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With the government this week urging everyone over 70 and those with underlying health conditions to self-isolate because of the coronavirus, London’s Jewish Care suspended all visits to its 10 care homes except to dying patients. The charity said it would help to facilitate phone calls and Internet communication with loved ones.

In Manchester, Joyce Khan, the marketing and communications manager of Heathlands, the city’s largest Jewish care home, confirmed to The Jewish Press that the charity had taken similar measures.


Heathlands chief executive officer Mark Cunningham and director of clinical services Karen Johnson said on Sunday, “It is important to note that no-one at Heathlands is currently unwell with coronavirus.”

On Monday, all volunteers were banned from the site. Manchester’s more Orthodox Beenstock Home also canceled all visits.

Manchester’s Hershel Weiss Children and Family Centre has canceled all group activities and is only offering one-to-one appointments and telephone help.

London’s Hampstead Garden Synagogue has advised the over-70s not to attend shul for fear of infection. Similarly, United Synagogue chief executive Steven Wilson advised those who are “medically vulnerable to refrain from attending” shul and communal events.

The organization urged the cancellation of “all non-religious events aimed at those in these ‘at risk’ groups,” as well as non-essential Kiddushim. The synagogual body will set up a helpline to help the self-isolating with regular and Pesach shopping and medication collection.

Manchester Kehilla Isolation Support is offering shopping, meals and advice to those in isolation. London’s JW3 cultural centre is delivering challah and fruit to the self-isolating.

The UK government has not closed schools, but London’s Sinai Jewish Primary School has given pupils home-learning kits in case there’s a shut down.


Pandemic Leads To Mass Cancellations

A member of London’s St John’s Wood Synagogue is seriously ill with the new coronavirus and the shul’s associate minister, Rabbi Yoni Golker, has tested positive for it as well. Senior rabbi Dayan Ivan Binstock is self-isolating as a precaution.

The shul was closed for Shabbat for a deep clean. North West London Jewish Day School closed on Friday after learning that Rabbi Golker had tested positive since pupils attended the same Purim party as the rabbi.

The United Synagogue head office was closed last week after a member of its staff became ill. The synagogual body has advised shuls not to have kiddushim unless they offer individual portions of food on cocktail sticks or separate utensils and containers.

Manchester’s Holy Law Hebrew Congregation has moved all services from its small beth medrash to the large main shul because of the outbreak. London’s JW3 cultural centre has been closed, as has the Jewish Learning Exchange, which is offering an online lunch ‘n learn. The special-needs charity Kisharon has canceled its dinner, as has Youth Aliyah.

The Barnet Multi Faith Forum has canceled its seder. The Sephardi group Chazak has canceled its Marshalla Fair, and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities canceled a Klezmer and Yiddish Song Contest.

The Board of Deputies canceled a fully-booked parliamentary event on the danger of far-right extremism.


Ofsted Criticizes Girl Schools For Not Teaching LGBT Matters

Two London charedi girls’ schools have received contrasting Ofsted reports. Beis Yaakov Girls School of Stamford Hill was rated “good” in all aspects, except leadership and management, even though it did not meet the independent school requirements.

Ofsted’s report on the school states: “Leadership requires improvement because leaders do not enable pupils to learn about the range of families in modern Britain. As a result, the school does not meet all the independent school standards. Pupils do not learn about homophobic bullying.”

But the school was praised for its “family feel,” good reading, and “careful balance between pupils’ learning in Jewish studies and secular studies.”

Beis Ruchel D’Satmar, also of Stamford Hill, was rated not to have met “all of the independent school standards,” even though Ofsted reported: “Leaders now promote mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” The school was downgraded over LGBT issues.


Odds & Ends

Oxfam has stopped selling the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion after Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev highlighted their availability on its platform. A spokesman for the charity said, “As soon as the books were brought to our attention, we removed them from sale and they were destroyed.”

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Charedi Conservative Councillor Brian Gordon will become mayor of Barnet in May. A councillor in London’s Edgware, Gordon is an executive member of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.

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The House of Commons cafeteria is beginning a trial run of selling kosher sandwiches. The trial was instigated after Jewish Labour MP Charlotte Nichols discovered a ban on the sale of kosher and halal food in the Commons due to guidance from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Veterinary Association.


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Doreen Wachmann served as a senior reporter and columnist for Britain’s Jewish Telegraph newspaper for more than 20 years.