Friday, May 8, 2020 15 Iyar 5780 Vol. 92 | No. 19 | Â©2020 $1.00 | jewishledger.com
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CONNECTICUT JEWISH LEDGER | SINCE 1929 | MAY 8, 2020 | 15 IYAR 5780
8 Bulletin Board
9 Around CT
Homeward Bound......................... 5 Owing to the dangers of Covid-19 behind bars, Rabbi Daniel Greer, convicted last fall of sexually assaulting a teen at his New Haven yeshiva, is temporarily moved from prison to house arrest.
Crowd Control............................... 15 NYC Mayor De Blasio is blasted for singling out the entire “Jewish community” for violating social distance rules when hundreds of Orthodox Jews gather for a rabbi’s funeral. Turns out, the NYPD ok’d the event.
ELECTION 2020.............................. 15 Now that former Vice President Joe Biden is the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, questions remain about his “Jewish” campaign.
19 Torah Portion
23 Business and Professional Directory
ON THE COVER:
At a time when nearly all other aspects of communal Jewish life have shut down or moved online to stop the spread of COVID-19, chevra kadishas and funeral directors face difficult decisions about how to perform the rituals surrounding Jewish burials safely. PAGE 12 jewishledger.com
Arts & Entertainment.......................................................20 Singer Shulem Lemmer is a pop star in his community – and still a cantor, too. Now he’s also the first artist raised Hasidic to sign with a major record label.
Bonds of Life........................................................................21 We pay tribute to some of the lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic.
SHABBAT FRIDAY, MAY 8 Hartford: 7:40 p.m. New Haven: 7:40 p.m. Bridgeport: 7:41 p.m. Stamford: 7:42 p.m. To determine the time for Havdalah, add one hour and 10 minutes (to be safe) to candle lighting time.
MAY 8, 2020
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| MAY 8, 2020
CONNECTICUT JEWISH LEDGER | SINCE 1929 | MAY 8, 2020 | 15 IYAR 5780
NY police knew a Brooklyn rabbi’s funeral was happening – but hundreds showed up New York City mayor warns ‘the Jewish community’ and faces swift backlash distancing guidelines. Critics said de Blasio ran the risk of inflaming antisemitism just months after a spate of violent attacks on Jews in the city and at a time when the Orthodox community is mourning many of its own losses from the coronavirus pandemic. “Mr. Mayor, your words are unacceptable,” tweeted Kalman Yeger, an Orthodox Jewish member of the New York City Council. “To condemn our entire community over one group of people is something you would not do to any other ethnic group, and I know you long enough to know that you know this.” The head of the Anti-Defamation League sounded a similar note. “Hey @NYCMayor,
BY PAUL BASS
BY SHIRA HANAU
(JTA) – The images were striking, the mayor had strong words and the backlash was swift. On Tuesday night, April 28, hundreds of Orthodox Jews gathered for a rabbi’s funeral in Brooklyn, showing apparent disregard of public social distancing guidelines. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a tweet in which he singled out the entire Jewish community. “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” tweeted de Blasio. The Mayor drew swift criticism from Jews and others who said de Blasio had unfairly targeted New York Jews, which by and large has complied with social
Rabbi Greer released from prison
there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC,” CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “The few who don’t social distance should be called out – but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are scapegoating Jews. This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever.” Some of DiBlasio’s critics noted that the mayor had not responded similarly earlier Tuesday when New Yorkers gathered in parks to watch military planes fly over the city in a show of support for city workers. Others pointed to the mayor’s own habit of walking in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, where CONTINUED ON THE NEXT PAGE
EW HAVEN – Moved by an appeal about the dangers of Covid-19 behind bars, a Superior Court judge has ordered Rabbi Daniel Greer temporarily moved from prison to house arrest. Superior Court Judge Jon Alander issued the temporary order of release on Friday. The 79-year-old prominent New Haven rabbi – who was in his first year of a 20-year prison sentence (suspended after 12) at Cheshire Correctional Institution for repeatedly sexually assaulting a teenage student at his Norton Street yeshiva – can now remain at home in the Edgewood neighborhood under house arrest for at least 45 days on a promise to appear in court. The order states that the court may extend or termination the 45-day order. It was a striking move from a judge who had previously denied two separate motions by Greer’s attorneys to allow him to remain out of prison while he appealed his conviction. “We live in extraordinary times,” Alander wrote in his order. “Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.” He noted that the 79-year-old Greer suffers from chronic asthma, making him especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. Covid-19 is present in Connecticut prisons at a “substantially higher rate than in the general population,” while the state Department of Correction (DOC) has failed to supply “adequate” masks and other protective equipment to staffers, limiting its ability to contain the virus in what is already a challenging environment for social distancing, the judge stated. “Given the present high incident of COVID-19 within Connecticut’s prisons and the lack of sufficient PPE for its staff, the defendant’s advanced
HAREDI ORTHODOX JEWS GATHER IN BROOKLYN FOR A RABBI’S FUNERAL, APRIL 28, 2020.
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(CREDIT: REUVEN BLAU/TWITTER)
MAY 8, 2020
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crowds sometimes gather on sunny days in spite of social distancing guidelines. “The Blue Angels flyover in NY City today was beautiful, but I didn’t see any outrage over the lack of social distancing. That reaction is reserved for Jewish weddings & funerals,” tweeted Joel Petlin, who runs the school district in Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic town north of the city. “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but only one wrong makes the news and the condemnation of politicians.” Still, de Blasio stood by his warnings of police action against social distancing violators but expressed remorse over the tone of his tweets. “I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people the feeling of being treated the wrong way,” he said.
Was the gathering ok’d by the Mayor’s office? Some are questioning whether the police could have done more to stop the public procession before the crowd grew into the hundreds or thousands. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea acknowledged at a news conference Wednesday that members of his department were in contact with Hasidic community leaders to discuss “what to expect at that location” ahead of the funeral. That contact, he said, came “within minutes” of the rabbi’s death. “Plans were put in place, a detail was put in place … contingency plans were put into place, a number of officers were detailed in the unlikely event that large numbers came and we thought that was a possibility,” Shea said. “But absolutely I think we’ve been
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO ADDRESSES QUESTIONS ABOUT THE POLICE DEPARTMENT’S COORDINATION WITH ORGANIZERS OF A LARGE FUNERAL IN BROOKLYN, APRIL 29, 2020. (SCREENSHOT FROM YOUTUBE)
pretty consistent, Mr. Mayor … that there are to be no gatherings in New York City such as what we saw last night.” Asked for further detail on the plans made by the police with local community leaders, a spokeswoman declined to comment beyond Shea’s remarks at the news conference. In a statement distributed to reporters, Jacob Mertz, a spokesman for the congregation that organized the funeral, said organizers had the streets closed for the funeral to allow mourners to participate while following social distancing guidelines. “Unfortunately, this didn’t pan out, and NYPD had to disperse the crowds,” the statement said. “We shall note that everyone followed the police officers’ orders and the vast majority wore masks. Yet, the confusion and chaos led to scenes of large crowds. We understand Mayor Bill de Blasio’s frustration and his speaking out against the gathering. As said, we thought that the procession will be in accordance with the rules, and we apologize that it turned out otherwise.” Mertz did not address whether the NYPD was involved in the street closures, but a City Hall spokeswoman told the New York Post on Wednesday that no permits were issued for the funeral. David Greenfield, a former City Council member and CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, said in a tweet that the police “wanted to work with the chasidic synagogue out of respect for their revered (and well-known) late Rabbi so they literally barricaded streets for this ‘socially distant funeral.’”
age and underlying medical condition warrant his temporary release from prison until the crisis abates,” Alander wrote. The judge noted in his order that he had previously denied requests to release Greer on an appeal bond because he considers him a “serious and substantial flight risk.” He still does, Alander wrote, but added that pandemic stay-at-home orders and flight restrictions lessen the risk “to some degree.” Alander’s order places Greer under electronic monitoring by the Office of Adult Probation. Greer may leave home for religious services or medical and legal appointments, subject to a bail commissioner’s or probation officer’s approval. He must surrender his passport, avoid contact with boys under 16 years old, and “not violate criminal law.” Greer’s attorney, David T. Grudberg, Saturday night called for the state to release more inmates who are vulnerable to contracting Covid-19. “I hope that the State of Connecticut and DOC will take similar decisive action to release the most vulnerable inmates from custody, even on a temporary basis, who have a stable alternative to incarceration,” he said in a statement to the In-dependent. “This will help protect not just those prisoners, but also their fellow inmates and the brave DOC employees who continue to carry out their duties every day.”
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A jury found Greer guilty of four felony counts of risk of injury to a minor. Before this latest motion for temporary release, Greer had previously filed two appeals to Alander’s denial of his request to remain out on bond. Both times the case went to the state appellate court, which upheld Alander’s denials. Greer’s attorney, Grudberg, made a third attempt on March 31, asking the appellate court to release Greer based solely on the spread of Covid-19 in the prison system and the system’s difficulty in containing it. On April 15 the appellate court denied the motion to release, but this time ordered Alander to reconsider the issue in light of the growing Covid-19 crisis behind bars. So Grudberg filed a new motion to Alander’s court on April 16. In the motion, he noted that the number of prison inmate and staff Covid-19 cases in Connecticut prisons had “exploded” from 4 to “nearly 340”
| MAY 8, 2020
in just 16 days. He also said that the travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic decreased the chance of Greer fleeing. The state responded on April 22 with a motion opposing the request for release. The response, written by Senior Asst. State’s Attorney Maxine Wilensky (who prosecuted the criminal case against Greer), noted that Alander and the appellate court had already rejected similar Covid-19 arguments from Greer as part of a broader previous appeal for release. The court then “reasonably” decided that Greer’s crimes were serious enough, as is his flight risk, to warrant his remaining in jail even amid the pandemic. In prison, Wilensky wrote, Greer was “housed in protective custody, complete with his own sink and, more importantly has the cell to himself. The only contact with other people are DOC guards and other inmates, who are also in protective custody, should he choose to interact with them.” In home release, Wilensky argued, Greer would also “potentially be exposed ... given the need for food shopping, doctor’s visits, and religious gatherings for prayers.” Wilensky argued that the DOC is taking appropriate steps to protect inmates. Wilensky also elaborated on the potential flight risk: “The defendant has a car at his disposal, and travel between states is allowed. There are many Jewish orthodox communities, given their insular nature and distrust of outside authorities, that may be willing to help the defendant, and it would be difficult to locate him were he to flee there.” Grudberg swung back with an attack on the DOC’s record of containing the virus. In a response to Wilensky’s brief, he noted that as of April 23, the infection rate in the general population of Connecticut was under 1 percent, at 0.63 percent. By contrast, the infection rate for corrections workers stood at about 4 percent, for inmates at 2.8 percent. “DOC’s efforts are simply not working,” Grudberg wrote. He also argued that placing Greer on electronic monitoring would negate the flight risk. There were no in-court arguments. The judicial system has largely cut back courthouse proceedings during the pandemic. Alander issued his order a day after Grudberg submitted his response brief, and sided with his arguments. “We are exceptionally grateful that Judge Alander reconsidered his prior CONTINUED ON THE NEXT PAGE
“The Chasidic synagogue wanted to honor their saintly rabbi so they came up with a misguided scheme for an outdoor ‘socially distant’ public funeral. They were so convinced they could pull this off they COORDINATED with NYPD and even handed out masks.” One Twitter account called Satmar Headquarters, but not known to be affiliated with any official organ of the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, said police had approved the funeral and helped coordinate the procession. “This Funeral was originally approved and actually organized by @NYPDnews 2 hours b4 it started, PD brought trucks with barriers/tower lights to close off Bedford Avenue and the surrounding area. It’s the @ NYCMayor’s Dept who originally approved it before deciding to take it back,” the tweet said. Videos posted to Twitter showed police telling mourners over a loudspeaker to move off the street and onto the sidewalk. “Everybody go home, it is finished, there’s going to be traffic coming down the
decision and allowed Daniel Greer to be under house arrest until the current pandemic threat abates, instead of a life-threatening situation within the correctional system,” Grudberg told the Independent.
