The Challenge Posed by Social Distancing to Jewish Mourning

March 23 2020

Following the death of a close relative, observant Jews follow a series of practices that serve to allay the isolation inherent in grief. Immediately after the funeral, a mourner remains at home for seven days—known as “sitting shiva”—while friends, relatives, and community members come to express their condolences. For the next eleven months, the mourner must attend synagogue thrice daily to recite kaddish, which can only be said in a quorum (minyan) of ten men. Tevi Troy, recently bereaved of his mother, explains what COVID-19 has meant for his own grieving:

In Maryland, where I live, synagogues closed their doors last weekend to services and other community activities. In New Jersey, communities could not have communal prayer services in the home or even outdoors. In the interest of safety, similar changes are occurring throughout the country.

On this most recent Sabbath, before even stricter protocols went into effect, I fulfilled the obligations to my mother by praying at outdoor minyanim, including two that took place in my driveway. At the conclusion of the Sabbath, fifteen of us gathered around a streetlight, as the prayer ending the Sabbath takes place after [sunset] but before we are allowed to turn on lights. No one said anything, but everyone knew to keep a safe distance. Everyone had his own prayer book to minimize the chances of spreading disease through shared surfaces.

Even that option is gone now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines against gatherings of ten or more people, and our rabbis have suspended minyanim. From my previous service as a public-health official, I fully support the need for social distancing and I am adhering to the stricter guidelines, as is my community.

This past weekend, in one of my last recitations of kaddish for the foreseeable future, I thought of past generations of Jews who encountered even more difficulties gathering together—during pogroms, wars, or the Holocaust. The nearby friends, still at a safe distance, comforted me and joined me in prayer.

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Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Coronavirus, Judaism, Mourning, Prayer

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela