The Mask-The loss of our smiles! and a humor article on surviving Passover and Coronavirus News Through the Eyes of Holocaust Survivors and a friend of mine, Arieh King to be Appointed Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Forgoes Salary and Ministry says it can do 15,000 virus tests daily, but nobody’s showing up
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
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The Mask: The loss of our smiles!
Human beings need social interaction to exist on many levels: personal relationships, including family and friends and professional, including business and academic interactions, and so forth. A lack of physical affection can actually kill babies. But touch is even more vital than this: Babies who are not held, nuzzled, and hugged enough can stop growing, and if the situation lasts long enough, even die We are now bearing witness to the difficulties and challenges related to Covid-19 that have struck people throughout the world. The world of ZOOM and other meeting/teaching platforms have exploded to meet the needs of social interaction, a continuation of business meetings, and teaching from pre-school to graduate programs. As is true regarding everything in life, nothing is perfect, and ZOOM, which is great, gives each individual participant options to mute oneself and to turn off the video, leaving a black screen with just a name identifying the person. There are many advantages to this for the participant. He/she can take phone calls, eat and drink without disturbing others, and play games instead of focus on the Zoom class. The shutting down of the video camera decreases and almost eliminates the connection that we so desire and cherish. The ability to see a person's face allows for a meaningful 'connection' to each participant. Without, Zoom becomes just a taped Youtube class. Jewish tradition teaches that there is no comparison between hearing and seeing the face of a person. The Kabbalists explain the Hebrew word for face is panim which can also be translated as inward. A person's face reflects what is inside of that individual's being; by looking at someone's face we are able to view the essence of that person. Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to see Hashem panim el panim, face to face. The desire was not to see what God looks like (because Hashem is not a physical being) but rather to see the essence of What Hashem is. This gift that Hashem has instilled within human beings, the gift of seeing/reading the face of those with whom we are communicating, is now minimized by our situation to make do with something that compromises the natural way. The law in Israel is we now wear masks to avoid potential transmission of Covid-19 from person to person. The expression a person has on his/her face and particularly the expressions emitted by the mouth speaks volumes. If you do not believe me, just take a look at how many emoji faces there are on your phone. While the expression the eyes are the entranceway to the soul and the eyes definitely give a direction as to an individual's point-of-view, it is the mouth that gives support to the entire face. The mouth controls the description of the face, shaping the message to transmit happiness, sorrow, anger, excitement, etc. We communicate not only by speaking, or through the use of sign language, but also through facial and mouthing expressions. I, and I'm sure many of you, know how to communicate with one's mouth without emitting a single sound. How does one give Zdeka (charity) when you have nothing to give. You give a smile, and the other reciprocates and smiles back. The acknowledgment and recognition a person gives to someone else makes the other feel good, as if he or she were receiving something warm, something to be cherished. A smile is contagious; an outgoing smile is reflected upon the recipient's face, shining back to the person who sent it. In short, the smiles given are reflections of the sender. Nowadays, when I venture out, I am only able to see another's eyes and eyes alone cannot be read. It is the combination of eyes with the mouth which sends the messages, but when the mouth is covered, we are prevented from adequately being able to convey or receive such nonverbal messages. I try to show courtesy and pleasantness to those around me, Jew and gentile alike. Wearing a mask, I find it very difficult to transmit a friendly feeling to another human being. Additionally, I tend to use the ability to read someone's mouth to connect to the person. In the book of Leviticus, the Rabbis teach ten different reasons or sins why a person would develop Tzoraas and end up being quarantined outside the camp of the Jewish people. The number one or most famous reason was the speaking of Loshon Hora (something we call evil speech). This is a direct result of someone's wrongful speech and the misuse of the gift of the mouth, forcing a person to 'cover' that mouth and face by being sent away and not being a part of the nation of Israel. So often, we read sections of the Torah that we think are outdated and do not apply to us in our time. One obvious example is Tzoraas, the spiritual leprosy that we do not see and therefore cannot check today. Nevertheless, this message and the relevance of Tzoraas are alive and well today in our midst, particularly as we 'protect' ourselves by wearing a mask. Perhaps the wearing of a mask today or using a ZOOM screen when interacting is not just hiding or preventing the spreading of a virus. I would say it's the message that we may be guilty as well of the sins that lead to Tzoraas; the result of wearing a mask and observing social distancing is to give us time to reflect that just maybe we may have something like Tzoraas. The actual physical affliction does not appear, but the effect of it may be making its way inside through a hidden, masked cover-up preventing us from truly 'seeing' and smiling at each other.
