12-18 Nisan, 5780   UPDATED: NEXT EDITION 06/08/20  April 6-12, 2020 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--634th Web Ed.\




Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett calls on Jews around the world not to welcome grandparents for Passover Seder, pointing to the dangers of infecting elder family members with Coronavirus.

Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and in the run up to the Jewish festival of Passover (Pesach), Israel’s Minister of Defense, Naftali Bennett, today (Monday) sent out a stern warning to Jewish communities around world.

In a video greeting, he urged all Jewish families to ensure that despite the significance and tradition of coming together as a family for the Passover Seder, they refrain from large gatherings – especially those that included elder and younger family members together. “You do not do it this year with grandma and grandpa,” he stressed, and continued, “There will be no Passover Seder with young people and old people together, because that’s the single most lethal combination.”

Minister Bennett’s message reiterated his recent statements warning of the dangers of younger people – more likely to be asymptomatic, and unaware they are carrying Coronavirus – infecting elder members of the family for whom the virus has a much higher fatality rate of nearly 20 percent.

He explained that his family was planning to join a video call on the afternoon before the festival began to enjoy a Seder together with grandparents and relatives abroad, before fulfilling the festive traditions later on as a nuclear family in each location.

“That’s my recommendation,” said Minister Bennett and added firmly, “But I forbid every Jew in the world from doing a Passover Seder with grandma and grandpa. Even if you think you can isolate them doing it from 20 feet away, you can’t, they will get the Coronavirus. There’s no way to have a two or three hour Seder without your mother and father getting the virus, and it is lethal.”

He concluded, “Since we love our grandma and grandpa, we’re going to do the Pesach Seder from far away.”


As our nation and our world grapples with the ongoing critical struggle to contain the mortal threat of COVID-19, we offer the following words of guidance to our communities. We are all joined in prayer for the success of these efforts at containment, and for a speedy recovery for all those already affected. We acknowledge the pain and confusion that these efforts have imposed on everyone, especially those who will celebrate Pesach away from family and/or completely alone.

All of us share in the grief and uncertainty that is being experienced by so many individuals and families at this difficult time. We wish for one and all that they be blessed with health and the ability to commemorate these days with meaning and with a measure of joy.

In light of the upcoming festival, we must again share critical notes of guidance. We note that the situation continues to evolve, and under all circumstances nothing should be done that is not within the current guidance offered by local governments and health departments, as well as within the standards prescribed by communal rabbinic and medical leadership.
Everyone must plan to celebrate Pesach where they are currently. Travel to other cities, or visits with family even within your city, should be cancelled. This applies to the entirety of Pesach, including Chol HaMoed and the last days. While fresh air walks are encouraged, there should not be Chol HaMoed trips or excursions to parks, playgrounds and other venues, as these will create gathering points for community and pose a grave danger.

The limitation against holding Minyanim – indoors or outdoors – must sadly remain in place at this time, without exception. Shopping trips must absolutely be limited to the bare minimum, and – where critical – should be done while wearing a cloth mask, per current CDC guidance. Consolidate lists, and make do with less. Take delivery or curbside pick up whenever possible. This should be observed before, during and following Yom Tov. A crush of shoppers at our stores is a risk we cannot afford.

Bi’ur Chametz: At this time of great stress, we may do nothing that would possibly add any stress or burden to our emergency responders. Without a controlled communal bi’ur, significant risk would be posed by the creation of fires – public or private – for the burning of chametz. chametz may be disposed of via trash pick up or the sale of chametz, and the ten very small pieces from the bedikah may be crumbled and flushed.


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.

Chag kasher v’sameach. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President, Agudath Israel of America; Rabbi Mendy Mirocznick, Executive Vice-President, Igud HaRabbanim - Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Shmuel Blech, Chairman; Rabbi Moshe Zev 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 Daniel Korobkin, President, Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, Rabbinical Council of America.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival has reportedly agreed to join a unity government, ending a year of political deadlock. Benny Gantz's surprise election as speaker of parliament on Thursday paved the way for the deal.

He will stay in the role until he is named foreign minister, Israeli media report, and will then take over the premiership in September 2021.  Mr Gantz had refused to serve under Mr Netanyahu because he is facing trial.

The Israeli leader was formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in January.  Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most seats in this month’s general election - the third in less than a year - but more lawmakers recommended that Mr Gantz be given the mandate to form a government.

The rivals were subsequently urged to put politics aside to fight the new coronavirus pandemic, which has infected 2,600 people in Israel and claimed eight lives.