Community Leader Beginning in the 1980s, Rabbi Greer oversaw the revival of the neighborhood around his yeshiva at the corner of Norton and Elm streets, renovating neglected historic homes. He advocated for keeping nuisance businesses out of the Whalley Avenue commercial corridor, exposed johns who patronized street prostitutes in the neighborhood, and then in 2007 for launching an armed
street,” a police officer said in one video posted by Reuven Blau, a reporter for the local outlet The City. Another video posted by Blau showed police barriers in the background, suggesting that officers had helped close off the street for the funeral. The evening funeral, which was organized hastily in accordance with Jewish custom after Rabbi Chaim Mertz died on Tuesday afternoon, was publicized in a poster made by the rabbi’s synagogue, Tolath Yaakov. The poster included a map of the funeral route on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and advised mourners that anyone attending the funeral must wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart from others. The directive to wear masks was repeated by the Williamsburg Shomrim, a local patrol group run by Hasidic Jews, though videos from the scene clearly show some people without masks and within the proscribed 6 feet. “Everyone on the street should have a mask,” a Shomrim member said in a video from before the funeral.
neighborhood “defense” patrol and then calling in the Guardian Angels for assistance to combat crime. Over the years, Rabbi Greer also received national attention for his political stands. In the 1970s, he led a successful campaign to force the United States to pressure the Soviet Union into allowing Jewish “refuseniks” to emigrate here and start new, freer lives. Greer has also crusaded against gay rights in Connecticut, and filed suit against Yale University over a requirement that students live in coed dorms. This article is reprinted with permission of New Haven Independent.
This Mother’s Day, honor a woman or girl you love while helping women and children in need with a $100 gift to the Lillian Fund. You might not be able to take her out to brunch, but with a $100 gift you can honor a special woman with a vote on where to donate The Lillian Fund’s annual grant. The Lillian Fund is a giving circle of women that grants money to causes that help women and children in Greater Hartford and Israel. Last year’s grant allowed 70 neighborhood children to enjoy 15 weeks of free arts & music education at Charter Oak Cultural Center’s Youth Arts Institute in Hartford.
Make your gift for Mother’s Day today at https://bit.ly/2x6uNG4. Questions? Email Elana MacGilpin at email@example.com. RABBI DANIEL GREER WITH HIS ATTORNEY WILLIE DOW OUTSIDE OF COURT ON SEPT. 24, 2019, A DAY BEFORE A JURY FOUND GUILTY OF FOUR COUNTS OF RISK OF IN-JURY TO A MINOR. (CREDIT: CHRISTOPHER PEAK)
MAY 8, 2020
KOLOT BBYO Hosts Holocaust Survivor for Virtual Yom HaShoah
BY JENNIFER KRUZANSKY
NEW LIMITED TAKE-OUT MENU
New Hours: Open 7 days, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Hours subject to change. Please call ahead Take-out and curbside pick up
CALL TO PLACE YOUR ORDER: 860.875.1344 We are currently offering: Restaurant To-Go Hot and cold sandwiches • Hot entrees • Salad platters Sliced deli meats, cheeses and salads by the pound Grab n’ Go Retail Fresh cold entrees, soups and chilis • Frozen entrees Bakery (bagels and rye bread) • Our own ruggalach and cookies We also have beers and hard seltzer to-go in our cooler.
Note: all alcohol to go purchaes must be accompanied by a food order per government mandate.
We thank you and are tremendously grateful for your continued support with take-out.We are doing everything in our power to keep you safe. Be healthy! The Taste of Quality is Long Remembered
n April 21, as part of the commemoration of Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – more than 70 teens and parents of BBYO Connecticut Valley Region came together, virtually, to bear witness to the testimonies of New Haven resident and Holocaust survivor Andy Sarkany. Those gathered at BBYO on Demand for Zikaron BaSalon (Hebrew for “memories in the living room”), sang, talked and, most importantly, listened to Andy’s story. Together we heard Andy speak about his experience growing up as a young boy in Hungary during the Holocaust. He shared stories about life in the ghetto, his experiences in school as one of only a few Jewish children, and about reuniting with his father after he was liberated from concentration camp. Like everyone else in attendance, Fairfield teen Nathan Zakim was inspired by Andy’s story of resilience and faith. “It was incredible hearing such a profound account of survival through one of the world’s darkest times,” said Nathan. “Andy had such a difficult childhood in occupied Hungary, and his family’s story is inspiring.” After Andy shared his story, one of our BBYO members sang “Eli, Eli,” and teens shared stories of their own activism to help keep the stories and memories of The Holocaust alive. BBYO member Dara Sadinsky of West Hartford shared her experience testifying at the State Capitol in
2018 in support of Senate Bill 452, which made Holocaust and genocide education mandatory in all Connecticut public schools. Woodbridge teen Jenna Zamkov remarked how listening to Andy made her motivated to continue raising awareness about the Holocaust. “The reason we listen to stories and share them is to make sure we never forget and that this never happens again,” said Jenna. Before closing out our event, Andy shared some words of wisdom that he wanted us all to remember even during this difficult time. “The door is open to do what you want in life, it is up to you,” he told those gathered. “There is no limit. I used to say the sky is the limit. But not now; now there is no limit.” BBYO’s Zikaron Basalon is just one of thousands of events taking place on BBYO’s new worldwide virtual programming platform, BBYO on Demand, a 24/7 virtual hub formed during the COVID-19 outbreak to give all Jewish teens access to an innovative digital space filled with activities, events, and experiences they can tune into from anywhere, anytime. For information on BBYO on Demand programs, visit BBYO. org. For more info on BBYO Connecticut Valley Regional Director, contact Regional Director Jennifer Kruzansky at JKruzansky@ bbyo.org, or follow @BBYOInsider on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
BULLETIN BOARD The new norm for COVID-19 & nonprofits
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| MAY 8, 2020
The Greater Hartford Jewish Leadership Academy will host “Covid-19 and Nonprofits: What is the New Normal?” – an online workshop with Dirk Bird, associate vice president of planned giving and endowment of the Jewish Federations of North America, on Wednesday, May 6, noon-1 p.m. The free Zoom workshop will explore how organizations and their leaders adjust to a new “normal” that will impact how they plan, engage their constituents and steward their donors, and measure success while maintaining core values. Open to the entire community, it is especially suited for lay leaders of Jewish nonprofits, schools, synagogues, etc.
Registration is required. RSVP to Jody Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org, (860) 7276151.
Food & Supplies Drive in West Hartford The Jewish Family Services Anja Rosenberg Kosher Food Pantry and the Mandell JCC in West Hartford are hosting a food drive on Wednesday, May 6, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. In addition to all types of kosher/ non-kosher nonperishable food items, supplies such as paper towels. toilet paper, laundry detergent, body soap deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste are welcome. To donate, drive up to the main entrance of the JCC at 335 Bloomfield Ave., and remain in your car while you drop your contribution in the bin. jewishledger.com
Stay home, stay safe.
CELEBRATING ISRAEL IN STAMFORD, VIRTUALLY Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy in Stamford didn’t let the statewide school shut-down keep students from honoring the State of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks on Yom Hazikaron (April 28) or from following up that solemn day with a celebration marking the Jewish state’s 72nd birthday (April 29). On Yom Hazikaron, Bi-Cultural’s Upper School students were joined by Rav Binny Friedman of Yeshivat Orayta, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, who shared personal stories relating to the day. Following his talk, students had the opportunity to watch the FIDF Yom Hazikaron ceremony held in Israel.
Times such as these add support to our belief that home care is safe care.
RAV BINNY FRIEDMAN VISITED WITH BCHA UPPER SCHOOL TEENS.
On Yom Ha’atzmaut, Upper School students were joined by Dov Solomont, who made aliyah with his family in 2003 at age 13, and served for five years in the IDF; and by Doron Shapir, who grew up in Haifa and is now in the U.S. serving as Director of Strategic and Economic Cooperation for the Government of Israel’s Economic Mission to the United States. Both Dov and Doron shared their stories of connection and contribution to the land and people of Israel. Upper School students also played an Israel fact “Kahoot!” created by Judaic studies teacher, Mr. Yarchi. They then joined together to recite the prayer for the State of Israel and to sing Hatikvah.
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MAY 8, 2020
In times of a pandemic, cremation is not the solution.
