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LEADING ORTHODOX GROUPS ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT TELLING COMMUNITY TO STAY HOME & SAVE LIVES
Rabbinic leaders and organizations across the Orthodox spectrum have, individually, declared the health threat presented by COVID-19 a mortal threat (sakanas nefashos).
Today, we, leaders of major American Orthodox Jewish organizations, join together to reiterate, as clearly and forcefully as we can, our collective view. We have heretofore urged not only full compliance with all health guidelines issued by federal, state, and local governments, but have gone beyond those pronouncements in urging our communities to remain at home and avoid, to the maximum extent feasible, any outside interactions. In keeping with those guidelines, we have mandated scrupulous hygiene and social distancing, and urged everyone to stay home and minimize physical interaction.
We have taken the unprecedented and deeply distressing step of shuttering the central fixtures of our lives – our shuls, yeshivos and schools – and certainly to eliminate other gatherings.
We have done so because as observant Jews we have an obligation to place supreme value on protecting human life (pikuach nefesh).
The undersigned, representing the broad spectrum of organized Orthodox Jewry in the United States, wish to underscore collectively that which each of our organizations has already stated unequivocally.
Stay home; save lives. May Hashem swiftly remove this plague from the world and bless us all with health, peace and tranquility.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President, Agudath Israel of America
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, President, Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, Rabbinical Council of America
Rabbi Shmuel Blech, Chairman, Rabbi Moshe Weisberg, Co-Chair, the Lakewood Vaad
Farley Weiss, President, National Council of Young Israel
Moishe Bane, President, Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President, the Orthodox Union
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, Executive Vice-President, Igud HaRabbonim – Rabbinical Alliance of America.
Additional signatories are forthcoming and will be featured in updated statements.
RABBI DAVID LAU CALLED ON JEWS ACROSS THE GLOBE TO DECLARE A FAST DAY AS A SPIRITUAL RESPONSE TO THE MOUNTING HEALTH CRISIS
By United with Israel Staff
Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau, in a public letter, called on Jews to refrain from eating or speaking unnecessarily on Wednesday in light of the coronavirus pandemic. “At this time, we must engage in soul searching,” he wrote. “As believing Jews, we know that the Hand of Providence is behind this and that it comes to tell us something.”
Abstinence from food and speech is a Jewish spiritual practice designed to encourage self-reflection on the personal and communal level.
The chief rabbi continued, “Everyone feels the sword which has been unleashed and which is taking lives all over the world. At this time, as we strictly adhere to the directives of medical officials, each of us should examine his ways and improve his behavior, both regarding commandments relating to his fellow man and regarding commandments relating to G[-]d.”
Wednesday was chosen because it is the eve of the start of the Hebrew month of Nisan, one of the Jewish calendar’s four “new years,” considered by some sages to be the month in which the world was created. Jews observe the new year with prayers and supplication, making Wednesday an apropos time for fasting and introspection.
Rabbi Lau called on all to say special prayers asking for salvation from the dreaded illness for themselves and the world at large.
The rabbi urged those are healthy to fast, even for half a day, as part of their supplications for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. For those who cannot fast, Rabbi Lau recommended abstinence from speaking, a fast of speech, or at a minimum restricting speech to expressions of kindness, positivity and caring.
The letter ended with a heartfelt prayer, “May our benevolent G[-]d listen to our prayers and respond to them, delivering us from all harsh decrees, saving, with His abundant mercies, His people of Israel and people in need the world over.”
United With Israel, News alert
UJA-FEDERATION OF NEW YORK ANNOUNCES MORE THAN $23M IN GRANTS AND LOANS TO MEET NEEDS OF NEW YORKERS AFFECTED BY COVID-19
NEW YORK CITY – Today, UJA-Federation of New York (UJA) announced more than $23 million in immediate financial aid to help meet the ever-growing needs of vulnerable New Yorkers affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). The grants and loans are intended to offer immediate relief to New Yorkers facing food insecurity and to provide financial relief to UJA partner organizations so they can continue to provide essential health and human services to their communities. “This first round of grants is a critical part of UJA’s broad effort to support the most vulnerable New Yorkers during this crisis. We’re deeply grateful to all our nonprofit partners on the front lines who work tirelessly – day in and day out, and in times of crisis – to sustain our community,” CEO, UJA-Federation of New York Eric S. Goldstein said.
Approximately $1,750,000 granted to Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty Met Council will receive $1 million to help its critical work with operations and supplying food pantries across New York. This grant reflects particular concern about food insufficiency among homebound seniors, children who are not receiving city-funded hot meals, and the unemployed. An additional $750,000 will provide emergency Passover meals to more than 180,000 members of New York’s Jewish community in need.
Many Jewish New Yorkers will face unprecedented hardship this Passover, which begins on April 8. UJA is making $250,000 available for Passover meals to-go that will be distributed to those who are newly isolated or quarantined, have relied on free or subsidized communal seders, or are newly financially vulnerable.
$21 Million Loan Fund at Hebrew Free Loan Society (HFLS)
UJA will establish a $20 million loan fund at HFLS to offer zero-interest loans to UJA partner agencies that are under financial stress. This loan fund is intended to stabilize at-risk organizations that provide essential health and human services for millions of New Yorkers. An additional $1 million loan will ensure that HFLS can continue to provide loans to small businesses.