Analysis by Tom Bateman, Middle East Correspondence (BBCi)

Benny Gantz’s Blue and White alliance was forged as the anti-Netanyahu party. It pledged to never sit in a government with a prime minister facing criminal charges, as Mr Netanyahu does. But on Thursday night, after a year-long political crisis and three elections, Mr Gantz’s bloc had fallen apart. Its hopes of forming a government gone and its pledge not to sit with Mr Netanyahu now shattered.

Mr Gantz, without a clear path to a coalition on his own terms and under pressure due to the coronavirus outbreak, nominated himself and was elected speaker of the Knesset. He gained the backing of a majority of MPs after pledging to join an “emergency” unity government.

The deal will reportedly see Mr Netanyahu remain as prime minister and Mr Gantz taking over late next year. In the meantime, the incumbent leader will have a corruption trial to face.

But in a moment of crisis, and despite deep polarisation over his leadership, this looks like a clear victory and another come-back from the brink for Israel’s longest serving prime minister.

At the start of Thursday, Blue and White appeared to be preparing to pass legislation that would have prevented an indicted criminal suspect such as Mr Netanyahu from forming a new government.

The speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein - an ally of Mr Netanyahu - resigned on Wednesday amid a dispute with the Supreme Court. Blue and White were expected to put forward a nominee from among its ranks, Meir Cohen, to replace him.

But in a surprise move, reportedly after being warned by Likud that it would end talks on a unity government if Mr Cohen was elected, Mr Gantz put himself forward instead.

Before the election was held on Thursday evening, Mr Gantz was condemned by many lawmakers who had backed him for the premiership.

“This is a dark day,” said Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the left-wing Meretz party.

Yesh Atid and the Telem faction of former Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, meanwhile, filed formal requests to break away from Mr Gantz’s faction in the Knesset. They will remain as one party under the name Blue and White.Mr Gantz defended himself in a speech after he was elected speaker with the support of Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, saying it was “the right thing to do at this time”.

"These are not normal times and they call for unusual decisions," he said. “Therefore... I intend to examine and advance in every way the establishment of an emergency national unity government.”

Mr Netanyahu had been due in court last week to face corruption charges in connection with three separate cases. But the hearing has now been postponed until at least 24 May because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The prime minister is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favors to try to get more positive press coverage. He has denied any wrongdoing. --BBCi



NEW YORK CITY  –  The UJA-Federation of New York (UJA) recently 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.

Passover Meals-to-Go

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.



Every year, a moving and impressive Birkat Kohanim takes place during Chol Hamoed Pesach and Chol Hamoed Succot in the presence of hundreds of kohanim and many thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world.  This Birkat Kohanim event was established by Rabbi Mendel Gafner, zz”l, close to 50 years ago, in the year 5731.  Since then, this sacred event takes place twice a year, every year.

Sadly, this year, due to the coronavirus and the restrictions put in place, this special event will not be taking place.  But, in accordance with the Israeli government’s decision that prayers should not cease at the Western Wall, the three daily prayers have been continuing with a minyan while maintaining the proper distancing mandated by the Health Ministry.  The prayers every day, as well as the traditional Birkat Kohanim on Pesach, will be broadcast live.

Israel government made an exception recently in the case of the Western Wall and has allowed there to be three prayers a day at the Western Wall Plaza, in accordance with regulations of the Health Ministry.  These prayer services will be broadcast live for the benefit of the public.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, expressed his appreciation to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri for his involvement in allowing these prayers to continue.

Rabbi Rabinowitz also called upon the public to connect to this prayer from their homes so that thousands of Jews can join together for a prayer that transcends time and place.  Ten emissaries of the public will pray at the Western Wall with the entire Jewish nation joining them.

The gates of tears are open, and the gates of the Kotel even more so. May the prayers of masses of Jews and Birkat Kohanim to protect from harm be received and may we all merit to return and pray prayers of thanksgiving together at the Western Wall.

On Sunday – Thursday, the prayers will be broadcast live at the following times: (Israel time)

●    Shacharit – 7:30am (shmoneh esreh 7:55am);
●    Mincha – 1:20pm (shmoneh esreh 1:30pm);
●    Maariv – 7:30pm (shmoneh esreh 7:37pm);
●   On Fridays, only Shacharit will be broadcast live at 7:30am (shmoneh esreh 7:55am).

In cooperation with Radio Kol Chai, kaddish will be recited with a minyan at every prayer service for those saying kaddish for a family member and cannot pray with a minyan due to the situation.  

Names of deceased for whom kaddish should be recited can be sent via the Kotel website at the following address: 7D
or by WhatsApp message to 052-8618365.

The prayer will be broadcast via phone (# 02-3011133) as well as on digital platforms: kotel webcams:


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