EDITORIAL Stacey Dresner Massachusetts Editor email@example.com • x3008 Tim Knecht Proofreader
BY RABBI SHLOMO BRODY
ODIIN, Israel (JTA) – Rabbinic authorities throughout history have done their best to protect the public while also ensuring the burial of the deceased and preserving, as much as possible, their dignity. Their brave decisions demonstrate that one can preserve public health while respecting religious liberty, something as vital today as ever. Amid the current pandemic, funeral homes around the world are overwhelmed, leading some to call for quick cremations instead of traditional burials. Last week, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health issued an executive directive stating that “Licensed mortuary practitioners are strongly encouraged to provide for the disposition of human remains by direct cremation or immediate burial or entombment, regardless of whether the cause of death was related to COVID-19.” These calls for cremation are unlikely to make meaningful inroads among Jews. Traditional Jewish practice is that corpses should be interred and not cremated in consonance with the belief that humans were created in the image of God. A desecrated body, as Deuteronomy 21:23 states, is an affront to God. The Jewish world is filled more with stories about overwhelmed burial societies and socially distanced graveside burials than about people considering cremation who wouldn’t have before the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean the issue isn’t worth discussing. Unfortunately, the body of the first Jewish victim of coronavirus in Argentina, Ruben Bercovich, was cremated despite communal protests. Argentina is now committed to not cremating Jews against their families’ wishes, but many countries are still encouraging families to cremate. That is especially not justifiable when the World Health Organization and other health agencies have asserted that there is no increased threat of transmission of COVID-19 through handling these corpses. A recent study in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine Study concluded that transmission may be possible, based on a single case in Thailand, but asserted that JEWISH LEDGER
A RABBI ACCOMPANIES THE BODY OF ELIAHU BAKSHI-DORON, THE FORMER SEPHARDIC CHIEF RABBI OF ISRAEL, WHO DIED FROM COMPLICATIONS OF THE CORONAVIRUS. (CREDIT: AHMAD GHARABLI VIA GETTY IMAGES)
the threat can be mitigated by wearing protective equipment. Thankfully, in most countries around the world, Jewish leaders have found solutions that satisfy the demands of health officials while ensuring the proper interment of coronavirus victims. In a few cases, this has even included rabbinic dispensations for immediate burials on the Sabbath or festivals without the presence of family members. Unfortunately, rabbis have ample legal precedents from which to draw, as this is not the first time that Jews have faced the threat of cremation and other dilemmas of interment during a scourge. For example, in 1824, Rabbi Eliezer Papo of Bulgaria (then a part of the Ottoman Empire) praised modern Western European societies for taking precautionary measures against plagues, yet criticized them for going too far by cremating their victims or leaving them unburied. In contrast, he claimed, Muslim societies took commendable measures to both treat the victims and bury them appropriately. Sadly, Papo himself would require this benevolence when he died a few years later from cholera. His grave remains a pilgrimage site to this day. As Papo’s statement indicates, burial decisions have not always been left in Jewish hands, with many diseased bodies quickly discarded in mass graves. This | MAY 8, 2020
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scenario created predicaments for rabbinic authorities since Jewish law generally prohibits, out of respect for the deceased, the transfer of remains to an alternative burial spot. Would the law be different if the current cemetery was not properly guarded? Might exceptions be made to transfer a casket to a family burial plot if the deceased requested to be interred there? In recent weeks, these discussions were invoked again as disruptions in air travel make it difficult for Diaspora Jews to be flown to burial spots purchased in Israel. In this circumstance, Jewish decisors have permitted temporary interment in their hometowns until normal travel conditions resume and the casket may be flown to the Holy Land. In other historical occasions, corpses would be left unburied or cast aside in forests as no one wanted to handle their bodies for fear of contagion. Rabbis, however, demanded interment, even in the shallowest of graves, to prevent the body’s disgrace. This does not mean, of course, that Jewish burial societies were callous toward the concerns of exposure of infectious diseases to their volunteers, especially during repeated cholera epidemics in the 19th century. Rabbinic decisors wisely minimized or waived the customary tahara washing process, especially with regard to external body orifices. We desire to provide this final act of respect to the diseased, yet we must prioritize the health of the living. As contemporary science now shows from recent cases in West Africa, cholera will regularly spread through funeral rites performed without hygienic precautionary measures. In light of the coronavirus and the need to preserve social distancing among burial society workers, many burial societies have waived these honorific purification rites. Similarly, rabbinic scholars have permitted corpses infected with COVID19 to be sealed in body bags before being placed into the casket. In this respect, they follow an example set by the Hungarian Rabbi Moshe Greenwald in the 1800s, who was an outspoken opponent of ritual reforms and generally was adamant that
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MAY 8, 2020
Jewish funeral directors & burial societies f
BY STACEY DRESNER
TATEWIDE – As he handles several COVID-19-related funerals over the past month, Leonard Holtz, director of Hebrew Funeral Association in West Hartford can’t help but recall Sept. 11, 2001, when he was a responder after the World Trade Center fell in New York City. Dressed in protective gear – coveralls, mask, gloves, face shield, paper booties -- Holtz went immediately to Ground Zero to honor the remains of Jewish victims who died in that devastating tragedy. “Now 19 years later in 2020, I’m dealing with a threat called COVID-19…and wearing all of the protective equipment that I had utilized in New York for 9/11,” he told the Ledger. “There I could see the disaster. I could see Ground Zero in front of me; I knew what I was facing. But here, the threat to life is all over, and you can’t see it. …I’m going from one COVID-19 death to another; sometimes more than one COVID-19 death in a day.” These days, when Holtz enters a hospital or nursing home to collect someone who has died, he has to have his temperature taken. “If your temp is over 99 you’re not allowed into the facility, and that’s just to get to the morgue,” he says. “Some offices are closed. Some require that you slide under the door a folder to file a death certificate. Some require mailing in a death certificate, whereas it used to be walk-in, walk-out with a death certificate permit. “Before I even enter the funeral home, before I even go into the garage, I am in gloves and a mask. Every surface that is used, stretcher, refrigeration unit, the car – everything that could possibly be
contaminated is being sprayed, wiped, cleaned. The level of threat is constant, it changes with each case. With each funeral we are dealing with a need to sanitize. So everything about our environment has changed.” Holtz and other local Jewish funeral directors are not only dealing with an increase in casualties during the coronavirus pandemic, they are now being forced to alter the way they hold Jewish funerals. “Funerals are all private and graveside now,” says Michael Weinstein of Weinstein Mortuary in West Hartford. “Families are doing FaceTime funerals and Zooming funerals, as the only people that are allowed to be there are the immediate family.” “At the funerals today we are social distancing,” Holtz said. “We are using cones to create a perimeter. Everyone must wear masks and gloves, including the rabbi.” Busy with the prodigious number of COVID-related funerals in Fairfield County, the directors of Abraham L. Greene and Son Funeral Home were not able to return phone calls at press time. According to their website, however, Greene’s is conforming to the latest directives from Governor Lamont, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and the Center for Disease Control...In addition, we continue to work with local clergy who are establishing their own protocols for officiating at and/or holding funerals within their synagogues and temples.” The Connecticut Funeral Directors Association has sent its members guidelines for performing funerals as recommended by the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). At press time, the number of people
attending funerals has been limited to five, which can be difficult for grieving families. “The CDC says there should be no more than five people. The reality is that we’re saying no more than 10 people and ideally, we’d like to think we could have a minyan,” Holtz says. “It’s pretty tough to limit it to five people if there are four kids and the spouses,” Weinstein adds. Rabbi Daniel Cohen, spiritual leader of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, says that at this difficult time, pikuach nefesh – the Jewish law stating that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule – must take precedence. “We are literally in the midst of saving lives by not having people at the [funeral] service,” Cohen said. “I try to remind people of that – that distancing is what God wants at this point, as painful as it is.”
A double loss On April 13, the Greater Hartford Rabbinical Association sent out guidelines for local funeral homes during the COVID crisis. According to the Association, besides holding private graveside services and limiting the number of people at the cemeteries, those attending graveside services must be screened before they even get to the cemetery by the rabbi or funeral director who ask them a series of pointed questions about their current health and activities before allowing them to be present at graveside services. Also as per the Association, those attending must wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines, and only a brief service should be held “including only the
essential and necessary components (as per each denominational tradition).” The tradition of shoveling dirt is allowed, but gloves should be provided and after the shoveling, attendees should immediately leave the graveside so that cemetery staff can fill in the grave. The Association recommends livestreaming services on social media platforms like Zoom for those who can not be there in person. Eulogies and other components of a normal service should be done post-burial online, as should shiva gatherings. “I think we have to recognize that the loss at this time is a double loss, because you are mourning the loss of life but you are also mourning the ability to mourn properly,” says Rabbi Tuvia Brander, president of the Rabbinical Association. “I think the rabbinate and rabbis across the world without fail are working to take care of pastoral needs and being creative and at the same time, not throwing our sacred and tried and true traditions out the window.”
The ultimate mitzvah One such sacred tradition is tahara, the ritual purification of the deceased in which the body is cleansed with water and prayers. “It’s called the ultimate in mitzvahs [known in Jewish law as a “chesed shel emet”] because it is a mitzvah that cannot be repaid,” says Jim Benjamin, president of the Stamford Chevra Kadisha [Jewish burial society]. “So you are doing something for someone and you don’t expect anything in return except to be respectful of the body and give them the proper send off.” The tahara is performed by members of the local chevra kadisha coming together to perform the purification rite by gathering
MEMBERS OF CHESED SHEL EMES, A BURIAL SOCIETY BASED IN BROOKLYN, TRANSPORT A BODY FOR BURIAL AT THE CEMETERY IT OPERATES IN WOODRIDGE, N.Y. (COURTESY OF RABBI MAYER BERGER)
| MAY 8, 2020
face difficult choices during COVID-19 crisis in a room at the funeral home and asking the deceased for forgiveness before pouring water over the body and reciting verses and prayers. They finish by dressing the body in white burial shrouds, placing it in the coffin and again asking for forgiveness for any mistakes they may have made during the tahara process. The pandemic, however, has changed all that. Some chevra kadishas across the country are performing tahara virtually. They meet over Zoom with a screen set up where the body lies. Using pitchers of water and empty bowls set up next to their home computers, they pour water from one vessel into another while reciting the verses and visualizing pouring the water over the body itself. Others are foregoing this the pouring of water over the body altogether. Still others are carrying on as before. This in light of the CDC’s statement that, “There is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19”; but that, “People should consider not touching the body of someone who has died of COVID-19.” In March, the Queens, New York National Association for Chevrah Kadisha (NASCK) and its leader Rabbi Elchonon Zohn put out a series of standards that chevra kadishas under their jurisdiction should follow the COVID crisis. Benjamin called the NASCK standards for the tahara “very detailed, very difficult to comply with.” “Some of our volunteers are in the medical field, but we felt it would be too long, too difficult to comply with and we would need a medical professional to be in there if we were to follow Rabbi Zohn’s March guidelines,” Benjamin says. Instead, the Stamford chevra kadisha conferred with local rabbis and other chevra kadishas to learn how they were handling tahara. “We wanted to see what they were doing to make accommodations to handle the tahara in a way that is what we call “kovod chodesh ha mais” – showing the utmost respect for the decedent,” says Benjamin. Ultimately, says Benjamin, the board of directors of Stamford chevra kadisha voted to provide a limited tahara at the present time, operating under the standards now used by the White Plains, New York chevra kadisha. “What they were doing was something that we felt we could implement, and we modified it to what we thought would be best for us in Stamford,” Benjamin says. “It took into account the safety of the volunteer…We talked to Rabbi Cohen jewishledger.com
about it, we talked to other rabbis about it. They said that’s fine. A member, Michael Feldstein, talked to Rabbi Zohn in Queens, and he said the procedure we wanted to implement was acceptable at this time.” The limited tahara minimizes the number of chevra kadisha members per decedent and the amount of time spent. The modified procedure includes placing the garments and tallis on the deceased and the placement of soil from Israel inside the pine wood coffin. While one performs these duties, the other says the psalms and prayers. They are foregoing the cleansing of the body with water, “Then we take the top which is secured by wood dowels and we make a prayer for the decedent saying, ‘I’m very sorry about your passing, please accept my apology for the things that I did not do knowingly or didn’t do unknowingly,” Benjamin explains. In the Hartford area, the Orthodox chevra kadisha is following Rabbi Zohn and NASCK’s guidelines. “We’re following those guidelines, continuing to do regular tahara, modified,” says Rabbi Brander. “I know there are other chevras who have ceased to do tahara. I think its really important that people recognize that we have to act in accordance with Jewish law, which takes into account very seriously the position and the direction of the medical community. Tahara is the last respect that we can pay to a person when they pass away, and it’s a last mitzvah. “I can envision a time when, because there are these medical concerns and directions of doctors and the local department of health, that we might be not able to do formal taharas. In that case, what I have told families is that ultimately [the deceased’s] final mitzvah is keeping the living alive and that is an incredible mitzvah and one of the most important ones. “Right now we still are doing taharas with careful protections and in accordance with state regulations. If there comes a point when we can’t, it is paramount for people to understand that tahara is a way for us to pay our last respects, and we are substituting that last mitzvah with another mitzvah -- protecting the living.” Leonard Holtz, who in addition his role as a funeral director has also performed tahara for many years, said that a huge concern of his is the wellbeing of the chevra kadisha. “While gloves and gowns are always used, I began realizing quickly that that was not enough protection, especially since many, if not most of the people doing Tahara are 60 and over and have healthrelated issues as well,” he notes. Holtz said the during this health
(CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
crisis, while performing “respectful and spiritual preparation” shrouds, known as “tahrachim,” are being placed in many cases, over the pouch that the bodies are kept in, to protect the chevra kadisha volunteers and the funeral home staff. Some prayers are being said in Zoom sessions where the name of the deceased is invoked and the chevra seeks forgiveness for what may be a departure from what is normally practiced. “There’s a recognition that nurses and doctors who know what they are doing are still getting infected -- even those who are young and healthy, who exercise
the precautions, who have much more equipment, have still been exposed,” Holtz says. “For me now, I want to protect those wonderful men and women who are in the chevra kadisha. I refer to what they do as kovod ha’chai, kovod ha’mait -- honor the living and honor the dead. …We need to understand that we live in an environment that is now threatening us… The safety of the people, I believe, is first and foremost. We hope to return to what we can do traditionally…But I’m willing to do what is necessary for the foreseeable future in terms of the level of protection that is needed.”