New York City COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund
UJA provided a grant and will serve on the steering committee of New York City COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, a consortium of leading philanthropic organizations that support New York City-based social services and cultural organizations that have been affected by coronavirus. The new $75 million fund will provide grants and zero-interest loans to small and mid-size nonprofits to help them respond to emerging needs, cover losses associated with the disruption of their operations, and help them continue their critical work.
“Met Council is on the front lines with UJA-Federation dealing with an unprecedented crisis unfolding in our city. After healthcare, the number one concern that we should have is feeding struggling, homebound and elderly New Yorkers. The emergency food pantry system is strained in a way that we have never seen before. This emergency funding from UJA will allow us to serve hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are now in crisis. We are grateful for the partnership that we have with UJA-Federation and their incredible leadership during these times,” said David G. Greenfield, CEO, Met Council.
“This is a fast, bold response by the UJA-Federation of New York. There is already tremendous need, and it will deepen as we move forward. The Hebrew Free Loan Society and all nonprofits must work hand-in-hand with funders, employers and government to ensure people have access to basic needs as income disappears or payments are delayed,” said Rabbi David Rosenn, Executive Director of Hebrew Free Loan Society. “HFLS was founded in 1892. We have helped New Yorkers survive the Spanish Flu, two World Wars and the Great Depression. We’ll get through this latest challenge in the same way: By serving as a way for people to help each other when we all need it most.”
For more than 100 years, UJA-Federation has brought New Yorkers together to solve some of the most pressing problems facing our community. Through UJA, more than 50,000 donors impact the issues that matter most to them, pooling their resources to care for Jews everywhere and New Yorkers of all backgrounds, respond to crises close to home and far away, and shape our Jewish future. Working with a network of hundreds of nonprofits, UJA extends its reach from New York to Israel to nearly 70 other countries around the world, touching the lives of 4.5 million people each year.
27 Adar-4 Nisan, 5780 March 23-29, 2020 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES -- 632nd Web Ed.
The Jewish Observer,
LEADING ORTHODOX GROUPS ISSUE GUIDANCE TO COMMUNITY
ON THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON PASSOVER
Joint Statement to the Orthodox Community Regarding Pesach
Rabbinic leaders and organizations across the Orthodox spectrum have, individually, declared the health threat presented by COVID-19 a mortal threat (sakanas nefashos). We, leaders of major American Orthodox Jewish organizations, join together again to further clarify our shared and firm guidance for our communities.
We have heretofore urged not only full compliance with all health guidance issued by federal, state and local governments, but have gone beyond those pronouncements in urging our communities to remain at home and avoid, to the maximum extent feasible, any outside interactions.
With regard to the upcoming Pesach holiday, we note specifically the following critical mandates, shared in consultation with leading infectious disease and public health experts:
1. We are accustomed to honoring Pesach to the fullest degree, including taking haircuts, purchasing new clothing and tableware, and preparing the fullest menus. This year’s public health crisis mandates us to significantly limit all of the above. Our responsibility is to refrain from any non-essential outside interactions, including especially in-store shopping. If there is a need for truly essential purchases, send one family member only – who is neither ill, vulnerable, nor of known exposure to Covid-19 – as rarely and as briefly as possible. Stores serving the community should shift to home delivery or drive-by parking lot pick-up of pre-orders, and – to the extent this is not possible – must take substantive steps to minimize crowding, maintain hygiene, and maximize social distancing.
We will truly honor Pesach by limiting our purchases to the truly essential, ensuring that all of us – especially the vulnerable – are able to celebrate Pesach in good health. We must stay home; save lives.
2. The Pesach plans of many have been completely upended. This creates severe difficulty for so many. We are deeply sympathetic to this enormous difficulty. Nevertheless, public health demands strict adherence to the current guidance. Travel to other cities must be cancelled, whether to vacation venues (Florida, etc.) or to family. Everyone must plan to celebrate Pesach where they are currently.
Individuals living alone or those absolutely unable to prepare for Pesach may choose to self-quarantine for 14 days, and then – if asymptomatic – may join with a welcoming local family that is similarly asymptomatic and that has been disciplined in staying home and limiting their interactions outside the home to the absolute minimum as described above.
These guests may join one family only for the duration, without additional company, and must carefully observe the mandated standards of scrupulous hygiene and social distancing. The elderly and high risk must seek medical advice before considering this.
Stay Home; Save Lives
We urge one and all – while strictly maintaining the prescribed guidelines – to look out for each other by reaching out to and providing for each other, especially those living alone.
We hope and pray that our sincere tefillos (prayers) and chassadim (acts of kindness) will move Hashem to swiftly remove this plague from the world and bless us all with health, peace and tranquility.
1 Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Executive Vice President, Agudath Israel of America
2 Rabbi Mendy Mirocznick, Executive Vice-President, Igud HaRabbanim - Rabbinical Alliance of America
3 Rabbi Shmuel Blech, Chairman, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Weisberg, Co-Chair, The Lakewood Vaad
4 Farley Weiss, President, National Council of Young Israel
5 Moishe Bane, President, Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President, the Orthodox Union
6 Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, President, Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, Rabbinical Council of America.