Yeshiva World News

Garden State Pkwy & NJ Turnpike To Get Massive Toll Hikes

A plan to hike tolls on the Garden State Parkway by 27% and New Jersey Turnpike by 36% was adopted by the Turnpike Authority on Wednesday; the tolls hikes were rammed through without the public being able to participate in person due to the ongoing statewide ‘stay at home’ order. The proposed toll hikes would take effect Sept. 13. They would result in an average increase by about $1.30 on the Turnpike, while cash tolls at mainline toll plazas on the Parkway would rise by 40 cents, to $1.90. The extra revenue would be used to fund a $24 billion construction plan, which includes widening 15 sections of the Turnpike and Parkway, and installing cashless tolls. STAY UPDATED WITH BREAKING UPDATES FROM YWN VIA WHATSAPP – SIGN UP NOW Just click on this link, and you will be placed into a group. (YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

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Video! How One Yeshiva Does Remote Schooling: An Example for All

When the Coronavirus hit New York – almost without warning – Jewish day schools, Yeshivos and Mesivtos had to scramble to find a solution for schooling kids from home while keeping them engaged – without free access to the internet. Yeshiva Ohavei Torah in Riverdale is known for not only its top-notch learning in both Torah and secular studies, but its warm atmosphere and individualized attention. It’s a place where no boy falls through the cracks. How could Ohavei maintain its unique atmosphere and commitment to excellence remotely? In mid-March, when the Yeshiva sent the boys home from its dorms, Rabbi Chaim Pechter, the Menahel of Ohavei, instituted teleconferencing classes, and the full schedule of phone meetings went right up until Pesach- literally. “We know the value and the potential of downtime,” says Rabbi Pechter. “We are not just a school where boys learn and go home. We are responsible for filling their days with Torah and mitzvos.” While the teleconferencing lasted till Pesach break, some of the rebbeim felt a loss of the kesher they normally have with the talmidim. “One of the most hard-fought and hard-won values in our yeshiva is the trust of the boys,” says Rabbi Pechter, “and the relationship between the talmidim and the rebbeim. Our rebbeim are so in-tune with them, and I was getting reports that they felt that some of the boys were not fully engaged. That’s why I’m so thankful to Hakadosh Boruch Hu for Rabbi Tesser, our executive director.” Rabbi Yaakov Tesser did some intense research and found the perfect device through which to engage the boys without putting them in danger: a restricted Amazon Fire with a Kosher Zoom application. This device, available through KZoom, ensures that the boys will use only the Amazon device, hiding the ID of each meeting room to ensure using just the kosher screen.  “We handed them out to families right after Pesach, and the response from the boys and the parents has been tremendous,” says Rabbi Tesser. Yeshiva Ohavei Torah has just released a video featuring parents describing their experience during the yeshiva’s transition time.  “We weren’t going to lower the standards for our boys just because we had to suddenly create a remote school. We had to find a way to give them a complete program of studies, fully interactive – in a safe environment,” Rabbi Pechter says.  The restricted Amazon Fires worked so well, that the Yeshiva’s rebbeim began reporting increased connection with the boys. “I can see every boy. I can see if he’s chapping the material. I can call on him and tell who’s answering. I can see the reaction on their faces,” says Rabbi Yehuda Goldfeder, 11th grade Rebbe at Ohavei. In addition, Ohavei’s rebbeim make extra efforts to reach out to the boys one-on-one so that they still feel the strong sense of the Ohavei community, along with individual attention from rebbe to talmid. Ari Kleinhendler, a 12th grader at Ohavei, says it’s going “remarkably well. At first I was very sceptical as to how it would be to have classes online, but it’s working out surprisingly well and everyone’s getting the programming down. The kesher is actually made stronger when we have to invest our energy in making the connection.” Rabbi Tesser explains, “We received so […]

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POLL: Half Of Americans Would Get A COVID-19 Vaccine

