From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank MS,BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
April 2, 2020



Included in this week’s newsletter are updates from President Trump, a letter from Rabbi Yanky Meir, President and COO of Misaskim, a letter from Rabbi Dr. Steinberg from Israel, a copy from the National Council of Young Israel regarding the impact of the COVID-19 Stimulus Bill on non profits AND a new, meaningful and exciting collaboration with OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services . I have attached a link for important video webinars and an important OHEL press release and other information.

Last evening the Rabbinical Alliance of America participated with the Rabbinical Council of America on a conference call for Health Care and Military Chaplains with Rabbi Mordechai Willig shlita . Many thank’s to Rabbi Mark Dratch Executive Vice President of the RCA and Rabbi Doniel Kramer, Chairman of the RCA Healthcare Chaplain Committee and the Orthodox Jewish Chaplains Roundtable.

I received information from a number of chaplains about the wonderful Kiddush H where the Jewish communities have set up catered food deliveries for the hospital staffs and other caring programs of appreciation they are doing for the patient’s 24/7. It is truly heartbreaking with so many who are ill with the Coronavirus in the hospital, many in critical condition and family members are not permitted to be with them especially if they are in their last hours of life. Yet, we cannot and must not give up any hope. I will be sharing with you (now and in the future) some parts of my presentation I gave at the RCA convention a few years ago where I also received the Healthcare Chaplaincy of the Year award.

What Does Hope Bring (Author Unknown)

  • Hope discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot.
  • Hope looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst.
  • Hope draws its power from a deep trust in G and the basic goodness of human nature.
  • Hope opens doors where despair closes them.
  • Hope “lights a candle” instead of “cursing the darkness”.
  • Hope regards problems, small and large as opportunities.
  • Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield to cynicism.
  • Hope sets big goals and is not frustrated by repeated difficulties or setbacks.
  • Hope pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit.
  • Hope accepts misunderstandings as the price for serving the greater good of others.
  • Hope is a good loser because it has divine assurance of final victory.

When my sister a”h was at NYU Medical Center a few years ago, her cardiologist Dr. Arthur Schwartzbard who is a tzadik, gave her a certain type of hope she was seeking. Even during her last days of her life she did not give up hope and her love in the Aibershta, her btachen and emunah remained very strong. He spoke to her with such gentleness and compassion. He gave her Hebrew names ( no last names) to be mispallel when she recited her Tehilim. She was so appreciative as were her family.

I have been asked in my own life -what keeps me going and my responses are; Tears – Supplications -Hope -and Caring for others. We all often need to cry, to be mispallel, to have hope and to care for others . We also must be strong and have btachen and emunah in the Aibershta.

But, it is not a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge to seek advice in caring for yourselves or for others. One of the RAA and NCYI programs was at Lenox Hill Hospital which included self-care for rabbonim (click here for the recording). Ohel recently had a webinar in collaboration with the RCA with Dr. Norman Blumenthal that is important for rabbonim. Click here for the webinar that is included in this newsletter.

Misaskim Pleads: Stop the Toxic Spread of Information

By Rabbi Yanky Meyer

As head of Misaskim, I am on the front lines in dealing with the multitude of tragedies in recent days. Misaskim has been inundated with calls and emergencies. With an unprecedented amount of niftarim in such a short period of time – and dozens of young, innocent yesomim added to our list – it has been a very tough week at Misaskim. Misaskim’s mission is to alleviate tragedies with compassion – which is ever more important at a time when the traditional sense of shivah is not fulfilled. In addition to ensuring kvod hameis, each niftar has a family that he or she leaves behind, who need comforting in such trying times.

Recently, our mission went from difficult to impossible. The coronavirus – along with the self-quarantine and isolation requirements – became a cause for sensational news and social media obsession. Everyone wants to be the first to declare “Breaking News,” and boredom generates tumult and gossip. In recent days, Misaskim was called to notify family members about the passing of their loved ones, only to discover that the family already found out via WhatApp – without the available support or crisis intervention team. In another disturbing instance, an unsubstantiated and inaccurate message went viral about a woman supposedly in critical condition – whose husband passed away merely hours before and was not even brought to kevurah yet. How can we properly assist in the grieving and healing process if a young almanah or family of yesomim sees such a message? Our comforting presence, promises of assistance, and hours of hard work of planning and logistics gets nullified in an instant!

I am reaching out today to ask for your assistance in helping us fulfill our mission. We do not expect everyone to witness tragedy the way we do or enter into quarantined homes to assist bereaved families. We do not even anticipate you to pay a personal shivah call because of social distancing and in accordance with the psak halacha of our Rabbanim. However, you can fulfill the mitzva of nichum aveilim by waiting before forwarding a message, by stopping the spread of false, unsubstantiated posts, and by refraining from commenting carelessly on news websites. Instead of being the first to know when someone passed away, be the first to say Tehillim, accept upon yourself a Perek Mishnayos, or make a phone call – in a sensitive and respectful manner – to a mourner.

In this zechus, may we be zocheh to the prophecy of Yeshayahu Hanavi that bilah hamaves lanetzach and may we speedily merit to eat min hazvachim umin hapsachim .

Rabbi Jack Meyer
5805 16th Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11204 718-854-4548

Thank you for taking the time to read this and all the other articles and information in this newsletter.

Sincerely, Yehuda Blank

Click here for a talk by Rabbi Professor Avraham Steinberg, MD on Coronavirus, Public Health and Jewish Law

Click here to learn about President Trump’s Coronavirus response efforts

Click here to learn about how the COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Bill will affect non-profits

Click here for information about OHEL’s new Tele-mental health support service, now available nationally