Mapping the pandemic: Coronavirus across the Jewish world
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Mapping the pandemic: Coronavirus across the Jewish world

From Germany and Greece to Canada and China, we look at how the virus is affecting Jewish communities worldwide

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak took its toll on Jewish communal events and study courses around the world this week, with countless cancellations and closures.

On America’s east coast, Jewish colleges and universities closed their doors and a university basketball team had their hotel reservation cancelled after a student’s father tested positive, while Orthodox emergency service Hatzalah advised people not to go to shul, work or shops in Queens, NY.

On the west coast, a major Jewish cultural conference scheduled for the end of March was postponed after California’s governor issued a state of emergency. Jewish cultural centres cancelled classes and events. Although the Republican Jewish Coalition’s conference in Las Vegas was still expected to go ahead this weekend, with Donald Trump as guest speaker, organisers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference last week sent an email out to attendees alerting them to diagnoses.

The Conference of European Rabbis urged worshippers not to kiss Torah scrolls, mezuzahs or each other, and advised against shaking hands. In Italy, the Jewish community in Lombardy entered lockdown, while schools in Rome were closed and Purim events cancelled.

In Athens, an Israeli diplomat was diagnosed with coronavirus, while a woman, 40, who recently returned from touring the holy sites in Israel was in isolation, suspected of having contracted the virus.

Snapshot from around the world:

Canada

A synagogue suspends activities after a lay leader tested positive after attending the AIPAC conference in Washington. Toronto’s Beth Sholom Synagogue temporarily closed after a lay leader’s positive coronavirus test result.

UK

A dentist from north London was the first British Jew to be diagnosed with the coronavirus following a skiing trip.

Members of a London Jewish football team and its manager are in self-isolation after a player tested positive for the virus.

US

  • Yeshiva Har Torah in Little Neck, New York, cancelled all classes after assistant principal Rabbi Etan Ehrenfeld contracted the coronavirus.
  • An Orthodox lawyer, 50, from New Rochelle – and his wife, daughter, son and neighbour – have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. He is in a critical condition.
  • On 4 March, a friend of the lawyer who also lives in New Rochelle tested positive – along with his wife and three children. The family is under self-quarantine.
  • Yeshiva University cancelled classes at its Wilf Campus and high school in the Washington Heights neighbourhood of New York City last Wednesday after a student tested positive.
  • On 4 March, the AIPAC committee tweeted that “a group of policy conference attendees from New York was potentially in contact prior to the conference with an individual who contracted coronavirus”. The individuals are in self-quarantine and one person who attended has tested positive.
  • Synagogues and community centres have been cancelling services and events.
  • A major gathering for Americans planning to move permanently to Israel has been cancelled. More than 1,250 emigrants and their families had been expected at the Nefesh B’Nefesh “Mega-Aliyah” event on 15 March in Teaneck, New Jersey.
  • Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco is offering loans to people who are experiencing financial hardship because of the coronavirus.

Germany

Lufthansa has suspended all flights to Israel for the next three weeks, after the country imposed travel restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Greece

The Israeli embassy in Athens closed for disinfection after a diplomat there was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Israel

  • 79 people have tested positive for the virus.
  • Gatherings of more than 100 people banned.
  • More than 400 primary school students put into quarantine. Number of citizens overall estimated as being under quarantine owing to specific threat is 80,000.
    Cases confirmed in West Bank. Palestinian Authority bans foreign visitors for two weeks.
  • 10 billion shekel injection to boost ailing economy; one billion to health sector. Municipal events in Herzliya cancelled.
  • El Al puts 80% of employees on unpaid leave.

Italy

  • In Milan, an epicentre of infection, houses of worship were ordered closed. That meant a scaled down celebration for one barmitzvah boy, whose party was supposed to have 600 people but instead was for family only.
  • Some 130 kosher-for-Passover resorts around the world are watching their reservations closely. A few in Italy had already cancelled by early March.
  • Accordingly, Italian rabbis published a prayer for the well-being of the patients and encouraged congregants to pray.

Poland

  • The Auschwitz Memorial and Museum has closed down until further notice.
  • Organisers of this year’s March of the Living have postponed the event, due to take place on 21 April.
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