A JEWISH BURIAL ASSOCIATION SEEKS PRAYER SHAWLS FOR BURIALS, AND DONATIONS POUR IN BY HIRA HANAU
(JTA) – Andrew Parver’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing since a week ago Sunday. That’s when Parver, the director of operations at the Hebrew Free Burial Association in New York City, put out a call for donations of prayer shawls for traditional Jewish burials. Less than 48 hours later, he had collected 150 himself and pledges of hundreds more to come from as far away as South Florida and Pittsburgh. “My phone yesterday was nonstop – phone calls, emails, WhatsApps,” Parver told JTA on Tuesday, April 26. “I know
rabbis have been sending this out to their congregations and I don’t even know the rabbis.” The Hebrew Free Burial Association performs free Jewish burials for any Jew who dies without the funds for funeral expenses. Usually it has enough prayer shawls on hand to last for months. But the coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented spike in demand for its services, and the group quickly ran out of shawls.
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MAY 8, 2020
Burial CONTINUED FROM PAGE 13
HUNDREDS OF PRAYER SHAWLS HAVE BEEN DONATED TO THE HEBREW FREE BURIAL ASSOCIATION SINCE SUNDAY. COURTESY OF ANDREW PARVER
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“We basically exhausted our supplies and our reserves,” Parver said. “We’ve never had anything like this.” So on Sunday, Parver send out the word on an email list for the Jewish community in Teaneck, New Jersey. The next morning he posted an appeal on DONATED Facebook. PRAYER SHAWLS LEFT “Do you have ON ANDREW any old Talleisim, PARVER’S DOORSTEP. regardless of condition, that you can donate to Hebrew Free Burial Association?” he wrote on the association’s Facebook page, using the Hebrew word for prayer shawls. The donations started pouring in immediately. By Sunday night, Parver had picked up about 100 shawls from homes in his area and found another 50 left on the doorstep of his home. Another 10 people volunteered their homes in New York, New Jersey and Baltimore as drop-off points for donations, thus far collecting at least 200 prayer shawls. With over 350 shawls collected already, Parver isn’t quite sure how many more to expect. But with calls from across the country continuing to come in, he’s sure there are more on the way. He’s also sure the need will continue to grow. Traditional Jewish burial customs dictate that men are dressed in white shrouds and wrapped in a shawl before they are interred in a Jewish cemetery. The association does not dress women in prayer shawls, in line with Orthodox custom. “For thousands of years, Jews have been buried the same way – plain shrouds, plain pine box,” Parver said, adding that it’s a way
of “connecting to our ancestors.” The association typically receives donations of shawls at a steady pace year round. They come from synagogues that close down or people who buy new ones after an older shawl wears out. Sometimes they come from people who find old shawls that belonged to parents or grandparents. “Each tallis tells a story,” Parver said. “Somebody wore that tallis in shul, somebody shed tears while wearing that tallis, praying for something that was important at that stage of life.” Some of the calls he’s received have hinted at the emotional connection people feel to their shawls. One rabbi told Parver that he had held on to an old shawl for years because of its sentimental value, but was prepared to let it go after hearing about the need. Parver sees the outpouring of donations as another way people are helping where they can at a time when leaving the house is a dangerous proposition. “This is just a very tangible method for people to connect and give back more good into the world when we need it,” he said. jewishledger.com
These are Biden’s Jews
Biden would keep US Embassy in Jerusalem, his foreign policy adviser says BY BEN HARRIS
BY RON KAMPEAS
ASHINGTON (JTA) – Heading into Passover, Bernie Sanders set Joe Biden free: The Vermont senator ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination on April 8, hours before the holiday began, leaving the former vice president the presumptive nominee. In the race for the White House, President Trump has some major advantages, notably in media play and fundraising. The president has the pulpit of his daily White House pandemic news conferences, which often veer into campaign-style rhetoric. Biden, meantime, is mostly confined to delivering daily pep talks from his Delaware home, where he barely registers online. As to fundraising, The New York Times reported recently that Biden was behind Trump by $187 million, meaning he would have to raise $1 million a day until the election just to catch up with where Trump is today. Which leaves a slew of questions about Biden’s Jewish campaign: Who will he turn to for fundraising? What does it mean for his foreign policy?
JOE BIDEN SPEAKS IN WILMINGTON, DEL. (CREDIT: MICHAEL BROCHSTEIN / ECHOES WIRE/BARCROFT MEDIA VIA GETTY IMAGES)
THE FUNDERS The last time Biden ran for president, in 2008, his financial director was Michael Adler, a Miami developer who is ensconced in the Jewish establishment: For years he led the straight down the center National Jewish Democratic Council and he’s been active with AIPAC. Adler is back on board the Biden train, although not in a senior campaign position. He has held fundraisers at his South Florida home. Call Adler Biden’s Jewish old guard. He’s joined in that respect by an array of other establishment figures, including Comcast senior executive vice president David Cohen, who also has hosted fundraisers for Biden, and Stu Eizenstat, the jewishledger.com
veteran Holocaust reparations negotiator who penned an oped for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency favoring Biden. But there are new Jewish kids on the Biden block, too. They earned their Democratic cred without having come up through the traditional pro-Israel channels, like accruing influence through AIPAC activism and fundraising. Examples: Penny Pritzker and Bill Singer headlined a Chicago area fundraiser for Biden on April 27. Pritzker, the hotel chain heiress whose brother J.B. is the governor of Illinois, was an early backer of Barack Obama and was his Commerce secretary. Singer, a corporate lawyer, is the wunderkind you forgot about: In the 1960s and 1970s, when he was in his 20s and 30s, he joined the Rev. Jesse Jackson in leading left-wing insurgencies against the Democratic Party establishment. These days he’s on the board of J Street, the liberal Middle East lobby group that is AIPAC’s bete noir. Notably missing from this array is Haim Saban, the entertainment mogul and major Democratic giver who is close to Israel’s political establishment. Saban, who has a no-table antipathy to Sanders and others on the party’s left flank, said in March that he was waiting out the primaries but has yet to pronounce. On the Jewish donor angle, one intriguing establishment vs. insurgent skirmish is who runs the party’s digital campaign. According to coverage in The Intercept and Politico, the outfit that Michael Bloomberg launched for his campaign, Hawkfish, is vying for the job. The appeal: It’s up and running, it’s already been funded to a significant extent by the media mogul’s cash, and so it is bidding low. The disadvantage: It’s Bloomberg. If there’s a victory that the party’s left can claim, it is booting the former New York mayor’s campaign to the street. Bloomberg was reviled for his corporatism and his record relating to the city’s minorities and as a boss relating to women. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-term progressive from New York, has emphatically ad-vised against using the group.
THE GROUPS Biden has brought into the mix two Jewish Democratic groups that otherwise spent much of the primary season reviling one another: He has the endorsements of both the Democratic Majority for Israel, which is aligned with centrist pro-Israel policy, and J Street. His acceptance of J Street’s
(JTA) – An adviser to Joe Biden said the former vice president would keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem if elected president. Tony Blinken, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s senior foreign policy adviser, said that reversing President Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv “would not make sense practically and politically,” Jewish Insider reported. Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, made the
endorsement was effusive, although short on specific areas of agreement. Biden, notably, has rejected J Street’s recent policy of leveraging U.S. aid to Israel to influence its policy. In addition, On April 17, the centrist Jewish Democratic Council of America has endorsed Joe Biden for president. “You share the Jewish community’s commitment to the principle of tikkun olam, healing the world, in addition to our commitment to combatting the rise of anti-Semitism and supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,” the council said in a letter to the presumptive Democratic nominee.
FOREIGN POLICY Biden has told associates that his sharpest differences with Sanders are on foreign policy. So, naturally, much has been made of Biden’s reported readiness to accept Sanders advisers on his foreign policy team. It’s not clear yet whether that’s been the case, but it could be a red flag for the AIPAC crowd – Sanders boycotted the lobby’s conference this year and has said he would leverage aid to Israel. On Israel, Biden has robustly favored a return to making the two-state solution the par-amount outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; Trump has significantly retreated from that goal. The person most identified with Biden foreign policy is Colin Kahl, who was his national security adviser when he was vice president. Kahl, who is not Jewish, was on the team that shaped the 2015 Iran nuclear deal reviled by Israel and Trump has quit. The Brookings Institution’s Thomas Wright says that the centrist Democrats who ad-vised Obama – and are likely to shape Biden’s outlook – have retreated from wanting to engage in the Middle East. He says they “now favor a significant reduction in U.S. goals” there.
comments in a webinar Tuesday, April 28, hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America. The event also featured Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a top Biden surrogate. Both Blinken and Coons declined to specify what Biden might do if Israel proceeds to annex parts of the West Bank, though Coons expressed hope that Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, both longtime Israeli military leaders who are preparing to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a unity government, would counsel the premier against such a move.
THE FIGHT BIGOTRY ANGLE Last year, Biden highlighted what he called the echoes of bigotry in Trump’s governing style – citing Trump’s Charlottesville response, for example, in the center of his campaign rollout. Sanders has said that the same threat is a major part of the reason he is endorsing him, and has cited that threat in shushing former aides who will not back Biden. The word is that this will be the preeminent feature of the Jewish Biden campaign. On Monday, April 27, Biden marked the one-year anniversary of the deadly shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, with a proposal to add protections for Jews and other targets of hate attacks. “These are acts of terrorism, plain and simple,” Biden said in a statement to JTA. “They are bound together by the common thread of perpetrators using fear and violence to undermine individuals’ ability to freely exercise their faith.” Biden’s three-point plan would increase the $90 million the Department of Homeland Security now hands out for securing nonprofit institutions by “multiples.”
MISHPOCHA Biden has three children-in-law – all are Jewish. His Passover statement emphasized the loneliness that Jewish families would suffer during their pandemic seders. His personal relationship with Jews, in his families and during a long political career, also will be highlighted in his campaign. A Delaware rabbi’s story of encountering Biden at a laundry room shiva has already featured multiple times on the campaign.
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The secret to a long life: Take it one day at a time and hold your family close David Weintraub celebrated his 96th birthday on Monday, April 27, with a serenade by the Sweet Adelines, a local barbershop quartet, who stood on the front lawn of his West Hartford home – a respectable social distance away – and sang the many love songs he and his beloved wife Shirley cherished. For David, it was not only the perfect way to celebrate his birthday, but also a touching way to remember the 70 joyful years he spent married to his high school sweetheart Shirley, who passed away a few years ago. Shirley was David’s “angel on earth,” recalls Leni Weintraub, one of the couple’s three children. Theirs “was the most beautiful love story,” she says. The couple traveled the world, enjoyed going to the theater – including the Goodspeed Opera House, Hartford Stage and Theaterworks, where they held season tickets – frequented local restaurants, cheered loudly for UConn’s women’s basketball team (he captained his high school basketball team), and supported many charitable organizations. “My Dad generously supported many organizations, as he had strong feelings about giving back and sharing his good fortune,” says Leni, noting that her father, having lost his own father at a young age, felt especially committed to the Big Brother program. Among his many hobbies, David, who had a pilot’s license, loved flying to Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. He also skied and scuba dived, played tennis and took great pride in digging in the dirt and planning his garden every summer.. But his true love remains his family. In addition to his late wife, that includes his three children, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Guided by his mantra “one day at a time,” David’s advice to all is to love your family and, especially during these precarious times, to take all precautions to stay healthy. “If you have your family and your health,” he says, “you have everything.” “My dad is an extraordinary individual. Generous, bright, compassionate and very quick - to this day he still rolls out with oneliners and side-eyes that make you roar with laughter and surprise,” says Sue Weintraub who, at 66, is the baby of the family. “He has always had a profound understanding of the macro and micro views of the world, with unique insights about everything from business and technology to human nature and relationships,” she adds. “He’s my role model for how to live life fully, responsibly and with love and understanding.”
