending more time with their loved ones and reaching out to friends and family who are similarly trying to navigate the unknown.

Yet for all the good, too many members of our collective tribe are hanging on to bad habits. As global anti-Semitism is sharply on the rise placing Jews around the world in real danger, even among ourselves we demonize each other.

Israelis are trashing haredim, who are now spreading the virus faster than other elements of society. Their large families and insular community settings have quickly turned them into the first Israeli victims. They will not be the last. In the weeks ahead, the coronavirus will strike religious and secular alike, as well as the Arab populations both within Israel and in the West Bank, which until now have not been strictly observing any rules of social distancing.

Haredim are not the enemy. They did not create the coronavirus, and they did not import it into Israel. They did not wish to get sick at all—let alone first. And they certainly do not want to spread sickness to others. Nevertheless, they are being harshly demonized in the bitterest of tones. And they are suffering the most right now.

While they want exemptions from army service and stipends for learning Torah—expectations that many Israelis rightly deem unfair—they are also part of the Jewish narrative and genuinely love living among the nation of Israel, even as they poorly attempt to pushback against Israel’s rapid modernization.

Israel’s politicians are so far managing the coronavirus crisis efficiently and with great ingenuity. Under the leadership of the Jewish state’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the government is mobilizing its agencies and empowering the best minds to develop instant solutions that are saving countless numbers of lives. They are communicating effectively with the public. The media’s coverage of the coronavirus crisis has, by and large, been superlative.

Still, political allies turned foes continue to wrestle publicly with each other. They have taken large taxpayer salaries while refusing for more than a year to form a functioning parliamentary majority. Democratic norms, and critical checks and balances, are being wantonly violated. The coalition system and judicial authority need to be reformed. Yet there are seemingly no straightforward solutions or the willingness to work together to make meaningful change.

Jews in America proudly visit Israel and support numerous Israeli institutions to a tune of billions of dollars a year. Israelis have provided a significant return on investment. As measures of appreciation, Israelis are developing methods of engagement and sending post-army graduates across the ocean to help American Jews who truly want to remain committed to their identity.

And yet politicized and well-funded forces are advancing dangerous narratives aimed specifically at creating and magnifying divisions between the two largest Jewish communities, as if the Atlantic Ocean wasn’t a great enough divide.

This week, as Jews around the world now get set to celebrate the joyous holiday of Passover, we will hold traditional our previously large seder dinners alone, with only the nuclear families in our homes. The situation is eerily similar to the original night of Passover, in which Jews baked matzahs and ate the sacrificial lambs huddled up in their homes, worried for their lives as a plague was taking the lives of Egyptian firstborn all around them.

That plague was the final phase before the redemption of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery. Today, the modern redemption of the Jewish people has already begun with the miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel. But we remain slaves to many of our own, self-induced bad habits.

The coronavirus should give us the time we need to reflect on all that we have to be appreciative of, and to take meaningful steps to shed behaviors that don’t help us and to foster those that do as the individuals, nation and peoplehood we strive to be when this pandemic comes to an end.

Our reflection should bring us towards a spirit of unity. Unity between secular and religious. Unity between Israel and the Diaspora. Unity between Jews and our neighbors. Unity among our leaders: religious leaders, communal leaders and politicians.

We must also strive for greater unity between our people and our land—of which immigration and the application of sovereignty are critical components.

Most importantly, as this crisis humbles our understandings of life in so many respects, it is also an appropriate time to strengthen the unity between us and our Creator.

(JNS.org)

Alex Traiman is the managing director and Jerusalem bureau chief of Jewish News Syndicate.

No Fuss Passover Recipes

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Braised Short Ribs with Tomatoes & Mushrooms Photo by: cucina grandinetti

By: Elizabeth Kurtz

A few more Passover recipes that meet my criteria for this year, nothing fussy, ingredients that are easy to find, make-ahead friendly, and of course full of flavor. Wishing you all a meaningful Seder and some healthy time with family.