Only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if the scientists working furiously to create one succeed, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s surprisingly low considering the effort going into the global race for a vaccine against the coronavirus that has sparked a pandemic since first emerging from China late last year. But more people might eventually roll up their sleeves: The poll, released Wednesday, found 31% simply weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated. Another 1 in 5 said they’d refuse. Health experts already worry about the whiplash if vaccine promises like President Donald Trump’s goal of a 300 million-dose stockpile by January fail. Only time and science will tell — and the new poll shows the public is indeed skeptical. “It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “The unexpected looms large and that’s why I think for any of these vaccines, we’re going to need a large safety database to provide the reassurance,” he added. Among Americans who say they wouldn’t get vaccinated, 7 in 10 worry about safety. “I am not an anti-vaxxer,” said Melanie Dries, 56, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. But, “to get a COVID-19 vaccine within a year or two … causes me to fear that it won’t be widely tested as to side effects.” Dr. Francis Collins, who directs the National Institutes of Health, insists safety is the top priority. The NIH is creating a master plan for testing the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates in tens of thousands of people, to prove if they really work and also if they’re safe. “I would not want people to think that we’re cutting corners because that would be a big mistake. I think this is an effort to try to achieve efficiencies, but not to sacrifice rigor,” Collins told the AP earlier this month. Full Coverage: Virus Outbreak “Definitely the worst thing that could happen is if we rush through a vaccine that turns out to have significant side effects,” Collins added. Among those who want a vaccine, the AP-NORC poll found protecting themselves, their family and the community are the top reasons. “I’m definitely going to get it,” said Brandon Grimes, 35, of Austin, Texas. “As a father who takes care of his family, I think … it’s important for me to get vaccinated as soon as it’s available to better protect my family.” And about 7 in 10 of those who would get vaccinated say life won’t go back to normal without a vaccine. A site foreman for his family’s construction business, Grimes travels from house to house interacting with different crews, and said some of his coworkers also are looking forward to vaccination to minimize on-the-job risk. The new coronavirus is most dangerous to older adults and people of any age who have chronic health problems such as diabetes or heart disease. The poll found 67% of people 60 and older say they’d get vaccinated, compared with 40% who are younger. And death counts suggest black and Hispanic Americans are more vulnerable to COVID-19, because of unequal access to health care and other factors. Yet the poll found just 25% of African Americans and 37% of Hispanics would […]

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Israel: 16,757 Cases, 281 Deaths, Highest Number Of New Cases In A Week

There are currently 16,757 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel, an increase of 32 new cases in 24 hours, the highest number in a week. There are 37 patients in serious condition, of whom 33 are ventilated, an increase of four patients on ventilators, with the total number over 30 for the first time this week. The entire list of medical supplies that the Mossad located and brought to Israel during the coronavirus crisis was documented in a Ynet report on Tuesday The report said that the Mossad brought in 1,300 ventilators, 80 million surgical masks, 180 million gloves, two million coronavirus test kits and hundreds of millions of medications. Another 4,700 ventilators have been ordered and are scheduled to arrive in Israel in October ahead of a possible second coronavirus wave and 14 million more masks will be arriving in Israel shortly. A ceremony was held on Tuesday to mark the end of the IDF’s assistance to the National Coronavirus Control Center at Sheba Medical Center. The responsibility for medical supply deliveries have been transferred to the health ministry. There are three new coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip, raising the total number of cases in the coastal enclave to 61, with 18 patients already recovered, and one fatality. The three patients were already in quarantine when they were diagnosed at an isolation facility at the Rafah border crossing (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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Long Island Enters First Phase Of NY’s Reopening Process

Long Island became the latest region of New York to begin easing restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus Wednesday as it entered the first phase of the state’s four-step reopening process. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said efforts to fight the virus have left the city with a $9 billion budget deficit. Here are the latest coronavirus developments in New York. _____ LONG ISLAND REOPENS The sprawling suburbs of Nassau and Suffolk counties, where at least 4,000 people have been killed by the virus, were given approval by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday to begin reopening parts of their economy after nonessential businesses were shuttered for two months. Construction, manufacturing, agriculture and retail with curbside pickup will be permitted in the first phase of reopening. Several popular beaches on Long Island opened last weekend with new rules for reduced capacity and social distancing. The easing of some restrictions on Long Island leaves New York City as the only part of the state that has yet to begin the reopening process. Under guidelines set by Cuomo, reopening is tied to metrics including hospital capacity and trends in fatality rates. New infections have slowed throughout the state but have not stopped. More than 1,000 New Yorkers tested positive Monday. Cuomo planned to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to discuss coronavirus response efforts and to push for infrastructure investments. _____ NEW YORK CITY FACES $9 BILLION BUDGET DEFICIT De Blasio said Wednesday that the city’s projected budget deficit has grown from $7.4 billion to $9 billion because of revenue shortfalls and new expenses linked to the coronavirus. “We do have to come to grips with the fact that on top of the health care crisis, on top of the economic crisis, we are now in a fiscal crisis here in this city,” de Blasio said at his daily briefing. The mayor renewed his call for the U.S. Senate to help struggling cities and states by passing the House’s coronavirus aid package and said that without federal assistance the city would need borrowing authority from New York state in order to avoid deep cuts to services. Cuomo dismissed the idea of the city borrowing money to cover his costs when he was asked about it Tuesday. “Borrowing for operating expenses is fiscally questionable,” the governor said. “Fiscal responsibility is very important here.” (AP)

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Free Kvittel in Mezhibuzh @ Baal Shem Tov Through Yad L’Achim

To our dear friends and supporters, I want to invite you… twice! #1  To fulfill the #1 priority in tzedaka (Shulchan Aruch) giving which is Pidyon Shvuyim – (redeeming of captives) by helping Yad L’Achim rescue trapped women & children before Shavuos…(Many of us were “trapped” in our homes, perhaps so we can appreciate the magnitude of what these women & children are going through) 2.  To please join the tefillah @the Baal Shem Tov in Mezhibuzh for free, but hurry, as the deadline is approaching… CLICK HERE or visit www.YadLachim.org or call 1-866-923-5224  If you know someone who can benefit from this free tefillah, please CLICK HERE to share it with them via WhatsApp. This Erev Shavuos, Merit the Special Segulah of “104” of Rav Chaim Palagi zt”l WATCH A VIDEO OF MICHAL, TELLING HER LIFE’S STORY (WITH A SURPRISE ENDING) – CLICK HERE This Thursday, Erev Shavuos, Talmidei Chachamim, Messengers of Yad L’Achim, Will Daven For You & Your Loved Ones for SHIDDUCHIM & ALL PERSONAL REQUESTS(no minimum donation required to submit names) In Mezhibuzh, Ukraine, At The Resting Place Of The BAAL SHEM TOV HAKADOSH On the Day of Tefillah for His Yahrtzeit, On EREV SHAVUOS – A GREAT DAY OF SEGULAH You can also help Yad L’Achim save Jewish lives – Pidyon Shvuyim! CLICK HERE OR visit www.YadLAchim.org TO JOIN

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Pompeo Says Hong Kong No Longer Autonomous From China

Secretary of State of Mike Pompeo notified Congress on Wednesday that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China. The notice sets the stage for the U.S. to withdraw preferential trade and financial status that the former British colony has enjoyed since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. “Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997,” Pompeo said in a statement. Pompeo’s decision was not accompanied by a revocation of any specific privileges but comes amid calls for the U.S. and others to react against Beijing’s move to impose Chinese national security laws over the territory. “Beijing’s disastrous decision is only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms and China’s own promises to the Hong Kong people under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-filed international treaty,” Pompeo said. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.” Pompeo’s certification to Congress is required by the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support last year. The law requires the U.S. to impose sanctions against officials held responsible human rights abuses in Hong Kong as well as determine whether the city continues to warrant special status. Under the terms of the Sino-British declaration, Hong Kong was to have enjoyed significant autonomy from the communist government in Beijing for 50 years starting in 1997. That autonomy was to have included protections for free speech and self-rule under what China has termed a “one country, two systems” policy. Last week, however, after years of mounting protests against encroachments into Hong Kong’s autonomy, China’s ceremonial parliament moved to enact a national security law for Hong Kong aimed at forbidding secessionist and subversive activity, as well as foreign interference and terrorism. Mass protests in 2014, known as the Umbrella Revolution, followed the Chinese government’s decision to allow direct election of the city leader only after it screened candidates. In the end, the plan for direct elections was dropped. Legislation proposed in Hong Kong last year that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials set off months of demonstrations that at times involved clashes between protesters and police. The legislation was withdrawn. Earlier Wednesday, thousands of protesters shouted pro-democracy slogans and insults at police in Hong Kong as lawmakers debated a bill criminalizing abuse of the Chinese national anthem in the city. The bill would make it illegal to insult or abuse the Chinese national anthem, “March of the Volunteers” in semi-autonomous Hong Kong. (AP)

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What Can You Do In 35 Minutes? Find Out with Bnos This Week!