SHIRLEY AND DAVID WEINTRAUB CELEBRATED THEIR 70TH ANNIVERSARY ON A CRUISE.
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Opinion CONTINUED FROM PAGE 10
burial societies maintain the old practice of interring corpses in the ground without a casket. Yet he required the use of a casket when someone died from an infectious disease. The Torah demands prioritizing public health over burial customs. More challenging, however, were cases in which the authorities required some form of physical tampering of the corpse, which is generally proscribed as a desecration of human dignity. In an attempt to bring under control an extended bubonic plague in 1713, Vienna officials demanded covering corpses with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) to hasten decomposition of the body. Rabbi Yaakov Reischer of Metz, Austria, allowed this treatment for the sake of the deceased’s honor so he would be buried in his family plot and not in a distant forest. Similar techniques were utilized in the 19th century on corpses of cholera victims, with Papo himself requesting that lime seed be posthumously placed on him. Following these precedents, Shlomo Goren, Israel’s chief rabbi in 1980, issued directives to the Israeli army to utilize body bags and chemical sanitizers in the event of mass casualties from biological warfare. Similarly, while Karelitz generally opposed anatomic dissection of cadavers, he permitted clinical autopsies during an outbreak so that scientific knowledge could immediately advance to save those now at risk. Yet with all of these dispensations, Jewish legal scholars have always rejected the option of cremation against the trend of greater social acceptance of this practice since the 19th century and increased calls for it in a time of plagues. Part of this resistance stems from a technical legal distinction: While many burial rites have a lower legal status as mere customs, interment in the ground is a biblical commandment. Yet underlying this distinction is the deeper belief that these laws are meant to bring honor to the deceased. No one who dies from an illness wants to see their body spread contagion. At the same time, all deserve a final interment that bears witness to the inherent dignity granted to all human beings created in the image of God. Pandemics call upon us to remember the mutual responsibility that we all have to protect communal health while preserving human dignity. Particularly as our global society faces such mortifying losses, we call upon national authorities to respect religious opposition to cremation and prevent this final grave indignity. Rabbi Shlomo Brody is the director of the Tikvah Overseas Students Institute and author of “A Guide to the Complex: Contemporary Halakhic Debates,” which won a 2014 National Jewish Book Award.
ANSWERS TO MAY 1 CROSSWORD
THE KOSHER CROSSWORD MAY 8, 2020 “Hebrew States”
By: Yoni Glatt
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Across 1. Some years there are two 6. They may not see live sports too soon 10. Thomas Hardy’s “___ of the D’Urbervilles” 14. Samaria’s partner 15. ___ angle (how the leaning tower of Pisa stands) 16. Liking quite a bit 17. State that might come first alphabetically? 19. Part for a brain or flower 20. State that’s full of song? 22. Jewish orgs. with gyms 25. “The” to Jean-Luc
26. Lake locale of the Miracle on Ice 27. “Got it!” 28. Letters on ships 29. Skywalker that’s really a Palpatine 30. She, in Lisbon 31. Black tie events, perhaps 33. Sinai, for one 34. Snake, to a mongoose 35. Miraculous state? 39. It’s checked for at the start of camp 42. Long time 43. Old Biblical mother 47. Santa follower
48. Internet letters 49. Letters that epitomize a treif lunch 51. Suburban tree 52. Mets All-Star Jeff 54. Quattro predecessor 55. USY alternative 56. Narcissistic state? 59. ___ about (near) 60. State for dreidel losers? 64. Fjord city 65. Primary sch. 66. Clingy 67. Notable Diamond 68. Detectives connect them 69. Winter condition
Down 1. Org. that’s a cousin of the UJA 2. Singer Lipa 3. Org. that’s a cousin of the UJA... and the ACLU 4. Carriage driver’s controls 5. Umpire’s call 6. “ ___ a jolly good.... 7. Kournikova and Karenina 8. “New Soul” singer Yael 9. Some red fish 10. ___ B’Av 11. One who tempts 12. Like many labs 13. In the indeterminate future 18. They can turn their heads almost all the way around 21. Shifty
22. TV military drama that spun off “NCIS” 23. “___ -ching!” 24. Ironman Ripken 28. “As directed” starter 29. Coll. dorm overseers 32. Had something 33. Feathered farm resident 34. Snow or snap 36. One who might have recently made a name change 37. “At once!” 38. Winter hrs. in N.J. 39. Satirize 40. It’s burned for its smell 41. Dessert mentioned in “The Godfather” 44. Rabbinic title. for short
45. Gold winner Raisman 46. Insurance plan, for short 48. Mich. neighbor 49. Lullaby composer Johannes 50. Controversial director Riefenstahl 53. Sign up for classes 54. Device with an HDMI input, these days 55. Bread boiled and baked 57. “Mission Impossible” composer Schifrin 58. Ramada, Sheraton and Holiday 61. Pebble Beach peg 62. Praiseful poem 63. “WSJ” rival
MAY 8, 2020
Briefs Vanity Fair: Jared Kushner is ‘de facto president’ during pandemic (JTA) – According to a new report in Vanity Fair, Jared Kushner is the first Jewish Presidents. Sort of. “Jared is running everything. He’s the de facto president of the United States,” a former White House official told Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, a political reporter. The article, full of anonymous insider accounts about President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, paints a picture of Kushner as Trump’s go-to deputy on every big issue – the pandemic included. According to the story, Kushner warned his father-in-law against taking steps that could chill the stock market, and even after Vice President Mike Pence was named the head of the coronavirus task force, Kushner formed his own team to tackle the disease’s spread. “Pence people look at Jared apprehensively. Pence treats Jared as a peer,” Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide, told Sherman. The article also sheds light on how Kushner is squaring the pandemic with his Jewish observance. “Kushner quickly assembled a shadow network of coronavirus advisers that became more powerful than Pence’s official team,” Sherman wrote. “He even worked on Shabbat, a source who spoke with him on a Saturday said. (A person close to Kushner says working on Shabbat is accepted for Orthodox Jews if it’s ‘to save someone’s life.’)”
Gazan journalist: All dialog with Israel is collaboration (MEMRI via JNS) Palestinian activist Rami Aman, who participated in a two-hour video conference with Israelis earlier this month, has been arrested by Gaza police for “normalizing relations with Israel” and for interrogation with regard to possible Israeli funding, according to Gaza-based journalist Alaa al-Asi. In a video uploaded to Facebook by Hamas’s Shehab News Agency on April 18, al-Asi said that all joint activities, cooperation or dialogue with any Israelis, including peace activists, must be viewed as collaboration with the enemy. Aman’s two-hour online meeting with Israelis, said al-Asi, “angered the Palestinians, especially in Gaza.” The next day, she added, “police in Gaza arrested Rami Aman for interrogation on cases of receiving external funding from Israel and other issues, including normalization with Israel.” Any dialogue with Israelis outside of the framework of the Palestinian “resistance,” even with Israeli peace activists, is unacceptable to “anti-normalizers,” she said. “Dialogue – if 18
it occurs outside the resistance framework– becomes dialogue for the sake of dialogue, which is a form of normalization, that hinders the struggle to end injustice. In the view of anti-normalizers, no form of joint activity, cooperation, or dialogue with Israelis is acceptable – even engaging with Israeli peace activists who have the best of intentions.” All such undertakings, she said, “must be viewed as collaboration with the enemy.”
South African seniors say Kaddish, names babies for those in lockdown (JTA) – The 400 residents of a Jewish nursing home in South Africa, which was locked down two weeks before the country ordered nationwide restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19, are free of the virus. That has enabled the home, Sandringham Gardens in Johannesburg, to continue holding a daily prayer service with the required minyan – 10 Jewish adults. It is believed to be the only such prayer service currently taking place in the city, and as word of the service spread, residents began receiving requests to say prayers on behalf of Jews worldwide who could not recite the prayers themselves because they could not gather a prayer quorum. “They feel privileged and honored to have the merit of doing this,” Rabbi Jonathan Fox, who officiates at the service, told the Times of Israel. With social distancing mandated for much of the planet, virtually no services are being held anywhere – and mourners have been prevented from reciting the Kaddish. Also impossible is the public naming of a baby girl, a practice that typically accompanies the public reading of the Torah – another ritual that requires a minyan. The Sandringham Gardens minyan has been doing both on behalf of a growing list of Jews world-wide. The service is reciting Kaddish on behalf of 1,200 people and has named 15 baby girls. Requests have come in from as far afield as Canada, Uruguay and Brazil. “This pandemic is teaching us many personal, spiritual and global lessons – some painful and others inspiring,” said Saul Tomson, the CEO of Chevra Kadisha, the Jewish welfare organization that established Sandringham Gardens over a century ago. “
Netanyahu’s son calls for return of a ‘free, democratic and Christian’ Europe (JTA) – Yair Netanyahu, a son of the Israeli prime minister, called for the return of a “free, democratic and Christian” Europe in a tweet that criticized a joint IsraeliPalestinian memorial ceremony for Israel’s Memorial Day. Netanyahu’s post on Tues-
| MAY 8, 2020
day, April 28, Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day), was in response to a tweet from the European Union delegation to the State of Israel, noting its participation in the ceremony sponsored by Combatants for Peace and Parents Circle, this year on Zoom. “Shame on you for financing a disgrace in the holiest day of the Israeli calendar!” Yair Netanyahu said. “We have one day in a year to remember our fallen soldiers! And you destroy it with a ‘memorial’ to Palestinian terrorists! EU is an enemy of Israel, and an enemy to all European Christian countries! Schengen zone is dead and soon your evil globalist organization will be too, and Europe will return to be free, democratic and Christian!” The Schengen zone comprises 26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders, and includes Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland. Netanyahu has stirred controversy with previous social media posts. Recently, he tweeted an apparent death threat against “old people” protesting the establishment of a national unity government, which will be led for 18 months by his father, saying he hopes the gathering spread coronavirus to the left-wing demonstrators. He later deleted the post and the prime minister distanced himself from his son’s comment. In 2018, Facebook blocked his account after he shared content banned by the platform that called for avenging the deaths of Israelis killed in recent days by Palestinian terrorists.
Israel Film Archive starts to release films online (JNS) After years of work on digitizing its collection of Israeli film clips, the Israel Film Archive (IFA), part of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, is beginning to share its collection online with the goal of eventually digitalizing its entire archive of more than 5,000 hours of film.“To restore films is to touch history,” said IFA manager Meir Russo. The IFA features a copy of practically every film ever shot in Israel, including feature films, documentaries, newsreels and home movies. The clips go back to the 19th century. Among them is an 1896 film shot in Palestine that is believed to be the earliest film made in the country that is still in existence. The IFA also contains prints of tens of thousands of foreign films released in Israel. The films, many of which are deteriorating and becoming damaged or faded, must be run through machines that process and repair them before they can be digitized, said Russo.
Texas Jewish family converts kippahs to face masks for homeless (JNS) A Jewish family in Houston is turning kippahs into face masks for their town’s homeless population to wear during the coronavirus pandemic. The Jason family has already collected nearly 700 from donations and has dubbed their campaign “Kippahs to the Rescue.” The family has collected many yarmulkes, as they are also called, from various events over the years. “We decided to put them to good use,” said teenager Matthew Jason, the youngest of three brothers. He and his brother Jeremy were already volunteering every Friday in downtown Houston with the organization Food Not Bombs, a nonprofit that feeds the hungry, before they started their new effort. The family’s synagogue, Congregation Brith Shalom, is helping by setting up a drive-through collection box so congregants could drop off unwanted kippahs. Food Not Bombs is helping hand out the masks to those in need. “There’s a lot of people out there that really need help and anything can help even in the smallest way,” said Matthew.