BRAISED SHORT RIBS WITH TOMATOES AND MUSHROOMS

Serves 8

Make this in the crockpot or on the stove top, it’s super simple, make-ahead friendly and full of flavor. I actually make it all year round. For the crock pot method, just place everything in the crock-pot and cook on high for 7–8 hours. Skim off the fat before serving. I do miss the browning of the meat and all the flavor that adds but you cannot beat the ease of making it in the crock-pot. Feel free to add carrots or parsnips to this too.

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (use 2 tablespoons if making in crock-pot)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
  • 5 lbs. bone-in short ribs (silver tip roast or french roast)
  • 1 lb button mushrooms, sliced thick
  • 1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Garnish: fresh parsley, optional
  • Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add meat and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes total. Remove meat.
  • Add mushrooms, tomatoes with juice, wine, broth, thyme, salt and pepper, and stir, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to boil and add meat back to pot, reduce heat to simmer and cook, partially covered 3 to 3 ½ hours, until meat is very tender. Serve warm with pan juices.
  • Best made a day or two ahead of time. Scrape off fat, before reheating and serving.

(Aish.com)

Pesah Message 2020

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During my talk, I described my parent’s exodus from Syria before I was born. Having been driven out by the Arab government and population after the establishment of the State of Israel, my mother swore never to return.Photo Credit: Twitter

By: Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.ByB

“בכל דור ודור חייב אדם להראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצריים”

“In every generation one must see and demonstrates himself as though he left Egypt”.

The entire night of the Pesah Seder and when we read the Haggadah, we act in a way through different customs and actions, to demonstrate that indeed we feel as though we, ourselves, have left Egypt. In this way, we can feel, and we can and educate our children and all those accompanying us during the Seder, to experience, albeit, very briefly and in a very small magnitude, the servitude that our forefathers experienced and the freedom, that they eventually achieved.

Recently I was invited by the American Jewish Congress to speak at a function in Westchester where I was asked to recount the details of my family history in the Middle East. During my talk, I described my parent’s exodus from Syria before I was born. Having been driven out by the Arab government and population after the establishment of the State of Israel, my mother swore never to return. She had vividly described to me the burning of the Synagogue next door by the Arab mob that was fast approaching my parent’s home, and the pillaging of Jewish shops and the destruction of the Jewish neighborhood. My parents and older siblings were able to flee, and made their way to Lebanon, which eventually became my birthplace.

I remember a pleasant childhood in Lebanon, however when I was a boy of about 10 years old the feeling of uneasiness living as a Jew in a fast becoming Moslem country began to reappear. Many times our attempts to leave Lebanon were futile.

As refugees, we could not leave unless a different country would accept us. Permission from the authorities was not granted. Few years later, I remember my family receiving a telegram, Ereb Pesah, with permission to exit Lebanon, and to start a new life in Mexico. As my memory was jarred, I realized that I felt like my brethren who many generations earlier were imprisoned, enslaved and later emancipated from a life that lacked freedom in Egypt. The fact that the good news coincided with Pesah, might have been coincidental, but in actuality that was the most joyous Pesah I could remember. As my family chanted from the Haggada we all felt that duality of existence; slavery and imprisonment on the one hand, and freedom and liberty on the other. I believe that we were indeed experiencing and reliving the injunction of בכל דור ודור–In every generation… in both of its variations; as a persecuted nation and as people who imagine and demonstrate themselves as though they are being liberated from Egypt.

That Seder night in 1971, during the recitation of the Misharotam, we were asked the traditional “Mnen Jeyeh – where are you coming from”, instead of answering the traditional “MiMissrayim”, we answered “Min Beirut – from Beirut”, and when we were asked “la’when rayeh – where are you going to”, instead of answering “La Yerushalyim – to Jerusalem”, we answered “La Mexico – to Mexico. That’s how personal that Pesah Seder night was for my family.

Today in the United States we live a life of freedom and liberty. Our children are thankfully removed from the hardships that faced their grandparents, who were living as Jews in a hostile world. Although, we cherish our freedom and do not wish to return to a life of hardship, we must always remind ourselves of a life without freedom. We can never become complacent and take our freedom and status for granted. Many of our elders remember a world without a Jewish state, a life filled with insecurity, and instability, no different than our forefathers in Egypt. In order to appreciate what G-d has bestowed upon us, we must continue to acknowledge that freedom should never be taken for granted, and that we must be diligent to maintain it always.

This year, is different from previous years, and we may need to chant מה נשתנתה השנה הזאת מכל השנים, why is this year different than other years”?

Yes, our freedom, has been diminished, as most of us around the world have been confined in our homes due to the Corona Virus Pandemic. Many of us will be celebrating Pesah alone; our grandparents alone, our children alone, our singles alone. No large Sedarim, no sharing and exchanging Hidushim, explanations and interpretations, only with those that are around our table. And this year when we recite in the Haggadah, בכל דור ודור עומדים עלינו לכלותינו והקב”ה מצילינו” מידם – In every generation they stand against us to annihilate us, and The Holy One, Gd will save us”, will have a different significance. This year it’s the COVID 19 pandemic that is attempting to annihilate us, but this year and this enemy, we share that fate with the rest of the world. The end of the statement however, is still true and the same, והקב”ה מצילינו מידם–The Holy One Gd, will save us “ . Hopefully soon, we’ll see the end of this pandemic.

As Pesah approaches I would like each of us to be thankful for all that we have, and to appreciate the freedom that our forefathers fought so hard to attain and transmit to us. It is incumbent upon us to cherish that freedom and to secure it for our children and the generations to come.

Tizku L’Shanim Rabbot and Hag Sameah.

We Must Choose Life As We Pray for G-d to Grant it to Us

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Police officers arrive to close synagogues in the city of Bnei Brak on April 1, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

By: Phyllis Chesler

The world is experiencing what feels like a global war of immense proportions. Facts change hourly; guidelines and advice change daily, sometimes twice a day.

People everywhere are anxious, frightened, angry, and grasping at straws of information. Those of us who are lucky enough not to be sick, and who have quarantined ourselves, are increasingly edgy, sad, even slightly disoriented.

But there are some among us who have continued to deny reality and to flout direct government orders and common sense. Remember the foolish college-age Americans who insisted on partying on the beach in Florida on March 17th? Remember the desperate Iranians who, contrary to guidelines, still insisted on licking the stones of a religious shrine in Qom on March 3rd? Remember all those churches, mosques, and synagogues whose leaders insisted on large prayer services even late in March of 2020?

When people deny reality—or when they disobey direct instruction—this often means that they’re too terrified to face what is happening. If Rome is burning, they’re playing Carpe Diem on their fiddles.

It also means that if they fear they are facing Death—they’d rather do so together, not alone. More: They also believe that a holy congregation of worshippers can appeal to a power that is mightier than that of science, more powerful than any secular ruler or mortal physician.

Religious people ask: Have we sinned and overreached ourselves; has our hubris known no limits, has it convinced us that nothing terrible could ever happen to us? Have our greed and selfishness been so great that God has called a plague down upon the entire world? Religious people also say: We must rend our garments, fast, cry out to high heaven, and pray.

Many God-fearing people are behaving as if they are living many millennia ago, before we knew about how diseases spread. Thus, some people of all religions have insisted on their right to pray together.

Most recently, on the last Sunday in March, and despite government orders, a Christian pastor in Florida held two large prayer services, was arrested, but released on bail. He argued that he had a First Amendment right to do what he did.

Greek and Russian Orthodox churches in Georgia, Montenegro, Romania, and Tanzania insisted on their right to remain open for group services—and they did so all during March. As late as March 29, Christian Orthodox churches in Russia, Brazil, Romania, and Georgia continued to hold services; the Romanian and Georgian priests “have been using shared communion spoons” despite government lockdowns. Some priests claimed that “as communion is a holy ceremony it is not possible to get ill during it.”

