News

He wanted to encapsulate Beijing’s Jewish community in a Passover Haggadah. The coronavirus complicated that.

Artist Leon Fenster says this page of his Beijing-themed Haggadah aims to capture the traditional Haggadah’s "curiously non-chronological form of storytelling." (Courtesy of Fenster)

(JTA) — Unlike Shanghai or Hong Kong, which received Jews fleeing from World War II, Beijing does not have a robust Jewish history. In the words of Joshua Kurtzig, former president of the Reform congregation there, the massive Chinese capital is a “very transient city,” especially for Jews — meaning… Read more »

Saying Kaddish from balconies and fasting: How Hasidic Jews are responding to the coronavirus

Chabad children in Argentina study in the movement's online school in 2007. During the new coronavirus outbreak, the school has offered guidance to other Jewish schools transitioning to remote learning. (Courtesy of the Nigri International Shluchim Online School)

NEW YORK (JTA) — One of Avi Webb’s favorite times of the week is Sunday morning, when he takes his children to morning prayers at his synagogue and stays for a lesson on Hasidic thought. His kids play at an arts and crafts table while he studies. Webb is… Read more »

Jews in the United Kingdom prepare for distancing as Britain adapts to coronavirus

Philip Carmel, seen outside a Jewish cemetery in Russia during a work trip in 2018, says "the only difference between the United Kingdom and Italy is that we’re three weeks behind them.” (Cnaan Liphshiz)

(JTA) — As the coronavirus forced the shutdown of many synagogues in the United States and beyond last Shabbat, many British Jews celebrated the day of rest as usual. At the time, their government was taking a far less restrictive approach even as the leaders of other countries shut… Read more »

‘We’re not scared’: Some haredi Orthodox Jews in Israel are ignoring coronavirus social distancing rules

Some of the students at a haredi boys school in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, just west of Jerusalem, where classes are still being held, March 18, 2020. (Sam Sokol)

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel (JTA) — “Do you want trouble?” the Hasidic man asked, leaning toward me intimidatingly. “Are you threatening me?” I asked, turning to look at the lean man in a flat black hat and long caftan. “No. But if you stay here, everyone will come and there… Read more »

5 Jewish NGOs join appeal to Congress for $60 billion cash infusion

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Five Jewish nonprofits are among about 100 that are asking Congress to inject $60 billion into the sector to weather the coronavirus pandemic. The groups in their letter this week say that they are on the frontline of assisting the poor during the crisis and that… Read more »

‘I’m mentally preparing for a few months’: Meet an Israeli doctor on the coronavirus front lines

Dr. Elli Rosenberg, right, with colleagues in the coronavirus unit of Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva, Israel. (Courtesy of Rosenberg)

(JTA) — When it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic would reach Israel, Elli Rosenberg was one of a small number of medical professionals at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva to answer a call for volunteers to treat the sick. Rosenberg, a clinical immunologist who works as an… Read more »

Aging Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust are at risk from the coronavirus. So this Jewish group is delivering food to them. 

Jonny Daniels delivers groceries to a rescuer of Jews in Warsaw, Poland, March 17, 2020. (Courtesy of From the Depths)

(JTA) — As a teenager in Warsaw during the Holocaust, Krystyna Kowalska helped save a Jewish family of four who hid at her family’s bakery. She does not remember being afraid, even though if they had been discovered her whole family would have almost certainly been shot dead on… Read more »

Arab-Israeli parties just recommended Benny Gantz to be prime minister. Here’s why that’s historic.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List, left, with other party members at the party headquarters in the Arab-Israeli city of Shfaram, March 2, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

(JTA) — Amid all the justifiable focus on the coronavirus and its consequences, there was major political news in Israel this week: Benny Gantz, the Blue and White party leader, was tapped by the president to assemble a government coalition — bringing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu closer to his… Read more »

Former leader of Milan Jewish community dies of coronavirus

(JTA) — Michele Sciama, a former secretary-general of the Jewish Community of Milan — the city’s local Jewish communal life organization — has died of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Sciama, known to his friends and family as Micky, was 79 when he died Monday morning. He is survived by his… Read more »

Jewish Agency sending teen emissaries back to Israel, and to quarantine

(JTA) — Earlier this week, the Jewish Agency for Israel said it was committed to keeping its emissaries in the United States, even as other groups brought theirs home amid the rising coronavirus crisis. But on Friday morning, with schools and synagogues across the country shuttering in an effort… Read more »

I’m a veteran expert in stopping epidemics. Here’s why Jewish institutions should cancel everything.

Keeping the synagogue pews empty temporarily is seen as one way to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Getty Images)

CHICAGO (JTA) — I am an infectious disease epidemiologist who worked at the World Health Organization on epidemics in over 25 countries around the world. As a physician and member of the Jewish community, I prize the Jewish teaching that places the saving of a life above all other laws and… Read more »

No visitors, no group dinners: How Jewish nursing homes are trying to keep seniors safe from the coronavirus

Residents learn Facebook at the Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly in Massachusetts. (Suzanne Kreiter/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Benita and Michael Ross are glad to live a half-hour’s drive from their granddaughter’s college, Brandeis University. So when the Boston-area school announced Thursday that it would close due to the novel coronavirus, Benita would have invited her granddaughter to stay with them. Except she… Read more »

As the coronavirus epidemic looms, American Jews brace for a Shabbat like no other

A ribbon expressing support is tied to a pole outside the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, in New York's Westchester County, which was quarantined after a member tested positive for the coronavirus, March 10, 2020. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — As of Thursday, Alex Matthews felt confident that the synagogue he leads in Newburyport, Massachusetts, would be able to hold services as scheduled this Shabbat. Even as growing numbers of Jewish communities began shutting down schools and synagogues and, when possible, moving operations online, Congregation… Read more »

Dead Sea Scrolls fragments at DC museum are fake, its officials say

(JTA) – The 16 Dead Seas Scroll fragments housed at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., are forgeries, museum officials said Friday. “We’re victims — we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud,” CEO Harry Hargrove said at an academic conference hosted by the museum, National Geographic… Read more »

Brazilian Jewish schools close to prevent coronavirus infections

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) – Brazil’s largest Jewish community is closing schools in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, despite the very low number of infections in the country so far. Sao Paulo is home to half of Brazil’s 120,000 Jews. Its Beit Yaacov school, Brazil’s… Read more »