Antisemitic incidents in Canada rise to record high for 4th straight year (JTA) – The number of antisemitic incidents in Canada rose to a record high for the fourth consecutive year mainly due to online harassment. The League for Human Rights, part of B’nai Brith Canada, recorded 2,207 antisemitic incidents in its 2019 Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. That’s an 8% increase over the 2,041 incidents from the previous year and an average of more than six per day. Ontario had the greatest increase and Quebec saw the largest number of incidents for the second year in a row. Ontario and Quebec are home to the largest Jewish communities in Canada. Harassment accounted for the largest number of incidents at 2,011, or 91.1%, up from 1,809 the previous year. Of the incidents last year, 83.2% occurred online, including over social media and in threatening emails and text messages. The number of vandalism incidents dropped to 182 from 221, but violent incidents, including assault, rose to 14 from 11.
Hillel Int’l and BBYO to offer virtual college visits for teens (JNS) In a first-of-its-kind partnership, Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization, and BBYO, the Jewish teen movement, are connecting graduating high school seniors with current college students for virtual campus visits and question-and-answer sessions so jewishledger.com
prospective and accepted students can get to know the cam-pus communities they are considering joining. Many of these campus visits are also open to parents and high school juniors. “In this time of uncertainty and fear, one of the most important things we can do for the class of 2024 is to give them a chance to meet and hear from members of campus communities,” said Mimi Kravetz, chief experience officer at Hillel International. “Working together with BBYO allows us to create real, personal connections for teens as they become a part of Hillel. Necessity has been the mother of this new approach, but we hope that this partnership creates a pathway for young Jews to move between communities for years to come.” Rebecca Cohen, director of the Anita M. Perlman Women’s Leadership Initiative at BBYO, said “Partnering with Hillel in this way allows BBYO teens to meet future class-mates, understand what’s waiting for them on campus and ask important questions to help them commit to a college or university.” She added that “these virtual sessions allow for social connection that can last a lifetime.” What is equally beneficial, say organizers, is the face-to-face meetings that take place online. Ian Hammer, a high school junior from Kansas City and “BBYO On-Demand” editor-in-chief, said, “Many of us planned our spring-break trips around college tours that had to be canceled due to the coronavirus, so this will make up for lost opportunities and give us a glimpse into college life.”
Second memorial ceremony for fallen ultraOrthodox soldiers goes virtual (JNS) A memorial commemorating fallen soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces who fought in haredi Orthodox units was broadcasted on Monday night, April 27, from the Hechal Shlomo auditorium in Jerusalem without an audience due to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Netzach Yehuda organization, which supports haredi soldiers, sponsored the event in collaboration with the Israeli Defense Ministry and the municipality of Jerusalem. This was the second consecutive annual event held specifically to commemorate such soldiers. The event was dedicated in the memory of fallen haredi soldiers throughout Israel’s history, including those who served in the first Nahal Haredi unit established in the early 1960s that closed after the Yom Kippur War. Among those participating in the memorial were former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar; Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau; Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas); Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion; Brig. Gen. (res.) Moshe Tzin, and jewishledger.com
others. Representing bereaved parents, Rabbi Eliyahu Meirav, father of Sgt. Yosef Cohen, who was murdered a little more than a year ago in a shooting attack near Givat Asaf, said, “Approximately one year ago, I and my wife, Adele, lost our dear son Yosef. Since that tragic day, we have relearned the concept of solitude every day, but loneliness is not everything. It contains a wonderful sense of unity. At first, we thought that it was incumbent on us to revive their memory, but we discovered that even more so, it is they, through our remembrance of them, who revive us.” Yossi Levi, CEO of the Nahal Haredi organization, said “we have the privilege of holding for the second time in the history of the State of Israel a special evening event in memory of fallen soldiers who served in the haredi tracks of the IDF. Thousands of haredi soldiers contribute on a daily basis to the protection of the people and the country while they maintain their identity and way of life.”
Shira Haas, Ben Platt and Josh Malina send birthday wishes to Israel (JTA) – Actors Shira Haas, Ben Platt and Josh Malina were among the stars who joined a virtual ceremony on April 29 celebrating Israel’s 72nd Independence Day. The hour-long ceremony, organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and broadcast on YouTube and Facebook, also featured a musical performance by Matisyahu. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also spoke to viewers. The program had been nearly 10,000 views shortly after it finished. Malina cracked a joke and spoke in Hebrew before speaking. “Yom huledet sameach [happy birthday]! 72 – eze yofi [how beautiful!]! If you ask me you don’t look a day over 70,” the “West Wing” star joked. Platt, who won the Tony Award for his starring role in the musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” appeared with his brothers Ben and Henry. The trio sang the Hebrew song “Ahavat Olam.” The program also featured an update on how Israeli scientists are working to come up with treatments for fighting the coronavirus and a discussion by chefs from around the world about falafel. “Although we cannot be together this year, this crisis has made us feel more than ever that we are one family with shared history, shared value and shared destiny,” Rivlin said at the end of the celebration.
BY RABBI TZVI HERSH WEINREB
once read a very moving novel about the events immediately preceding World War I and the fate of those who were caught up in the chaos of the opening days of that war. The author of the book, a Jew, was Joseph Roth, and the name of the book is The Radetzky March. I was drawn to this book because it deals, in part, with the Jews of Galicia and the effect that World War I had upon them. Both my paternal and maternal great-grandparents were caught up in the events of those times, and I wished to learn more about those events, if only from a fictional account. I found the book informative and troubling, but the single event recorded in it that had the most impact on me was a description of the novel’s hero, a combatant in the initial outbreak of the battle and gunfire. At one point, as he was fleeing for safety, he encountered the corpse of one of his fellows. Rather than pass this corpse by in his flight, he chose to drag the corpse to a nearby graveyard, dig a shallow grave with his bayonet, and bury the poor man. Although the hero of this story was not a Jew, he was acting in accordance with a supreme Jewish value. At great personal risk, he buried a met mitzvah, an abandoned corpse with no one else present to bury it. Our Torah insists that giving such a corpse the dignity of a proper burial is a mitzvah, one which takes priority over almost any other good deed. The source for this great mitzvah is in this week’s Torah portion, Emor, where we read of the strict prohibition upon kohanim, members of the priestly caste, to come into contact with the dead. Exceptions are made for the kohen’s parents, children, siblings, and spouse. And an exception is made for the met mitzvah. Should the kohen encounter an abandoned corpse, and no one else is available to bury it, he is commanded to ignore the prohibition against contact with the dead, and he must bury that corpse himself. This is the meaning of the phrase in the very first verse of our parsha, “... he shall not defile himself for any dead person among his people...” (Leviticus 21:1). Paraphrasing Rashi’s words: When the dead man is among his people, the kohen cannot defile himself, but when the dead man is not among his people, i.e., there is no one else to bury him, then the prohibition does not apply.
Our tradition is unusually sensitive to the sanctity of the human body. In life, certainly. But even in death. A proper Jewish burial is the last chesed shel emet (kindness of truth) that one can perform for another. It is this important Jewish value which has led Jewish communities throughout the ages to do all that they could to recover the bodies of those of our brethren who perished in prisons, on battlefields, or in tragic natural disasters. I must note a poignant incident in our history, an incident which culminated in the recovery of two metei mitzvah. Part of the narrative of these two heroes is recounted in the book The Deed by Gerold Frank. It is the story of two boys who gave their lives to assassinate a high British official, based in Egypt, whose policies threatened to block Jewish immigration into what was then Palestine. Their names were Eliahu Bet Zouri and Eliahu Hakim. They acted under the orders of the high command of the “Stern Group.” They succeeded in assassinating the official, but were tried and hanged for their efforts. They were buried near Cairo in 1945. But they were never forgotten. In 1975, the State of Israel exchanged twenty Arab prisoners for the bodies of these two young men and reburied them in hero’s graves upon Mount Herzl. In recovering their bodies and eventually affording them an appropriate Jewish burial, the Israeli government was adhering to the teaching of this week’s Torah portion. They saw to it that these metei mitzvah were buried properly. Today, the remains of several Israel soldiers are unrecovered and held by our enemies. We hope and pray that even in these uncertain times, and perhaps especially in these times, our efforts to reclaim the bodies of these heroes will be successful. These soldiers are metei mitzvah. They performed great mitzvot in their military service, and bringing them home for a proper burial is the least we can do to honor their memories. And so, this week again, as so often in our study of the parsha, we discovered a value of paramount importance, a priority mitzvah, buried between the lines, nay between the words, of a simple phrase. This week, that phrase is in the very first verse of Emor. Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb is executive vice president, emeritus of the Orthodox Union.
MAY 8, 2020
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Conversation with Shulem Lemmer The rising star talks about being the first recording artist raised Hasidic to sign with a major record label BY CURT SCHLEIER
(JTA) – Shulem Lemmer’s singing career took a wildly positive turn over the past year. He went on a major stadium and arena tour, playing to packed houses at Fenway Park in Boston, Citi Field in New York and Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. For Shulem – he goes by one name like those other famous Jewish singing sensations Matisyahu and Drake – these were significant achievements, even if the fans were there to see the Red Sox, the Mets and the Utah Jazz, not him. Shulem’s travels were a function of a genuinely unique feat: He became the first Jew raised Hasidic – who is still Hasidic –to sign with a major label, Decca Gold, which is part of the Universal Music Group. (The once-bearded and payes-wearing Matisyahu was brought up as a Reconstructionist Jew, later turned to Orthodoxy and has now mostly left the fold.) Decca Gold released Shulem’s first album, “The Perfect Dream,” late last year. It’s a collection of traditional Jewish and secular songs, from “Jerusalem of Gold” to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to the Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey hit “When You Believe” (from the “Prince of Egypt” soundtrack).
Shulem sings in a rich, passion-filled tenor that carries obvious traces of his roots in the haredi Orthodox Belz community and his work as a cantor, a position he still fills during the High Holidays at Ahavath Torah, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Englewood, New Jersey. He also makes numerous guest cantor stints throughout the year at various synagogues. Shulem was raised in Brooklyn, the youngest of eight children in a house where he was always surrounded by music, but not by singers – neither of his parents carried a tune well. Yet both Shulem and his brother, Yanky – a highly regarded cantor at the Orthodox Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan – somehow inherited the singing gene. “My father jokes that all the talent comes from him and that he gave it all away and kept none of it for himself,” Shulem says. Shulem built a level of local renown for both his cantorial skills and performances before Jewish groups. But a YouTube video is how he came to the attention of Graham Parker, president of Decca Records US. “I found Shulem on YouTube, specifically the “Chad Gadya” video that he did a few years back. …It was the
combination of his spectacular voice, his personality and being a man of deep faith that made him a compelling person to meet,” says Parker. The following are condensed excerpts from JTA’s interview with Shulem covering an array of subjects ranging from the meaning of success to antisemitism. JTA: How did you start singing? Shulem: I always enjoyed the music playing in my house. My father listened to a lot of cantorial music. My late sister, she passed away when she was only 23, encouraged me to sing and learn songs. At my brother’s wedding, she pushed me on stage. And at that moment I was in a happy place. I was a shy kid and that was kind of an awakening. My brother, Yanky, and I had the same birthday and we convinced my father to buy us a drum set we shared and later a guitar I taught myself to play. When I went on to study in Israel, I quickly made connections [in the music business] there and sang some backup vocals on recordings. When I came back I joined the [haredi] Shira Choir [in Brooklyn]. I did some solos for them and soon requests came in for me to do more. I released an album in 2015 [titled “Shulem”] and started to build a fan base not only in the secular Jewish world but with a lot of Christians, as well.