The coronavirus kept us from shul, but it did not keep us from the Seder. Many celebrated with their immediate families, and many celebrated alone. But we all found a way to celebrate. This is how I celebrated, as well as the people in my neighborhood – in quarantine.
We Cleaned a Lot More
We had too much time to clean before the holiday this year. We found stuff to clean that didn't need cleaning and we cleaned it. I spent two hours on the kitchen sink. I don't know if enamel absorbs chametz but if it does, I got it out. I hope it's a Mitzvah to ruin kitchen appliances before Pesach.
I cleaned way beyond the requirement. I know this because I found garlic powder that expired in 2003. To note, garlic can be used around 17 years past expiration date. As long as you are willing to eat kugel that tastes a little off.
Bought a Lot of Matzah Meal
When we heard that they were running out of toilet paper and eggs in Israel, we bought more Matzah meal. For some reason we mistook a worldwide food staple with crushed up Matzah.
Actually, it's tradition to overstock on Pesach food. That's how the tradition of eating Matzah balls started. People stocked up on matzah meal and then realized that they needed to do something with it.
Didn't Have to Come Up with Excuses for Not Accepting the Invite
Passover is a time when we are extremely stringent about kosher laws, and many have a tradition of not eating out on Pesach at all. This year, not breaking Matzah with your fellow Jews was the neighborly thing to do. From now on, when I don't want to spend time with people, I am going to tell them it's for their health.
We had a month at home to prepare for Pesach, and we cleaned for ten hours a day. We still had more to clean on Tuesday morning before the holiday.
The most important Jewish lesson of every family: No matter how much you prepare for the holiday, you will have to rush and scream at the kids. Why the shower was still cold when you started showering the night before, will never make sense. It's all part of tradition.
You thought it was going to be less cooking, without having any guests, but you have kids. Over Pesach the kids started complaining. They're angry you didn't make them pizza. Ungrateful little…
OK so you start making the Matzah meal pizza and it takes you three hours. Now you're regretting that you ever bought the Hadassah Pesach Cook Book.
Stood in the Street
Jews love standing and talking. We do it at the shul Kiddush, we do it at the Bar Mitzvah party. Why not do it at home? Quarantine won't keep us from this. So we stand on our porches talking to our neighbors, while eating.
We don't care that our neighbors don't want to talk to us. Where are they going to go?
Ate Like Royalty at the Seder
We finally had room at the seder table, and people could sit at a distance, like royalty. It's a tradition that we eat like kings on Passover and lean while we drink the wine. And like a king, there was a lot more room for me this year to stain my shirt. For the first time, I didn't ruin anybody else's suit.
Vegetables Were Cleaned More at the Seder
This is the first year the vegetables were cleaned well. The cleaning and disinfecting message got out. I could definitely taste the Clorox in my parsley.
Seder Ended with Crying
What makes the Seder is the focus on the children. And that means crying. Like any good game, the Seder ends with the find the Afikomen game and kids crying. That's why we force the kids to play a game of hide and go seek with the Matzah at midnight, where there is only one winner who can get the prize, three hours after their bedtime.
Less Questions at Seder
As I was alone I had to ask myself the questions. My answers were not that good.
Hid the Afikomen from Myself
I couldn't find it. I felt like a fool. Now I can't get myself the bike I wanted.
Our neighbors were influenced by the videos you saw on social media. Playing the games in the home is a staple of the quarantine.
They took the treadmill M&M game and did it kosher for Pesach style with macaroons. If you could catch more than one macaroon in your mouth and chew it before the next one comes you get five points. Nobody was able to chew and swallow a macaroon in less than three minutes. Nobody got past the first macaroon before choking.