Muslims in Central Asia, the Middle and Far East (Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, Malaysia) gathered together for monstrously large prayer services. In Africa, (Nigeria), in defiance of government orders, clerics refused to close mosques; and in Tanzania, the President has refused to shut down churches and mosques.

And then, there are my people, the Jews.

According to an online class taught two days ago by my rabbi, Ben Skydell of Orach Chayim in Manhattan, both the Rambam and centuries later the Rama, during the Black Plague in Germany, told Jews to cancel all gatherings and funeral services, as well as all prayer services.

Nevertheless, despite such esteemed precedents, and despite current rulings by major Orthodox rabbis, some haredi Jews, (who may not listen to radios or televisions and who have no internet access), continued to attend large wedding, funerals, and prayer services.

In Israel, as of this week, it has been reported that the Israelis in the haredi sector, who comprise only 10-12% of the population, constitute 50% of those infected.

Many had refused to stop group prayer and group gatherings. In haredi communities in Brooklyn and Monsey, we know that they’ve held large weddings and group prayer services despite a government imposed lockdown. (Note: Haredi rabbis have now come out strongly against doing so and vehicles with loudspeakers have driven around haredi communities in Israel to ensure everyone knows the rules, but not all adhere to them.)

Brothers, Sisters, Friends: I know it is strange not to pray together. But here’s what makes sense right now:

Why not follow Hannah’s style of prayer? She prayed to God alone, and with such fervor that she was granted her wish and was soon pregnant with one of our greatest prophets, Samuel. Women of all religions have often prayed alone. At home. In hospital rooms. Or silently in shul. So have male mystics, such as the Baal Shem Tov. If we are not afraid to weep, we might even open heaven’s gates which, I’ve been told, are never closed to tears.

(Israel National News)

Phyllis Chesler is a Ginsburg-Ingerman Fellow at the Middle East Forum, received the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, authored 18 books, including Women and Madness and The New Anti-Semitism, and 4 studies about honor killing, Her latest books are An American Bride in Kabul, A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killing and A Politically Incorrect Feminist.

Israeli Missile-Production Line Starts Churning Out Much-Needed Ventilators

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Israel Aerospace Industries new ventilator production line. Credit: Courtesy.

“We are operating in a challenging time, and in a global ‘war’ to acquire the necessary components and fulfill our mission,” said Udi Kantor, CEDO of Inovytec.

By: Yaakov Lappin

In ordinary times, Israel Aerospace Industry’s Systems Missiles Space group churns out advanced missiles, including interceptors used by the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 defense systems. During these extraordinary times, the group has added a new production line—one that produces hospital ventilators.

As Israel, like many countries, grapples with a shortage of ventilators in the face of a potential tidal wave of vulnerable coronavirus patients, IAI teamed up with Ra’anana-based Inovytec, which specializes in the production of emergency medical systems, to get the new production line going quickly.

The new cooperation program, which is being conducted together with the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Production and Procurement, and the Ministry of Health, will soon see hundreds of ventilators being produced, giving Israel a domestic pass production capability.

The new line was set up in a matter of days, and has already produced and tested dozens of machines.

“The issue of ventilators is a significant bottleneck,” an IAI source told JNS. “We have been in contact with the health and defense establishments to see how we can call up our capabilities to assist.”

IAI is working with government-owned companies and start-ups on multiple task forces aimed at finding new solutions to the pandemic. After being put in touch with Inovytec via the Defense Ministry, the cooperation quickly resulted in the production line of the company’s Ventway Sparrow ventilators.

“This is a proven machine in use in Israeli hospitals and abroad,” the source said. But Inovytec’s small size meant it could not rapidly shift to mass production. As a result, IAI entered the picture with its factory, engineers, technicians, and infrastructure, who normally work on building missiles and satellites. Both types of production require great precision and technical checks, the source explained.

The Defense Ministry described the Ventway Sparrow as “a state-of-the-art, turbine-powered, lightweight, easy-to-use ventilator that enables effective invasive and non-invasive mechanical ventilation for both adults and children. The ventilator has been tested for compliance with the most stringent medical standards, and is currently used in hospitals and emergency medical centers in Israel and around the world.”

IAI is also able to procure the materials needed for production and has the logistical prowess to get hundreds of ventilation systems rolling off the production line by next week. “The infrastructure, equipment, electronics and precision that are needed to make missiles fit the production of ventilators,” said the source.

‘Accelerate production rates even further’

Avi Dadon, head of the DOPP, stated, “Once we were assigned the task of acquiring and producing a maximum number of ventilators in a short period of time, we saw the immediate mobilization of the local industry. A high-tech medical company, working with the excellent defense industry and the Ministry of Defense, has been able to deliver an advanced production line that already issues dozens of advanced respirators within just a few days. We are at the beginning of the road, and in the coming weeks, we will accelerate production rates even further.”

The Defense Ministry noted on Tuesday that “all the parties involved are facing challenges in the international chain of supply and dealing with record demand and difficulty in purchasing components. As a result, all of the relevant bodies in the State of Israel have joined forces in order to achieve what is needed for the production of these crucial ventilators.”

The new production line is one of several efforts under way by the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Production and Procurement.

The DOPP is also overseeing the purchase of medical equipment and protective gear, including ventilators and masks, abroad. Under the DOPP’s plan, drawn up together with the Health Ministry, this will include 2,500 ventilation machines—1,000 assembled in Israel and another 1,500 bought abroad and flown in. Those target numbers appear to have grown substantially in recent days, in line with potential worst-case scenarios.

In an extraordinary report aired by the Israeli investigative program, Uvda on Channel 22 this week, a Mossad official in charge of a joint operations room at Tel Hashomer Hospital, involving health and defense officials, shed light on the overseas operation aimed at getting hold of the machines.

The program also featured comments by Mossad director Yossi Cohen, who stated, “My central objective is procurement and readiness for the most severe scenarios.”

A man identified only as H, the head of Mossad’s Technological Branch discussed how his organization joined forces with the Health Ministry and brought its operational expertise to the unprecedented overseas purchasing operation. The Mossad has been instructed to bring to Israel more than 130 million items in the next two months that are needed to fight the coronavirus, including protective gear, test kids, medicines, and most of all, ventilators—the subject of fierce international competition around the world.

“The world is selling them in between the cracks. We must find those cracks,” said H. “We activate our special ties to win in this competition.”

He spoke of thousands of leads that the intelligence agency is pursuing. The operation should result in a million-and-a-half N95 masks—vital for medical teams—700,000 surgical masks and a large number of ventilators.

‘We cannot remain dependent on procurement from other countries’

At the same time, officials in Israel are stressing the need to develop rapid self-sufficiency in this field.

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

Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Dani Gold, director of the Directorate for Defense Research and Development in the Defense Ministry, said, “Turning a missile-production line into a ventilator assembly plant is a very complex task, made possible by the collaboration between the Ministry of Defense and the defense industry. We are continuing in the race around the clock to translate the extraordinary tech capabilities of the defense establishment to the fight against corona.”

Udi Kantor, Inovytec CEO, added that “the collaboration with IAI and with the Ministry of Defense is amazing at this time, and it allows us to multiply our production capabilities and supply ventilators in the shortest possible time frame. We are operating in a challenging time, and in a global ‘war’ to acquire the necessary components and fulfill our mission.”

Also this week, the Defense Ministry announced a new agreement with the Sion Medical company in Israel, whose factory is in Sderot, for the purchase of 35 million masks and hundreds of thousands of Uniforms for medical staff. Some 11 million surgical asks will be available by April. The company will also produce 5.5 million N95 masks, and hundreds of thousands of overalls and protective gear.

“A unique machine was brought to Israel with the assistance of the Defense Ministry, in order to enable Sion to open the production line for advanced masks. The machine is the only one of its kind in Israel,” the Ministry said in a statement.

            (JNS.org)

Trials Begin for Potential COVID-19 Drug Remdesivir

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A drug originally developed to treat Ebola is getting a second chance in the spotlight, as research teams in the United States, Asia and Europe race to test it against the new coronavirus. The drug, called remdesivir, has already been given to a limited number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, on a "compassionate use" basis. That included the first U.S. patient diagnosed with the disease — a 35-year-old man in Washington state who sought care on Jan. 19, shortly after returning home from Wuhan, China.

By: Amy Norton

A drug originally developed to treat Ebola is getting a second chance in the spotlight, as research teams in the United States, Asia and Europe race to test it against the new coronavirus.

The drug, called remdesivir, has already been given to a limited number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, on a “compassionate use” basis. That included the first U.S. patient diagnosed with the disease — a 35-year-old man in Washington state who sought care on Jan. 19, shortly after returning home from Wuhan, China.

He ended up in the hospital, and after his lung function deteriorated, he was placed on oxygen and later given an infusion of remdesivir. He improved the next day, his doctors reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The problem is, individual cases do not prove that a treatment works, or would even be safe if given to large numbers of patients.

“You can’t assume it’s safe and effective,” said Dr. Babafemi Taiwo, chief of infectious diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

This week, Northwestern was among the latest U.S. medical centers to join a large-scale research effort sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). It is putting remdesivir to the “gold standard” test in medicine: a controlled clinical trial.

Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are being randomly assigned to receive either infusions of remdesivir or a placebo, in addition to standard care, including breathing support.

Dr. Victor Tapson is a pulmonary medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles. He explained that “we don’t learn whether something really works without randomized clinical trials.”

Cedars-Sinai also joined the NIAID trial this week, becoming one of a planned 75 sites worldwide to participate. Tapson is the hospital’s site director, where the goal is to enroll up to 30 patients.

All of the trial patients will be sick enough to be hospitalized, but at varying stages of severity, according to Tapson. Some will be intensive care unit (ICU) patients on ventilators, while others will be less ill — showing low oxygen levels, for example.

At Northwestern, the first patient slated to receive the drug was an 89-year-old man in the ICU. His family is “very excited,” Taiwo said. At the same time, he cautioned that everyone needs to wait for the trial results to know whether remdesivir can truly fight the virus.

The drug, made by U.S. biotech giant Gilead Sciences, was originally developed to battle the Ebola virus epidemic that swept through several African countries between 2013 and 2016. Clinical trials later showed it was less effective in treating the disease than some other experimental therapies.

“It might not be the most effective treatment for Ebola, but we did learn about its safety in humans,” Tapson said.

And while Ebola is not caused by a coronavirus, animal research shows that remdesivir is active against the coronaviruses that caused the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreaks.

The drug has the potential to fight different virus families because of the way it works, Taiwo explained. Essentially, it disables key molecular machinery that certain viruses use to make copies of themselves.

In the latest trial, patients assigned to remdesivir will get a daily infusion of the drug for up to 10 days; those in the placebo group will receive infusions of an identical-looking, inactive substance.

Tapson could not predict when the results will be available, but it will be quick relative to the norm for clinical trials.

“We’re not looking at how patients do in a year,” Tapson said. “Once we have the one-month data, then data analysis can start.”

Remdesivir is one of many treatments researchers are investigating for COVID-19. Other drugs, including antivirals and medications that target lung inflammation, are under study. And hospitals in New York City and Houston are looking at whether antibodies from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients can be used to treat others.

Meanwhile, on March 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said doctors can use two malaria drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, to treat people hospitalized for COVID-19. That was based, however, on scant evidence that they are helpful — primarily from a French study of 20 patients given hydroxychloroquine, with or without the antibiotic azithromycin.