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(CREDIT: MEREDITH TRUAX)
JTA: Does being Hasidic limit those opportunities? Shulem: There will be limitations and challenges. Of course, I’m not going to perform on Shabbos, but there also will be issues that aren’t necessarily that black and white. I would ask my rabbi, based on the situation. I have it in my contract that I can say no to any-thing that isn’t OK with me religiously. I won’t perform a duet with a woman, for example. They wanted me to do that for the theme song for the movie “Quezon’s Game” [about Philippines President Manuel Quezon’s plan to shelter German and Austrian Jews during World War II, not yet opened in the U.S.]. I said no and so they let me do a solo version. JTA: Do you ever get tired of being gawked at in public? Is it worse now as a public figure?
Shulem: First of all, success means being able to provide for my family. [Until recently, Shulem worked part-time as director of marketing for a tech startup.] But also success means being able to reach out and inspire as many people as possible. Music is a universal language, a way to start a dialogue, sending a message of unity, of positivity and hope. I want to spread a message of love between human beings through music.
Shulem: It’s always something that happened, even when I was a little kid. But it depends where I am. If I’m in the tristate area, people are already familiar with Hasids. Else-where I get stares and people ask me how I get my curls that way. Worse than that are the online people who hide behind a screen. I started getting a lot of anti-Semitic hate messages. At first I thought it was just words, but then came Jersey City and Monsey. It became a reality and it’s scary. I know it’s just a small number of people, but it doesn’t take many. We do have security. And I know a lot of people, friends and colleagues, are getting armed. That’s the vibe going around.
JTA: What about your music industry aspirations?
JTA: How do you get your curls that way?
Shulem: I never dream about becoming a celebrity. I’m not looking to become one specific thing. One opportunity leads to another, and I’m happy with everything that comes along.
Shulem: Mousse, and I just twirl them around my fingers.
JTA: Shulem, what is your definition of success for yourself?
SHULEM’S FIRST ALBUM, “THE PERFECT DREAM,” FEATURES TRADITIONAL JEWISH AND SECULAR SONGS, INCLUDING THE WHITNEY HOUSTON AND MARIAH CAREY HIT “WHEN YOU BELIEVE” FROM THE “PRINCE OF EGYPT” SOUNDTRACK.
SHULEM LEMMER IS A POP STAR IN HIS COMMUNITY – AND STILL A CANTOR, TOO.
Bonds of Life:
MEMORIALIZING THOSE WE LOST TO COVID-19 Music educator Paul Shelden, 79, founded instrument company BY BEN HARRIS
(JTA) – As a young clarinetist, Paul Shelden performed under the direction of famed conductors Leonard Bernstein and James Levine. Later he would lend his talents to the work of Bob Hope, Tony Bennett, and the jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears. And as an academic, he spent more than three decades on the faculty of the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, where he published widely about pedagogy and performance. But in 2004, Shelden’s career took an unusual turn when he founded Diplomatte Musical Instruments, becoming, by his own reckoning, the only person running an instrument manufacturing company with a doctorate in music performance. Inspired by a trip to China with his wife in 2000, Shelden started Diplomatte in an effort to produce professional-quality instruments at affordable prices. Shelden died April 17 of COVID-19 at his home in Long Island. He was 79. Born in Brooklyn in 1941, Shelden studied at The Juilliard School and later earned his doctorate from the University of Maryland. He taught at Brooklyn College for 34 years prior to his retirement. Inspired by Bernstein’s legacy of bringing classical music to young people, Shelden worked with the New York Department of Education for decades to bring hundreds of thousands of public school students to classical concerts, his son said. “His accomplishments were mind-blowing, and he could have given us still more,” said Seth Shelden. “But nothing was as important to him as me, and my sister, and my mother.” Shelden is survived by his wife of 51 years, Pamela Shelden; two children, two grandchildren, and a twin brother.
Altamiro Zimerfogel, 80, president of Brazilian Jewish social club BY MARCUS M. GILBAN
(JTA) – Altamiro Zimerfogel, a longtime Jewish community activist, died on April 28 of the coronavirus. He was 80. Born in Rio to Polish Jewish immigrants who fled the Nazis in the 1930s, Zimerfogel had presided over the Brazilian Israelite Club for nearly a decade. Commonly known as CIB, the club, located in the heart of the jewishledger.com
Copacabana neighborhood, is a social and cultural center and a meeting point for thousands of Jewish families in southern Rio. Prior to leading CIB, Zimerfogel had served two terms as the head of another Jewish center, Mount Sinai, and was an honorary member of several other Jewish groups. Several Brazilian Jewish leaders mourned his death. “Miro was a friend at all times. He would always make CIB available for our community events. His wife Ina and he were tireless activists of the federation’s pharmacy, which was headquartered at the club,” said Evelyn Milsztejn, a former vice president of the Jewish federation and former president of Rio’s largest synagogue, the 1,000-family ARI temple. The Brazilian Army’s training body for reserve officers, of which Zimerfogel was a class of 1961 alumnus, called him “an idealist, a patriot, a man dedicated to multiple and noble causes.” The Rio municipality honored him in 2018, calling him “a dynamic and competent administrator. He is part of Israelite Club’s history and has also contributed to the whole Copacabana community.” Zimerfogel is survived by his wife, three children and two grandchildren.
Purple Heart winner Ernest Einzig, 97, left behind 100+ descendants BY BEN HARRIS
(JTA) – With his mustache, trademark suspenders and thick Hungarian accent, Ernest Einzig – or Zeide Ernie as he was known – seemed to come from another time. Einzig was born in 1923 in Budapest, where he apprenticed as a tailor before fleeing rising antisemitism for America. He was good with his hands, fixing his grandchildren’s clothing into his tenth decade. In his later years, he took up woodworking and learned to make stained glass, building himself a workshop at his home in Queens. Einzig died of COVID-19 on April 5 in New York. He was 97 and left behind a sprawling family – roughly 30 grandchildren, over 100 greatgrandchildren, and even several great-greatgrandchildren. Einzig arrived in the U.S. as a teenager and went to work in a factory owned by his brother fabricating metal parts for exit signs and emergency lighting. A steel-enclosed emergency lighting fixture common in New York City buildings was created by
Einzig and is still produced today. But within a few years, he was back in Europe as an American artilleryman fighting in World War II, winning a Purple Heart after injuring his finger in a cannon. After his service, Einzig returned to the U.S. and resumed his job at the factory where he continued to work for decades. After his retirement, Einzig went to work at Yeshiva Har Torah in Queens, and worked there for another 30 years. “He was the grandfather of the school and impacted thousands of children,” said his grandson, Isaac Zablocki.“I sometimes have interns who attended Har Torah, and everyone knows Zeide Ernie.”
Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, 55, helped hundreds find kidney donors BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ
(JTA) – Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, an Israeli rabbi whose charity facilitated hundreds of kidney transplants, died of the coronavirus on April 23 in Jerusalem. He was 55. Heber was the founder of Matnat Chaim (Hebrew for “gift of life”), an organization started in 2009 that matches kidney donors with transplant patients. The organization is believed to be responsible for facilitating 800 kidney transplants. Born in Tel Aviv, Heber was working as a yeshiva principal when he was inspired to start Matnat Chaim while receiving dialysis treatments in 2007, according to the organization’s website. In the hospital, he met an 18-year-old man named Pinchas who died while waiting for a kidney donor, prompting Heber to set up a nonprofit that would help expedite transplants. In 2014, Heber was honored by Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin for his efforts. Heber, who received a kidney transplant himself a decade ago, was hospitalized on April 13 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. He died three days later. He is survived by his wife, Rachel, and their two children, Channel 13 reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among the dozens of politicians who eulogized Heber, saying he was “deeply sorrowed” by his death.
Stanley Chera, 78, coronavirus patient who made pandemic real for Trump (JTA) – Stanley Chera, the friend of Donald Trump whose coronavirus infection was an
inflection point in making the virus tangible for the president, has died. News reports said that Chera died April 11. He was 78. “My deepest sympathies go out to Frieda Chera and the family of the late, great, Stanley Chera, one of Manhattan’s most brilliant real estate minds,” Trump said on Twitter. “Stanley was charitable, kind, and a wonderful friend. He will be truly missed!” In a White House briefing last month, Trump described how he had come to appreciate the dangers of the virus. “When you send a friend to the hospital, and you call up to find out how is he doing – it happened to me, where he goes to the hospital, he says goodbye,” Trump said. “He’s sort of a tough guy. A little older, a little heavier than he’d like to be, frankly. And you call up the next day: ‘How’s he doing?’ And he’s in a coma? This is not the flu.” Vanity Fair revealed that the person Trump was describing was Chera, a longtime leader in New York’s tight-knit Syrian Jewish community. Reports said Trump at one point had advised Chera and his wife Frieda to leave their New York City home for Deal, New Jersey, to avoid the virus. Deal has a large Syrian Jewish community. Chera nonetheless contracted the virus. His wife also contracted the virus and has recovered. A longtime friend of the president and a fellow New York real estate mogul, Chera was an early and generous backer of Trump’s presidential campaign, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chera got into real estate when he bought the building housing the retail outlet his father had founded in Brooklyn in the 1940s. He acquired more buildings, becoming a major presence in New York real estate. He was an investor in the troubled acquisition in 2008 of 666 Fifth Avenue by Trump’s soon-to-be son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “When you buy a building on Fifth Avenue, the first or second phone call you’re probably going to get is from Stanley,” The Real Deal quoted Kushner as saying at a 2014 event for the American Friends of Rabin Medical Center, at which Chera was the main honoree. Chera appeared to be a mainstay of fund-raisers for the medical center, appearing at a 2018 fund-raiser as well. Chera was a co-founder of the Sephardic Community Center in Brooklyn. In addition to his Jewish philanthropy, CNN reported, Chera funded soup kitchens and assistance for children with special needs.
MAY 8, 2020
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BERGMAN Gordon L. Bergman, age 71, of West Haven died April 9. He was the husband of Rhonda Mongillo Bergman. Born in Muskegon, Mich., he was the son of the late Vernon and Thelma Cook Bergman. He served in the US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, achieving the rank of Sergeant and received a Purple Heart. DOBROW Judith Anne (Bailey) Dobrow, 82, of Bloomfield, died April 22. She was the wife of Robert Dobrow. Born in Danbury, and raised in Canaan, Winsted and West Hartford, she was the daughter of the late James and Dora (Gersten) Bailey. She was a member of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford. In addition to her husband, she is survived by her children, Charles Dobrow and his wife Lynn of Wethersfield, William Dobrow and his wife Elizabeth of New York, N.Y., and Nancy Bean of Cambridge, Mass.; her sisters, Janet Stone (children Adam, Jessica, Louis) and Jacqueline Seaman (children Richard, David); her brother-in-law Alan Dobrow and his wife Vickie Dobrow; grandchildren, Benjamin Dobrow of Washington, and Madeline Wise, Julia Wise, and Grace Bean of Cambridge, Mass.; and several nieces and nephews. EDELSON Ronald Edelson, 62, of Florida, died April 19. He was the husband of Heather Thomas Edelson. Born in New Haven, he was the son of Merwin and Marion Brown Edelson. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children, Michael T. Edelson of Haddam, and Katelyn Trindade and her husband Pedro of Plainville; his brother David Edelson; his sister Amy Oved and her husband Jacob; and several nieces and nephews.