EVERYONE is so, so, so busy. School from home. Work from home. Yom tov is coming. EVERYONE is living on top of each other, wishing for some private space, with no extra time. EVERYONE? What about the elderly or at-risk? The people who are living alone? The seniors who haven’t left their homes for two months? They’re not at work, they’re not at school, and they might have a lot of extra time on their hands. It could be your Bubby, your Zaydy, a neighbor, an aunt, or a friend – there are people all around us who might be bored or lonely. There are people who would LOVE to get a friendly phone call and talk to a real, live person. And that’s the motivation behind Bnos Agudath Israel’s newest program: Bnos Chesed Week! Starting this Thursday, May 21, girls in 2nd to 6th grade are invited to cheer up a friend or family member with a daily 5-minute phone call. Girls can log their time on a special form and then email it to Bnos to enter an exciting raffle! This coming week is leading up to Shavuos, to Kabbalas HaTorah. Torah and chessed go hand in hand, so what better way to prepare for Shavuos than with a week of chessed? It’s free, only takes five minutes a day, and you’re making a huge difference in the life of someone you love. (Plus, you could win a raffle prize!) What should you talk about? Really anything, but here are some ideas to get you started: *How home school is going. Do you like it or not? *Anything special that you’re doing for Shavuos. *A project or activity that your family did together. *Or ask about the other person’s life – How do they spend their day? What was school like when they were young? You may not be able to stop talking at five minutes! And, by the way, even if your Bubby isn’t old or sick or lonely, she would STILL love for you to call! Let’s finish off sefirah and get the Torah with seven amazing days of chessed. Email Bnos@agudah.org or call 212-797-9000 ext. 330 to get your form and get started calling.

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Gateways: Shavuot Inspiration and Introspection

Dear Friends,  We miss you! We were so looking forward to Receiving the Torah together in a beautiful setting combining the spiritual with the physical- ‘Chatzi La’Hashem chatzi lachem’.  Hashem planned for us otherwise.  Please enjoy a ‘Taste of Torah’ from this array of inspiring Presenters.  Although we can’t celebrate together with the culinary cuisine, we can certainly relish the spiritual cuisine.  Watch Now at www.gatewaysonline.org/shavuos5780

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“BIG ACTION TO FOLLOW” Trump Threatens Twitter That He Will “Close Them Down”

President Trump warned social media giants Wednesday that the federal government could “strongly regulate” or “close them down” if they continue to “silence conservative voices,” amid a flaring battle with Twitter after the platform fact-checked one of his tweets for the first time this week. “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” Trump tweeted. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again.” The president added: “Just like we can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!” It is unclear what authority, if any, the president was citing in his threat to close social media platforms down, but the tweets surely were meant to escalate pressure on the platform that hosted them. He later tweeted: “Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!” This comes after Twitter slapped a warning label on one of Trump’s tweets referring to mail-in ballots for the first time Tuesday, cautioning readers that despite the president’s claims, “fact checkers” say there is “no evidence” that mail-in voting would increase fraud risks and that “experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.” The president, within minutes on Tuesday, accused Twitter of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” while adding that the platform is “completely stifling FREE SPEECH,” and vowing that “I, as President, will not allow that to happen.” (AP)

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V’Nismach – Join Us LIVE NOW! Keeping the Momentum of The Siyum Going: 6:45 PM

No one can forget The Siyum. Though it took place in a very different pre-Corona era, its voices and spirit reverberate even throughout its stormy aftermath. 100,000 Jews gathering together is something that’s hard to imagine now- But we can relive the echoes of that resounding unity. Alone in our home but unified in our joint mission, we invite you to join our V’Nismach event TONIGHT, on Leil Erev Shavuos, May 27. What we now lack in physical proximity, we compensate with the greatest uniting force of every Jew: Ki Heim Chayeinu. Day by quarantined day, our learning keeps our focus from flagging even in these unthinkable times. And now, don’t miss the live V’Nismach event  right here TONIGHT (Wednesday)! In time for Kabbalas Hatorah, relive the magic of the Siyum! We will once again be hosted by Rabbi Avi Schnall, New Jersey Director for Agudas Yisroel of America, and virtual event favorite Rabbi Elchanan Schwarz, LCSW. The program will feature a brand new film, “Learning Under Lockdown,” highlighting today’s Heroes of The Daf who haven’t missed even one day since The Siyum. It will also broadcast inspiring brand new Siyum Moments by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, a Covid Halacha Q&A by Rabbi Moshe Rotberg, a message from the son of the Novominsker Rebbe ZT”L, and Kabalas Hatorah inspiration from R’ Shmuel Kamenetsky Shlita. Watch the grand Masmidei Hasiyum finale and prize winner announcements along with a Siyum Mishnayos by the next generation of eager Lomdei Torah. R’ Elya Brudny Shlita will be the mesayem. This is your chance to relive The Siyum as you sing and dance along to ‘The Music of The Siyum’. Don’t miss this amazing event!