Video of Your Kid Crying
You took away the Matzah pizza and told the kid it was casserole and they cried, and you videotaped it. Now you're a Jewish Youtube sensation and your friends think you are funny as anything for exploiting your child. Mazal tov.
To end the holiday, we cleaned. We put away the dishes and cleaned up the house of unleavened bread. I am still cleaning. I can't think of any other activity to do during quarantine.
God willing we'll be able to celebrate together next year, so that I can stop cleaning, and I will have somebody who can answer my questions and find the Afikomen. Right now, I just need to find somebody to eat my Matzah balls and fake pizza.
Coronavirus Through the Eyes of Holocaust Survivors
For some hidden children of the Holocaust, being isolated at home is a throwback to wartime traumas, while others see no similarities
by Judy Maltz
In the summer of 1943, thousands of Jews from the town of Brzezany in Nazi-occupied Galicia (now in western Ukraine) were herded to a nearby cemetery and shot dead. Among the few survivors was 8-year-old Shimon Redlich. He spent the next six months hidden with his mother and grandparents in an attic in the empty Jewish ghetto. When their living conditions became unbearable, they moved to another hideout at a nearby village in the home of a Ukrainian woman, where they spend the next six months.
For someone who loves being out and about, Redlich, a professor emeritus of Jewish history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er Sheva, finds it difficult being cooped up at home these days because of the coronavirus lockdown.
It throws me back into my childhood in hiding," he says in a Skype conversation from his home in the central Israeli city of Modi'in.
Redlich, now 85, attributes this sense of déjà vu to the unpredictability of his situation. "Back then, we didn't know whether the Germans would discover our hiding place, and that would spell the end for us," he says. "Now, I can't say whether I'll get sick, in which case, given my age category, that might be the end of me too."
The absence of a daily routine, he says, is also reminiscent of those days.
"In normal times, the day is broken up into clear segments," he explains. "That doesn't happen now. It's as if time becomes fluid – and that was very much my feeling then, too."
Then, as now, he was constantly surrounded by the same faces. And then, as now, any foray into the world beyond his confined quarters required planning and preparation. "Today, that means putting on a mask and gloves," Redlich notes
His train of thought is momentarily disrupted by a knock at the door. It is his wife, requesting help bringing in the groceries that have just been delivered to their doorstep. Redlich is instantly reminded of another similarity.
"Of course we have all the food we need right now, but there is still this obsession with it," he says. "You're constantly worrying about whether you'll have enough to last until the next delivery. And what I remember from our days in hiding was this constant preoccupation with the food and whether it would last us."
Many struggling with the stay-at-home rules mandated by the pandemic are turning for inspiration these days to Anne Frank – the Holocaust diarist who spent more than two years in a hideout in Amsterdam before being discovered and sent to various concentration camps, eventually dying in Bergen-Belsen in early 1945.
As someone who lived under similar conditions, Redlich understands why her story resonates so much these days.
"Such comparisons are not relevant when it comes to the more extreme situations, like the death camps," he says. "But for those of us who were in hiding, there are definitely parallels to be drawn."
Dolly Chinitz, another hidden child, is not so sure. "You can't compare," says the 90-year-old in a phone conversation from her retirement home in Jerusalem. "We were like hunted prey, we were being targeted for death, and we had to lay low if we wanted to survive. It's just not the same thing. This is a sickness. You either get it or you don't, you either get well or you don't – but everybody is in the same boat."
Finding a viable hideout was often the only way for Jewish children to survive the Holocaust. Some were lucky enough to find Christian families who took them in. Others escaped death by hiding in underground bunkers or caves. Sometimes they hid with other family members, but not always.
Chinitz and her twin sister Mari were 14 when the Nazis invaded their hometown of Budapest. Their mother, who had been arrested, sent the two girls into hiding with a Christian woman and her son. They spent six weeks in this home, during which time the two girls suffered physical abuse. Because they could not leave the house, Chinitz recounts, they had no way to protect themselves during air raids. "It was such a terrible time," she says. "How can I compare that to today where I have a beautiful large apartment, a balcony and all the food I need?"