A larger clinical trial to test hydroxychloroquine is underway.

None of the therapies under study are seen as a potential magic bullet. Tapson said it is “likely a multi-faceted approach will be ideal.” And both he and Taiwo emphasized that prevention remains the primary weapon.

“We’re working as fast as we can on treatments,” Taiwo said. “But prevention is the best strategy we have.”

(Health Day News)

NYC Health + Hospitals to Triple ICU Capacity, Expand Personnel

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Photo Credit: cdmsmith.com

Plan will create more than 2,475 standard hospital beds, 760 ICU beds, add 2,500 health care workers

Edited by: TJVNews.com

To accommodate the surge in patients, NYC Health + Hospitals has expanded ICU capacity system wide, with an immediate focus on NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, NYC Health + Hospitals/ Lincoln and NYC Health + Hospitals/ Bellevue. NYC Health + Hospitals will aim to bring on a total of 3,000 additional ICU beds by May 1, nearly tripling the base ICU capacity of its 11 hospitals.

Over the past few weeks, the City has leveled the COVID-19 surge across the system by transferring 193 non-ICU and 43 ICU COVID-19 patients from NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, Queens, Lincoln, Woodhull, and Kings County hospitals to other public hospitals with more capacity. Each facility identified usable space, based on surge planning exercise started in February.

“Our City faces unprecedented challenges in the weeks ahead,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Every ventilator and ICU bed can save life, which is why we are marshalling every possible resource to our hospitals in record time. Still, the federal government must step up and provide the reinforcements we need. The battle will be long, and we cannot fight it alone.”

“The Governor has called for hospitals to prepare for the surge and New York City’s public hospitals have been more than rising to the challenge of caring for the large number of covid-19 patients needing intensive care,” said President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals Mitchell Katz, MD. “We’re proud to be able to provide these incredibly important services at this critical moment in our city’s life. And we will continue to work with city, state, federal officials and the private health systems in the city to secure as many more beds, health care personnel and equipment we need to prepare for the peak time of the epidemic which is projected to occur sometime in April or early May.”

NYC Health + Hospitals Capacity Update

Throughout this initial surge, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst has added 82 ICU beds, bringing the total of available beds to 111. The hospital will bring on 30 additional ICU beds in the coming weeks. NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln has added 80 ICU beds, and will bring on an additional 34 in the coming weeks. NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue has added 61 beds, with 52 more on the way.

Over the course of the month of April, NYC Health + Hospitals will create nearly 762 ICU beds – more than any other hospital system in the country – and add nearly 2,500 medical beds.

  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull will add 91 medical and surgical beds and 23 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens will add 373 medical beds and 44 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx will add 77 medical beds and 31 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan will add 156 medical beds and 74 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County will add 292 medical beds and 117 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi will add 265 medical beds and 93 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem will add 141 medical beds and 44 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst will add 230 medical beds and 69 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island will add 104 medical beds and 18 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue will at 212 medical beds and 52 ICU beds
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln will bring 525 beds and 197 ICU beds online

Support for NYC Health + Hospitals Staff

To accommodate a surge in patients, NYC Health + Hospitals has added 165 doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistant system wide. An additional 1,000 registered nurses were deployed as of yesterday, and another 1,000 nurses will be deployed in the next two weeks. NYC Health + Hospitals will also add another 350 doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants over the course of next week.

Free COVID-19 testing is also now available to NYC Health + Hospitals health care workers at their request. Additionally, NYC Heath+ Hospitals has raised more than $1.6 million from private donors in the last week alone to provide comfort items to front line staff, including meals, groceries, taxi rides, hotel rooms. The public health care system has also expanded its Helping Healers Heal program to extend emotional and psychological counseling to the health care workers dealing with the common stress and anxiety caused by the crisis.