FAGIN Jacob Fagin, 101, of West Hartford died April 25. He was the widower of Roslyn (Silver) Fagin. Born in Springfield, Mass., he was the son of the late William and Celia Fagin. He served in the U.S. Army during World War, stationed in Europe. He is survived by his sons, Michael Fagin and his wife Lennie of West Hartford, and Ira Fagin and his fiance Camilla Shestopal of London, England; his grandchildren, Adam Fagin and his partner Natalie Rogers, and Lindsey Fagin; and many nieces and nephews and their families. He was also predeceased by his brother Samuel Fagin and his wife Rhoda, and Solomon Fagin and his wife Katie; and several brothers- and sisters-inlaw. HALPERT Stanley Joel Halpert, 77, of Southbury, died April 16. He was the husband of Marilyn G. (Hillman) Halpert. Born in Bridgeport, he was the son of the late Otto and Rose (Kohn) Halpert. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughters, Sue Gellerman and her husband Jeff of Charlotte, N.C., and Lisa MacFadden of Newington; and his grandchildren Sydney and Lexi Gellerman, and Jordan MacFadden. KAPLAN Martin Kaplan, 92, of Farmington, formerly of Avon and Westport, died April 23. He was the husband of Ilene (Fives) Kaplan. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., In addition to his wife he is survived by his brother Sidney Kaplan and his wife Dorothy (Schuchman) of Fort Lee, N.J.; his children, Steve Kaplan of Farmington, and Lisa Ann Steier and her husband Daniel of West Hartford; his grandchildren, Carly (Steier) Covieo and her husband William of Fairfax, Va., and Michael Steier and his wife Amanda Wagner of Bloomfield, N.J.; and his greatgrandchildren, Victoria and Robert Covieo.
LICHTZER Ida “Sarah” Lichtzer, 92, of Stamford and Boynton Beach, Fla., died April 14. She was the widow of Hy Lichtzer. Born in Jersey City, N.J., she was the daughter of the late Max and Rose Rosen. She was a member of Temple Beth El. She is survived by her daughters, Deborah Lichtzer and Judith Lichtzer, both of Stamford; her granddaughter, Erica Blumrosen; her greatgrandchildren, Alex and Rylie Walker; as well as several nieces and nephews. She was also predeceased by her son Keith Arthur Lichtzer; and her sisters, Dorothy Rosen and Jeannette Ambrosino. MITTENTHAL Raymond Mittenthal, 84 years of age, of Cheshire, Conn., died April 27, 2020. Born in the Bronx, N.Y., he was the son of the late Irving and Lillian (Catron) Mittenthal. He leaves his wife, Arlene (Peck) Mittenthal; his daughters, Linda Mittenthal, Debbie Kohan and her husband Zavosh, and Cherie Mittenthal as well as grandchildren, Sarah Kohan, Daniel Kohan, Benjamin Upadhyaya, and Adam Upadhyaya. Ray was the Teaneck High School sweetheart of his wife Arlene for 62 perfect years. This truly was a marriage made in heaven. They renewed their vows at Temple Beth David in honor of their 60th wedding anniversary. Ray graduated from Fairleigh Dickenson University as an electrical engineer and took graduate studies at Columbia University. He enjoyed the progression from vacuum tubes, to transistors, to semiconductors, to integrated circuit design. He loved “firsts”… becoming a Dad (and Papa), buying their first home in Norwalk, Conn., discovering a new piece
of classical music, new and old books, the Jersey shore, the Catskill Mountains, buying his first “Hi Fi” with speakers and a scope, and then moving one house away so the children (all three of them) could have their own bedrooms. He taught EE at Bridgeport Engineering Institute, and was a mentor at the Manson Prison for Youth in Cheshire, Conn. He enjoyed travel, especially his trip to Israel. Best of all he enjoyed a good poker game and played unusually well. He was a very private man and “kvelled” at his children and grandchildren’s successes. He was a Yankee fan, and enjoyed watching the winning UConn women’s basketball games on TV. Ray was kind, funny, gentle, liberal, brilliant, humble, loving, and never spoke unkindly of anyone. He disliked bullies and the present administration made him angry watching the evening news. He fought against racism, and argued that all immigrants deserved the right to be treated fairly. Ray was what is known as a “mensch” (a good person). Arlene believed Ray was a “Lamed Vavnik,” one of 36 righteous people whose role in life is to help humankind live good lives. The 36 are simply too humble to believe that they are one of the 36x. He will be missed by all who knew him. Private funeral services were held April 28. SOKOLOW Ruthann Sokolow, 62, of West Hartford, died April 24. She was the daughter of Stanley and Muriel Sokolow In addition to her parents, she is survived by her brother David Sokolow and his wife Marta Berger; her niece and nephew, Jana and Robert Johnson; her nephew Paul Sokolow; her great nephew Peter Johnson; her aunt and uncle, Rena and Carl Lipkind; her companion Thomas Hammonds; and her lifelong friend, Mary-Lou Kellner-Gomez.
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CT SYNAGOGUE DIRECTORY To join our synagogue directories, contact Howard Meyerowitz at (860) 231-2424 x3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org. BLOOMFIELD B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom/ Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning Conservative Rabbi Debra Cantor (860) 243-3576 office@BTSonline.org www.btsonline.org BRIDGEPORT Congregation B’nai Israel Reform Rabbi Evan Schultz (203) 336-1858 email@example.com www.cbibpt.org Congregation Rodeph Sholom Conservative (203) 334-0159 Rabbi Richard Eisenberg, Rabbi-in-Residence Cantor Niema Hirsch firstname.lastname@example.org www.rodephsholom.com Jewish Senior Services Traditional Rabbi Stephen Shulman (203) 396-1001 email@example.com www.jseniors.org CHESHIRE Temple Beth David Reform Rabbi Micah Ellenson (203) 272-0037 office@TBDCheshire.org www.TBDCheshire.org
CHESTER Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek Reform Rabbi Marci Bellows (860) 526-8920 firstname.lastname@example.org www.cbsrz.org COLCHESTER Congregation Ahavath Achim Conservative Rabbi Kenneth Alter (860) 537-2809 email@example.com EAST HARTFORD Temple Beth Tefilah Conservative Rabbi Yisroel Snyder (860) 569-0670 firstname.lastname@example.org FAIRFIELD Congregation Ahavath Achim Orthodox (203) 372-6529 email@example.com www.ahavathachim.org Congregation Beth El, Fairfield Conservative Rabbi Marcelo Kormis (203) 374-5544 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bethelfairfield.org GLASTONBURY Congregation Kol Haverim Reform Rabbi Dr. Kari Tuling (860) 633-3966 email@example.com www.kolhaverim.org
GREENWICH Greenwich Reform Synagogue Reform Rabbi Jordie Gerson (203) 629-0018 firstname.lastname@example.org www.grs.org Temple Sholom Conservative Rabbi Mitchell M. Hurvitz Rabbi Chaya Bender Cantor Sandy Bernstein (203) 869-7191 email@example.com www.templesholom.com HAMDEN Temple Beth Sholom Conservative Rabbi Benjamin Edidin Scolnic (203) 288-7748 firstname.lastname@example.org www.tbshamden.com MADISON Temple Beth Tikvah Reform Rabbi Stacy Offner (203) 245-7028 email@example.com www.tbtshoreline.org MANCHESTER Beth Sholom B’nai Israel Conservative Rabbi Randall Konigsburg (860) 643-9563 Rabbenu@myshul.org firstname.lastname@example.org www.myshul.org
MIDDLETOWN Adath Israel Conservative Spiritual Leaders: Rabbi Marshal Press Rabbi Michael Kohn (860) 346-4709 email@example.com www.adathisraelct.org NEW BRITAIN Congregation Tephereth Israel Orthodox Rabbi Andrew Hechtman (860) 229-1485 NEW HAVEN The Towers Conservative Ruth Greenblatt, Spiritual Leader (203) 772-1816 firstname.lastname@example.org www.towerone.org Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel Conservative Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen (203) 389-2108 office@BEKI.org www.BEKI.org Orchard Street ShulCongregation Beth Israel Orthodox Rabbi Mendy Hecht 973-723-9070 www.orchardstreetshul.org NEW LONDON Ahavath Chesed Synagogue Orthodox Rabbi Avrohom Sternberg 860-442-3234 Ahavath.email@example.com Congregation Beth El Conservative Rabbi Rachel Safman (860) 442-0418 firstname.lastname@example.org bethel-nl.org NEWINGTON Temple Sinai Reform Rabbi Jeffrey Bennett (860) 561-1055 email@example.com www.sinaict.org NEWTOWN Congregation Adath Israel Conservative Rabbi Barukh Schectman (203) 426-5188 firstname.lastname@example.org www.congadathisrael.org
SOUTHINGTON Gishrei Shalom Jewish Congregation Reform Rabbi Alana Wasserman (860) 276-9113 President@gsjc.org www.gsjc.org
Congregation Beth Israel Reform Rabbi Michael Pincus Rabbi Andi Fliegel Cantor Stephanie Kupfer (860) 233-8215 email@example.com www.cbict.org
TRUMBULL Congregation B’nai Torah Conservative Rabbi Colin Brodie (203) 268-6940 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bnaitorahct.org
Congregation P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Shabbat Services Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener (860) 561-5905 email@example.com www.jewishrenewalct.org
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Kehilat Chaverim of Greater Hartford Chavurah Adm. - Marcey Ginsburg Munoz (860) 951-6877 info@ kehilatchaverim.org www.kehilatchaverim.org
ORANGE Congregation Or Shalom Conservative Rabbi Alvin Wainhaus (203) 799-2341 firstname.lastname@example.org www.orshalomct.org
WASHINGTON Greater Washington Coalition Rabbi James Greene (860) 868-2434 email@example.com www.jewishlife.org
RIDGEFIELD Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield Counties Reform Rabbi David Reiner Cantor Debora Katchko-Gray (203) 438-6589 firstname.lastname@example.org
WATERFORD Temple Emanu - El Reform Rabbi Marc Ekstrand Rabbi Emeritus Aaron Rosenberg (860) 443-3005 email@example.com www.tewaterford.org
SIMSBURY Chabad of the Farmington Valley Chabad Rabbi Mendel Samuels (860) 658-4903 firstname.lastname@example.org www.chabadotvalley.org
WEST HARTFORD Beth David Synagogue Orthodox Rabbi Yitzchok Adler (860) 236-1241 email@example.com www.bethdavidwh.org
NORWALK Beth Israel Synagogue – Chabad of Westport/ Norwalk Orthodox-Chabad Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht (203) 866-0534 firstname.lastname@example.org bethisraelchabad.org Congregation Beth El-Norwalk Conservative Rabbi Ita Paskind (203) 838-2710 Jody@congbethel.org www.congbethel.org
Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation, Emek Shalom Reform Rabbi Rebekah Goldman Mag (860) 658-1075 email@example.com www.fvjc.org SOUTH WINDSOR Temple Beth Hillel of South Windsor Reform Rabbi Jeffrey Glickman (860) 282-8466 firstname.lastname@example.org www.tbhsw.org
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The Emanuel Synagogue Conservative The Emanuel Synagogue Conservative Rabbi David J. Small (860) 236-1275 email@example.com www.emanuelsynagogue.org United Synagogues of Greater Hartford Orthodox Rabbi Eli Ostrozynski synagogue voice mail (860) 586-8067 Rabbi’s mobile (718) 6794446 firstname.lastname@example.org www.usgh.org Young Israel of West Hartford Orthodox Rabbi Tuvia Brander (860) 233-3084 email@example.com www.youngisraelwh.org WOODBRIDGE Congregation B’nai Jacob Conservative Rabbi Rona Shapiro (203) 389-2111 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bnaijacob.org
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