Naomi Waldman, 90, hid for two years in an abandoned house in Antwerp, along with her parents. She has vivid memories of the day Nazi troops broke into the building while she and her parents, having been forewarned, hid in the attic. "My aunt came in and let us know that the Nazis were gone, but we thought it was a trick and refused to come down from the attic," she recalls, in a phone conversation from her Jerusalem home.
Six months later, the Nazis returned, but this time Waldman and her parents were caught unawares. They were loaded onto a truck and taken to a transit camp, where they were separated. But miraculously, she relays, they all survived, including her five older siblings.
"I've been asked whether there is anything similar between my experience today and my experiences then. For me, the only similarity is the hoarding of food," she says.
"We're all sitting in our beautiful apartments with all the conveniences," she adds. "Nobody is chasing us. Nobody is tormenting us. So even if these are very difficult times – especially if you're all alone, as I am – there's really no comparison."
Sharon Kangisser Cohen, the editor of Yad Vashem Studies, a scholarly journal published by Israel's national Holocaust commemoration institute, recently co-edited a large study of child survivors.
"I would say that, on a theoretical level, we know that certain situations trigger memories of the past, and one would think intuitively that isolation would trigger some of these wartime memories," she says, noting that many Israeli Holocaust survivors were traumatized during the first Gulf War when they were ordered to wear gas masks to protect themselves from the possibility of chemical warfare.
But based on recent conversations with a group of Holocaust survivors, she continues, the coronavirus crisis does not seem to be awakening the same old fears and anxieties. "I did speak to one woman, who tends to be very emotional and was very upset that she had to spend the [Passover] seder alone this year for the first time since the war. But most of the others I spoke with did not seem to think this was a comparable situation. Perhaps the only thing that resonated for them was not knowing when it would end."
Most of the concerns they raised, Kangisser Cohen notes, had little to do with their own personal situation. "They were more worried about the political crisis in the country and about how their children were going to manage financially," she relays. "My impression was that there's no real sense of immediate danger because of the coronavirus."
'Anxious and frightened'
Andy Griffel was whisked out of the Jewish ghetto in Radom in October 1942, right after his mother gave birth to him. He spent the first three years of his life hidden by a Christian family in the Polish town. He remembers little, if anything, about his experiences in hiding. "From everything I was told, those were actually very good years," says the 77-year-old lawyer, who splits his life between the United States and Israel.
But Griffel considers himself unique among Holocaust survivors in Israel – even among the hidden children, who tend to be younger. "I'm not in an old age home and not really living alone," he says. "I go out with my dog four to five times a day, and because he's friendly I get to interact with lots of kids – of course, with the 2-meter distance rule. The experience of hiding seems to affect different people differently, so I wouldn't want to make any generalizations."
Neither does Shoshana Sprecher, 79, remember much about the three-month period she spent hiding under the roof of a coffee shop with her mother in a small town in southwestern France. She believes the experience has scarred her nonetheless.
"What happens to you in your childhood, you take it with you all your life, and I guess that's why being inside and alone today makes me feel anxious and frightened," she says. Although she understands that these are different times, Sprecher says that seeing the police out in large numbers on the streets to enforce the lockdown makes her nervous. "I know they are good people, but this is something that goes back to my childhood and it is difficult for me," she says.
Although Chinitz, the survivor from Hungary, rejects comparisons between now and then, that doesn't make being alone any easier. "I'm a people person," she says. "I like to have people around me – I touch people, I kiss people – and so I'm climbing the walls."
Her longtime partner lives in the same retirement facility, but they haven't been allowed to see one other. "I've never felt this alone in my life," she says. "Even in my mother's womb I had my sister, so I'm taking this very badly. I believe that many of us will pay a big emotional price for all this isolation."
a friend of mine, Arieh King to be Appointed Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Forgoes Salary
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion will be promoting City Councilman Arieh King to be a Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem as part of the coalition agreement with King's party. King has decided that during the Coronavirus crisis he will not be taking a salary for the new position, according to a report in JDN.
