At the end of each summer, the campgrounds in the upstate mountains fall silent as children prepare for school. But for one such site, there was a last hurrah when young adults spent a weekend in nature to build connections and strengthen ties. A couple of weeks ago, Manashe Khaimov organized a Shabbaton for Mizrachi and Sefardi students and young professionals to network and develop leadership skills.

Maximizing the networking and communal senses of the Orthodox Jewish community, Kew Gardens Hills native Mordy Serle spoke at a virtual meeting with members of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills last week about monoclonal antibody treatment as a method of reducing the effects of the coronavirus. He is the son of Queens Jewish Link co-publisher Yaakov Serle.

“They thought that it would be a science experiment, but it grew to 500,000 people,” he said of the COVID Plasma Initiative, a grassroots effort in the Orthodox community where thousands of people who tested positive donated their plasma and tested for antibodies. The plasma was then donated to other patients in need. “The frum Jews saved 100,000 lives.”

A practicing estate planning attorney, Serle became involved in plasma drives early last year when his father-in-law was hospitalized with the virus. Serle teamed up with Dr. Shmuel Shoham, an expert on infectious diseases in transplant patients at Johns Hopkins University, and Chaim Lebovits of Monsey, to encourage plasma donations among Orthodox Jews, who have been hit hard by the virus at the onset of the pandemic. “No other community has the networking, the saturation, to make it possible. It is another thing to be proud of in our community,” said Serle.

The initiative’s effort was praised by then-President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor. As with many things that Trump endorsed, Serle noted that the initiative became a “political issue,” where Republican states such as Texas and Florida expressed more support for it than New York. “Our organization then pivoted towards the monoclonals.”

A lab-made version of convalescent plasma, monoclonals can be administered intravenously or by injection. The drug is manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and was notably used to treat Trump when he tested positive for COVID-19 last year.

“It cuts down the days of symptoms and severity. It can be taken preventively. The rest of the country is catching up to monoclonal treatment,” Serle said.

Earlier this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a rapid response unit to administer monoclonal antibody treatments to infected patients. “This is the most effective treatment that we’ve yet encountered for people who are infected with COVID-19,” he said at a press conference. “This, applied early and properly, has the ability to reduce your likelihood of being hospitalized.”

Last week, neighboring Alabama also requested monoclonal treatments for its infected patients, while cautioning the public that they are not a substitute for vaccines.

In the meantime, Orthodox Jews who survived COVID continue to donate their plasma cells to people in need through the COVID Plasma Initiative. “There are Satmar chasidim donating blood to a hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,” said Serle. “There was Jewish blood pumping through American veins throughout the country.”

Anyone with symptoms of COVID who is interested in receiving monoclonal antibody treatment can contact the Covid Plasma Initiative by calling 828-4-PLASMA or visiting www.covidplasmasavealife.com.

By Sergey Kadinsky

 

 

With nearly all of New York’s attractions having reopened following the worst of the pandemic, Chol HaMoed Sukkos is an ideal time to see what’s new at some of your favorite parks, museums, and neighborhoods. Closer to home, there are plenty of places to explore. In no particular order, I give you a brief guide to our hometown borough and beyond.

The rise in antisemitic incidents nationwide represents only a portion of actual incidents, most of which are not being reported to law enforcement agencies. To provide an accurate depiction of anti-Semitism, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union, participated earlier last month at the FBI Newark Field Office’s “Protecting Our Communities Together” national awareness campaign aimed at promoting the reporting of hate crimes and discrimination to federal authorities.

“Too many people within our community treat the hate and discrimination they experience as an expected part of life. Until we learn to report these regular incidents as they occur, our law enforcement authorities won’t be able to pursue the culprits, nor will meaningful change occur,” Rabbi Hauer said. “The OU welcomes the opportunity to partner with the FBI in this awareness campaign, and we hope that those who experience hate crimes and discrimination will report these incidents.”

Nathan Diament, Director of the OU Advocacy Center, spoke of his organization’s relationship with federal agencies in combating hate. “The press conference in Newark launched a new public awareness campaign to encourage reporting incidents. With better reporting and documentation, it helps in our advocacy for allocating resources.”

One such example is nonprofit security grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security to provide security training and technology for institutions in communities that are experiencing hate incidents.

On the Anti-Defamation League’s map of antisemitic incidents nationwide in the past year, local examples include a swastika on a synagogue in Rego Park, hateful graffiti on a Jewish-owned property in Forest Hills, a Jewish man in Rego Park whose attacker yelled anti-Jewish slurs, and library books vandalized with anti-Jewish phrases at public and college libraries. The organization noted that anti-Semitic incidents spiked this past summer, when Israel was involved in a war.

“At times of unrest or violence between Israel and armed terrorist groups, we have historically seen a spike in antisemitic incidents; but this year the surge was particularly dramatic and violent,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote in a statement. “This activity has affected more than specific individuals targeted; American Jews broadly are feeling less secure than before, and they believe strongly that our leaders need to do more to prevent further incidents.”

Although Jews make up less than two percent of the country’s population, the FBI reported that in 2020, 57.5 percent of reported hate incidents across the country targeted Jews. At the same time, much of the public attention remains focused on anti-Black bias, and the recent uptick of attacks on Asian Americans.

When a victim of a crime visibly appears as Jewish and the crime scene is outside of a yeshivah, there is a presumption of anti-Semitism as the motive, but it is then compared to the totality of the evidence. The murder of yeshivah bachur Shmuel Silverberg on August 17 at Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Denver was determined not to have a hate motive, as the five suspects had spent that day robbing a business, stealing a car, and shooting at another man.

The ADL’s “incidents tracker” notes not only the types of incidents and their locations, but also their coverage by news organizations. “The ADL is primary in collecting data and it is underreported in all communities,” Diament said. “It is true that anti-Semitic incidents have a disproportionate percentage among hate crimes.” Among the anti-Semitic crimes, the leading targets are Orthodox Jews on account of their outward appearance as Jews. “One thing that we’re more focused on are hate crimes against the Orthodox community, as there are unique aspects to it.”

By Sergey Kadinsky

 

More than a half century after Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in the midst of an ascendant presidential run, his killer was granted parole last week on the determination that he is no longer a threat to society and recognizes the severity of his crime. Sirhan Sirhan, 77, was 24 years old when he fatally shot Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles during a campaign event.

Hundreds of spectators brought their blankets and lawn chairs to Cunningham Park last Thursday to hear Shulem Lemmer in the first outdoor Jewish concert in Queens since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. “It was difficult to set up, and it looks like we have 300 people here,” said Queens Jewish Community Council Vice President Judy Rosen, whose organization sponsored the concert. “He sings in Yiddish and Hebrew, a combination of acts in one show.”