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Levaya of Hagaon HaRav Shmuel Miller ZATZAL, Rosh Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel

YWN regrets to inform you of the Petira of Hagaon HaRav Shmuel Miller ZT”L, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel. He was 81 and suffered from an illness the past few months. He was the son of Hagaon HaRav Avigdor Miller ZATZAL. Unfortunately, his wife, Rebbitzen Miriam (nee Pancer) was Niftar 5 weeks ago from COVID-19. The Niftar was a massive Talmid Chachom and Masmid. He was a Talmid Muvhak of Hagaon HaRav Arhaon Kotler ZTZAL in Lakewood Yeshiva, studying by the Rosh Yeshiva for numerous years. He then studied under HaRav Berel Soloveitchik‧ ZTAAL in Brisk. He began his life in Chinuch as a Rebbi in Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway. He then opened Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel in Flatbuh together with his father, where he delivered Shiurim to his Talmidim for decades. The Yeshiva then relocated to Bayswater for a short period of time, before moving to it’s current location in the Raintree area of Lakewood, NJ. He is survived by his brother Reb Eliezer Miller (Flatbush) and his sisters, Rebbitzen Libby Leshinsky, Rebbitzen Scheina Brog, Rebbitzen Devorah Kanrek of Peekskill Yeshiva, and his 10 children – all Roshei Yeshiva, Marbitzei Torah and Magidei Shiurim. He leaves behind thousands of grieving Talmidim whom he treated as children and not only as a Rebbi. The Levaaya was held this morning in Flatbush, and the Niftar was taken for Kevurah to Eretz Yisroel. Boruch Dayan HaEmmes… (YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

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Free to Join Tefilla in Mezhibuzh (BS”T) on Erev Shavuos through Yad L’Achim

To our dear friends and supporters, I want to invite you… twice! #1  To fulfill the #1 priority in tzedaka (Shulchan Aruch) giving which is Pidyon Shvuyim – (redeeming of captives) by helping Yad L’Achim rescue trapped women & children before Shavuos…(Many of us were “trapped” in our homes, perhaps so we can appreciate the magnitude of what these women & children are going through) 2.  To please join the tefillah @the Baal Shem Tov in Mezhibuzh for free, but hurry, as the deadline is approaching… CLICK HERE or visit www.YadLachim.org or call 1-866-923-5224  If you know someone who can benefit from this free tefillah, please CLICK HERE to share it with them via WhatsApp. This Erev Shavuos, Merit the Special Segulah of “104” of Rav Chaim Palagi zt”l WATCH A VIDEO OF MICHAL, TELLING HER LIFE’S STORY (WITH A SURPRISE ENDING) – CLICK HERE This Thursday, Erev Shavuos, Talmidei Chachamim, Messengers of Yad L’Achim, Will Daven For You & Your Loved Ones for SHIDDUCHIM & ALL PERSONAL REQUESTS(no minimum donation required to submit names) In Mezhibuzh, Ukraine, At The Resting Place Of The BAAL SHEM TOV HAKADOSH On the Day of Tefillah for His Yahrtzeit, On EREV SHAVUOS – A GREAT DAY OF SEGULAH You can also help Yad L’Achim save Jewish lives – Pidyon Shvuyim! CLICK HERE OR visit www.YadLAchim.org TO JOIN

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Vayichan Worldwide Inter-Yeshiva Mishmar, Including Bracha from R Chaim Kanievsky Shlit”a!