To support this massive expansion and be able to serve the increasing number of New Yorkers, NYC Health + Hospitals deployed a number of additional surge strategies, including:

  • Opened a new 350-bed medical center on Roosevelt Island on March 27 to transfer low acuity patients and allow hospitals to expand its ICU capacity; expect to have 40 patients admitted by the end of this week.
  • Deployed more than 750 clinicians to provide telephonic clinical guidance to more than 4,000 New Yorkers who call 311 every day to help redirect people from coming to the emergency room unnecessarily.
  • Scheduled approximately 29,000 patient televists in a week to keep patients safely at home and reduce the spread of the virus.

About NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 42,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or Twitter at @NYCHealthSystem.

CDC Urges All Americans to Wear Face Masks as Death Count Rises

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The White House announced new guidance on Friday that urges all Americans to wear face coverings in public to curb the spread of COVID-19. Photo Credit: CDC

By: Robin Foster & EJ Mundell

The White House announced new guidance on Friday that urges all Americans to wear face coverings in public to curb the spread of COVID-19.

As President Donald Trump told the American public about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation during a coronavirus task force briefing, he noted he will not be following it, The New York Times reported.

“With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing,” Trump said. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary.”

These face coverings can be non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandanas and they can be used while out at everyday shopping spots such as the grocery store, pharmacy or gas station, the Associated Press reported. Medical-grade masks would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.

Any additional COVID-19 prevention measures are welcome, as the number of coronavirus cases worldwide swept past 1 million and the United States saw its death count rise beyond 7,000 on Saturday.

As cases rise across the country, the U.S. economy appeared headed toward a free fall.

On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past week.

For the second straight week, jobless claims have been record-setting, with the latest claims bringing the two-week total to 10 million, the Times reported.

Until now, the worst week for unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982, the newspaper reported.

As the troubling numbers kept climbing, state officials across the country said they are running out of face masks, gloves and other protective equipment amid reports that the federal government’s emergency medical supply stockpile is rapidly dwindling, the Washington Post reported.

‘A bad two weeks’ ahead

While Vice President Mike Pence warned that America’s situation is most comparable to Italy’s massive struggle with the virus during a Wednesday media briefing, Trump held out the possibility of potential flight restrictions between hard-hit areas of the United States, the Post reported. However, he noted that it would be difficult to entirely suspend air travel.

“I am looking where flights are going into hot spots,” Trump said during the media briefing.

Such measures may be needed, as the White House coronavirus task force delivered a particularly grim statistic to Americans on Tuesday: The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could climb to 240,000, even with social distancing policies in place.

During a media briefing, Trump warned citizens to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks,” the AP reported.

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” Trump said. “This is going to be one of the roughest two or three weeks we’ve ever had in our country. We’re going to lose thousands of people.”

Still, public health officials suggested that number could drop if everyone followed national social distancing guidelines to the letter.

“We really believe we can do a lot better than that,” task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said during the Tuesday media briefing.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Birx said. “There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviors. Each of our behaviors, translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic.”

The death toll in the United States reached 7,122 on Saturday and it continued to outpace other nations with more than 276,000 confirmed infections, the Times reported.

New York City struggles with cases

New York remains the hardest hit area of the country. More than 2,900 people have died in New York.

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that his state could run out of breathing machines in six days.

“If a person comes in and needs a ventilator and you don’t have a ventilator, the person dies,” Cuomo said during his daily media briefing. “That’s the blunt equation here. And right now we have a burn rate that would suggest we have about six days in the stockpile.”

Meanwhile, the leaders of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have issued stay-at-home orders for the more than 15.2 million residents of those three states, the Post reported.

While all three jurisdictions had already banned gatherings, closed businesses and schools, and urged people to stay home, the new orders are mandatory and breaking them could include fines and potential jail time.

In the face of rapidly rising coronavirus case numbers and deaths, Trump backed down on plans to re-open the country by Easter — instead extending strict social distancing guidelines for the country to April 30.

(Health Day News)

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