The appointment will be voted on at the next council meeting.
Knesset Allows Courts to Issue Arrest Warrants in Cases Involving Coronavirus Health Risks
By a vote of 27-7, the Knesset plenum in the early hours of Friday morning passed a government-sponsored bill which enshrines in primary legislation the arrangement according to which a civilian court, as well as a military court, will be authorized to order the arrest of a suspect or extend his or her detention, even if the investigation of their case cannot be advanced in light of the health risks involved in interrogating someone who has contracted the coronavirus, or is in quarantine due to the corona disease.
The arrangement relates to a crucial suspect or witness. The bill, an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law, states that a judge may order an arrest under these circumstances only after he/she has been convinced of its justification and has carefully considered the severity of the offense, the expected delay in the progress of the investigation and the harm caused to the suspect.
The explanatory notes attached to the bill state that the emergency regulations issued by the Health Ministry regarding social distancing and quarantine make it virtually impossible to "carry out investigative activities that demand the participation of people who are required to be in isolation without endangering those who come in close contact with them – such as holding confrontations and transporting (suspects or witnesses)."
In some cases, according to the bill, mainly when severe offenses or security offenses are involved, effective frontal interrogation cannot be conducted when the person who is required to be in quarantine and the interrogator, or interrogators, are wearing protective face masks, "this due to the need to carry out the interrogation for an extended period of time and due to the need to see facial expressions and physical reactions, and create direct communication."
Ministry says it can do 15,000 virus tests daily, but nobody's showing up
Without enough people showing symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested, authorities plan to roll out randomized sampling in high-risk areas to get a clearer picture of the spread of the virus
Israel now has the lab capacity to test up to 15,000 people for COVID-19 daily but demand has gone down as fewer suspected cases show up to have swabs taken, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.
Israel has been struggling, along with many other countries, to raise the number of tests it performs per day, and in recent days that number has dropped below 10,000 coincidings with a marked decrease in the number of confirmed cases reported since the start of the week.
Due to a downturn in coronavirus test referrals and "a decrease in the number of people with corona symptoms who want to be tested," the ministry said that the number of people being tested has gone down, with only 9,031 tests performed on Saturday, of which 160 were found to be COVID-19 positive.
On Sunday, 8,393 tests were performed and 88 people were found to be positive. On Monday, 9,546 tests were performed and 110 people were found positive.
The ministry announced that it plans to launch random testing initiatives in areas with high infection rates to make up for the lack of sick patients seeking tests. It said a recently signed deal with the China-based Beijing Genomics Institute will soon allow Israel to conduct up to 20,000 daily tests.
A previous plan to perform randomized tests in Bnei Brak, the country's hardest-hit virus hotspot, was nixed earlier this month, reportedly after the Health Ministry and local officials raised objections.
Most carriers of COVID-19 are thought to have only mild symptoms or none at all, and experts fear that asymptomatic patients can transfer the contagion to others, making massive testing a critical element in getting a grip on the true spread of the virus.
In recent days, Israel's infection rate has appeared to fall off significantly, with only a few dozen new cases being reported every 12 hours, and the government has announced steps to ease restrictions on businesses and travel. On Monday morning, the ministry reported just 68 new cases since Sunday morning, the lowest number since mid-March, when cases first began to ramp up.
On Tuesday, the ministry announced another 123 new cases since the day before.
In the two weeks prior, Israel had seen over 200 cases daily, with the ministry reporting daily testing numbers above 10,000.
Magen David Adom medical team members, wearing protective gear, handle a coronavirus test from patients in Jerusalem, April 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israel has long struggled to provide sufficient tests amid a global scramble for supplies.
In mid-April, the Defense Ministry announced that a plane carrying enough chemical reagents to conduct some 100,000 PCR coronavirus tests had landed in Israel.
Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem claimed last week that Israel will soon have the technology to boost daily coronavirus testing to hundreds of thousands of people.