Tonight- Vayichan Worldwide Achus All Night Mishmar  Yeshivat Hakotel is proud to present a second Vayichan program. The all-night Mishmar features sixty-four shiurim from Senior Roshei Yeshiva and Ramim from forty-eight yeshivas located in seven countries across four continents and from a broad hashkafic spectrum.  The program has the beracha of Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlit”a As a follow up to the Vayichan Rosh Chodesh (May 24) community program (see here)  and to compensate for the inability of most yeshivot and communities to have Tikkun Leil Shavuot, Yeshivat Hakotel has arranged an unprecedented all night mishmar program.  The mishmar brings together 64 Roshei Yeshiva and Ramim from almost 50 yeshivot located in seven countries across four continents and from a very broad hashkafic spectrum (ex.- Chevron, Ponovezh, and Torah Vodaas together with YU and the Yeshivot Hesder). The current situation keeps us from gathering locally.  Instead, the yeshivot are gathering together globally in an unprecedented show of inter- yeshiva achdut.  Am Yisrael’s yeshivot are the identity core for hundreds of thousands of their talmidim and graduates.  The Vayichan joint program expresses our goal of focusing on what unifies us all.  The program will hopefully help us and our talmidim and graduates do the same in the future.  We are honored by the fact that Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlit”a has given his beracha to the program. From 6:40 PM (US East) through 5:30 AM (US East) each Rosh Yeshiva/Rebbe will speak for one-half hour (in three parallel Zoom/Youtube rooms). The program is dedicated to the memory of the Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow zt”l,  who was the head of Agudath Israel and member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.  The dedication is fitting because the Rebbe was known as someone who related to (and was loved by) all Jews irrespective of hashkafa. The incredible list of speakers and more information about the program are available here 

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The Closed Boro Park Stores and Chillul Hashem

(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com) There are numerous stores in New York City that are facing severe economic disaster.  Although some businesses have been allowed to remain open because they have been classified as essential businesses, others may not be open. Thus, candy stores and convenience stores are all open.They are considered essential.  Clothing shops and shoe stores in Boro Park and Williamsburg are told to be closed. It is random and unfortunate. Many, in fact, argue that the law should not decide to destroy a person’s livelihood, and that these business owners should at least be given the chance to open safely – mandating masks and social distancing. This is particularly true, when so many other venues have been allowed to be open. The situation is truly unfair.  Respectfully protesting this inequity is actually a reflection of an admirable quality – being noseh b’ol chaveiro – empathizing with another person’s situation. Those who do empathize, should be commended. However, even when faced with something that is unfair or unjust – we must always avoid Chillul Hashem and aim for Kiddush Hashem in all our actions and words. We must treat everyone we encounter with the utmost respect. The reason is that every person is created B’Tzelem Elokim. All people are a reflection of Hashem’s Divine Image. Disrespecting any human being is being disrespectful to the Creator Himself. We should also never engage in name-calling. Sadly, it seems that a number of people gathered outside had violated some or all of these basics when Boro Park stores were visited by the officers from the Sheriff’s Department.  These were public servants just doing their job at the place that they were told to go. It boggles the mind that someone could have actually said, “Go back to Germany!” Do these people know what the Nazis did? Can they fathom the depth of their atrocities, or the great Tzaddikim that they killed? The thought that these public servants could be called that by “unzerah yidden” causes us to shudder. We need a discussion of the very basics of what is a chillul Hashem. This article will attempt to discuss and clarify these basics – but first, an introduction. THE GEMORAH IN SHABBOS The world was created for Torah and its study (See Midrash Tanchuma Bereishis 10).  Since this is the case, there is a difficult Gemorah in Shabbos (31a) that requires explanation.  The Gemorah tells us that the very first question we are asked in the world to come is, “Were you honest in your business dealings?” Why should this be the first question?  Since Torah is more important than anything else, the next question that the Gemorah tells us is asked  – should rather be asked first, “Did you set times for Torah study?” The Pri Magadim in his Aishel Avrohom (OC 156:2) cites the Eliyahu Rabba’s grandfather’s answer to this question, that if Heaven forbid he was not honest in his business dealings — his entire Torah learning constitutes a Chillul Hashem! In other words, this question is a prerequisite for Torah study, because if he is not honest with others in business, the Torah learning is not a source of merit.  It is the opposite.  The Torah learning itself is the source of Chillul Hashem. This shows how […]

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Doctors Are Concerned: Increased Usage Of Drugs For Anxiety, Insomnia Due To Coronavirus Worries

The coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications and sleep aids and doctors are concerned about long-term addiction and abuse, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report said on Monday. “Many physicians have a low threshold for prescribing them. It’s very problematic,” the report quoted Bruce J. Schwartz, deputy chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, as saying. “Many people do develop a dependency on these medications.” In March 2019, 8.8 million Americans filled prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications, such as Klonopin and Ativan. By the end of March 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, 9.7 million Americans filled prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications, a rise of 10.2%. And prescriptions for anti-depressants, including Prozac and Lexapro, also jumped by 9.2% from last March, from 27.2 million in March 2019 to 29.7 million in March 2020. Even these significantly increased numbers may not reflect the entire bleak picture as no data is known on whether people already on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications increased their dosages. And some companies have noted a far more dramatic increase. Express Scripts, owned by Cigna, reported seeing a 34.1% increase in prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications from mid-February and mid-March, a 18.6% increase in prescriptions for anti-depressants and a 14.8% increase in prescriptions for sleep medications. The report added that according to a survey by the American Psychiatric Association, one-third of Americans said that the coronavirus pandemic is “seriously impacting” their mental health. And among parents with children under age 18, 46% reported that their average stress level related to the pandemic was 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale, according to a American Psychological Association survey. “This kind of chronic stress brings about, for all those people who have never had anxiety before, it sort of overwhelms them,” says Charles B. Nemeroff, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin and president-elect of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “If you’ve lost your job, if you’re worried if you’ll have enough food for your kids, that will keep you up at night.” Dr. James Potash, director of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told the WSJ that although anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin work very well, their use should be limited to weeks and not months. “They are powerful, and they are powerfully attractive in that they work instantly,” said Potash. “You take Ativan, and 30 minutes later you are feeling dramatically less anxious.” Potash added that people develop a tolerance to the medications’ effects very quickly which leads patients to increase their dosages. He also warns that these medications are very difficult to stop, causing difficult withdrawal symptoms. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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IDF Maj.-Gen. In Charge of Bnei Brak Lockdown: “We Shouldn’t Rush To Conscript All Charedim”

IDF Major-General Roni Numa (Res.) stated on Tuesday that there is no need to rush to force Charedim to enlist in the IDF during a conference of the Gesher organization, which strives to bridge the religious gaps in Israeli society by creating a dialogue between various segments of the population. “Whoever wants to enlist should do so,” Numa said. “If we act responsibly then this crisis will turn us into a smarter society, one that is more connected and more ethical.” Numa, who was appointed to oversee the lockdown of Bnei Brak and assist the residents during the coronavirus crisis, added: “There was a major lack of trust between the IDF and the Charedim in Bnei Brak. The turning point came during the preparations for Pesach. I felt that the government needed to understand that [Bnei Brak] is a different city than other cities and it has different needs.” “There were not only a lot of sick people, but there were a large number of active organizations. In order to gather all of the chametz from all of the apartments without causing a large gathering of people like every other year, we all needed to trust one another. It was a logistical operation that completely took over. The residents didn’t believe that we could do it and the soldiers didn’t quite understand everything that was required. When they understood that we were simply coming to help, that is when things began to change.” Numa said that he hoped that the Charedi society learned something from the crisis. “I want to believe that Charedi society learned something and is more open today than they were before. Yes, we need to speak about the future, even if it is guarded. The future will depend on how we act now. If we patronize and say ‘I told you so,’ then this will cause the Charedi public to clam up once again. If there is mutual understanding and mutual effort from all sides, then each one can learn from the other and be open to growth, then we will become stronger as a society. Charedim want to be a part of society. I wouldn’t rush to go an enlist them all. Whoever wants to enlist should do so.” (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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US Closes Probes Into 3 Senators Over Their Stock Trades

The Justice Department has closed investigations into stock trading by Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, according to people familiar with notifications sent to the senators. The senators came under scrutiny for transactions made in the weeks before the coronavirus sent markets downhill. The developments indicate that federal law enforcement officials are narrowing their focus in the stock investigation to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C, the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman. Agents showed up at his Washington-area home about two weeks ago with a warrant to search his cellphone. Senate records show that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to dive and government health officials began to sound alarms about the virus. Burr has denied any wrongdoing. Loeffler, Inhofe and Feinstein were notified Tuesday that they are no longer under investigation, according to three people familiar with the contacts but not authorized to speak about them. A spokesman for Loeffler, who is in a competitive reelection race, said in a statement that the Justice Department’s decision “affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along – she did nothing wrong.” The spokesman, Stephen Lawson, said that scrutiny of the trades was a “politically motivated attack” by her political opponents and the news media. Loeffler, a Republican who became a senator in January, and her husband dumped substantial portions of their portfolio and purchased new stocks around the time Congress was receiving briefings on the seriousness of the pandemic. Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and she has said the accounts were managed by third-party advisers. Feinstein reported that her husband sold off between $1.5 million and $6 million worth of stock in Allogene Therapeutics before the market drop. The San Francisco-based biotech company researches and develops cures for cancer. Inhofe sold anywhere between roughly $395,000 and $850,000 worth of stock he held in multiple companies in late January and early February, according to a disclosure. Like Loeffler, both Inhofe and Feinstein denied any wrongdoing or involvement in the trades. Inhofe, a Republican, tweeted in March that he had asked his financial adviser to move him out of stocks and into mutual funds in 2018, shortly after he became chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Both Loeffler and Feinstein had acknowledged contacts with the Justice Department. A spokesman for Feinstein said earlier this month that the Democratic senator was asked “some basic questions” by law enforcement about sales her husband made and had voluntarily answered questions. A Loeffler spokesperson had said that the senator forwarded documents to the department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee “establishing that she and her husband acted entirely appropriately and observed both the letter and the spirit of the law.” Meanwhile, Burr temporarily stepped aside as chairman of the intelligence panel during the probe, saying he didn’t want it to be a distraction. He also called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate his actions. A spokeswoman for Alice Fisher, Burr’s attorney, said Fisher would have no comment. The attorney has previously said that the senator has been “actively cooperating” with investigators. “From the outset, Senator Burr has been […]

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DeVos Defends Policy Boosting Virus Aid For Private Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is pushing ahead with a policy that will steer tens of millions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief to private primary schools and secondary schools across the nation. The policy has drawn backlash from Democrats and state education leaders who say it reroutes money from needy public schools to wealthier private ones. But in a recent letter to a group of state education chiefs, DeVos defended the policy and said she plans to formalize it as a federal rule “in the next few weeks.” The dispute stems from more than $13 billion allocated for the nation’s schools as part of a nearly $2 trillion aid package approved by Congress in March. The legislation tells states to divide the funding among public schools based on the number and share of low-income students they teach. It also tells public schools to use a portion of the money to provide services, such as busing or tutoring, to students who attend local private schools. The stipulation is similar to an existing requirement for federal Title I funding, a separate program for low-income schools. In the past, public schools have been told to reserve a portion of their Title I funding for local private school students, in proportion to the number of low-income students at nearby private schools. On April 30, however, DeVos issued new guidance telling public schools to divide the coronavirus aid based on the total number of students at local private schools, not just low-income ones. The guidance was challenged by the Council of Chief State School Officers, which said it could “significantly harm the vulnerable students who were intended to benefit the most.” The group urged DeVos to clarify her guidance and align it with Title I funding rules, saying her formula would give an “inequitable amount of funding” to private schools. In Louisiana, for example, private schools are estimated to get at least 267% more than they would using the Title I formula, the council wrote in a May 5 letter. In the state’s Orleans Parish, at least 77% of its relief allotment would end up going to private schools. Indiana’s education officials said they’re rejecting DeVos’ guidance, arguing that, legally, it amounts to no more than a recommendation. Jennifer McCormick, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, said on Twitter that she plans to distribute the virus funding “according to Congressional intent and a plain reading of the law.” “I will not play political agenda games with COVID relief funds. Our most at-risk students depend on this commitment,” McCormick wrote. In her letter, DeVos said she understands schools’ “reflex to share as little as possible with students and teachers outside of their control,” but she added that private schools have also been “overwhelmed” by the pandemic, and some have closed permanently. “These school closures are concentrated in low-income and middle-class communities,” DeVos said. “I would encourage educators everywhere to be as concerned about those students and teachers as they are with those in public schools.” The Education Department declined to provide further comment. Democrats in Congress blasted DeVos over the policy. In a May 20 letter to DeVos, they said her approach conflicts with language in the relief bill instructing schools to share funding “in the same manner” that they share Title I funding. The letter, […]

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