Coronavirus Updates: Steps We Are Taking and Immediate Needs
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis continues to spread, and travel bans and quarantine requirements are rapidly going into effect in Israel and elsewhere, The Jewish Agency for Israel’s first priority is protecting the health and safety of the organization’s staff, beneficiaries, participants, and delegations around the world.
We are working closely with Israel’s Ministry of Health and other relevant bodies and with local partners, dealing with services and work related to the thousands of olim (immigrants to Israel), program participants, Shlichim (Israeli emissaries), our missions, and others on the ground in affected areas. The well-being of our constituents and yours is our prime concern, and we are taking all necessary steps, as required by health authorities wherever we operate, to minimize risks and mitigate challenges.
For questions, contact us at 212-339-6000.
The Jewish Agency has a long history of responding quickly to crises, and this is no exception. We have established an Organizational Coordinating Forum, which convenes daily to assess the quickly-evolving developments of the virus and then formulate instructions to the organization, handling challenges and trying to maintain the continuity our programs while also protecting the health of our participants and staff. At the same time, a wider Emergency Forum is dealing with issues and questions from the field that require decisions by Chairman Isaac Herzog or Director General Amira Ahronoviz, monitoring staff and beneficiaries in quarantine, preparing contingency plans for various scenarios, and sharing information.
Jewish Agency staff: The Human Resources Unit has details on all employees who are in quarantine and is providing them with support as needed and all staff have been given instructions on travel plans, quarantine, hygiene, etc. Additionally, all our staff have been working from home since mid-March and will continue to do so.
Shlichim: Given our Israeli emissaries interact with so many community constituents, Shlichim have been told to follow the instructions of their local health authorities, and that any travel (state to state, country to country) is suspended until further notice. Shlichim based in Italy are able to return to Israel if they choose and enter into quarantine. The Shlichut Institute is working to support and empower their Shlichim (who have remained in their host communities abroad during the crisis—guiding and mentoring them on using the virtual world to continue their educational programs in a remote and online format. Our Shlichim continue to hold a rich and diverse set of more than 2,500 activities for the communities, including Israeli cooking demonstrations, lectures, and other cultural and educational programs.
ShinShinim (gap-year Israeli emissaries): We are in regular contact with our young ShinShinim, their parents, who are understandably very concerned, and their supervisors. The ShinShinim serving in the Westchester community in New York, which has had the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the state, have already flown home. As of Friday, March 13, 150 ShinShinim who were working in the U.S. are being sent home to Israel where they will enter quarantine for two weeks.
Aliyah: Immigration to Israel is continuing at a controlled and limited scale. In conjunction with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and in coordination with the Ministry of Health, The Jewish Agency is implementing special comprehensive emergency procedures for bringing new immigrants to Israel during the upcoming period so as to safely absorb them in Israel, in full compliance with the relevant authorities in Israel. The Jewish Agency has created a video called “Making Aliyah During the Coronavirus Pandemic” providing updated information for new immigrants.
Olim and other beneficiaries living in or using Jewish Agency facilities: Our Aliyah, Absorption and Special Operations Unit, in coordination with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, is sharing information with olim and others living in Jewish Agency facilities. We prepared apartments in our residential programs and acquired emergency supplies and other assistance specifically for olim who need to be quarantined. In March 2020, close to 1,300 olim arrived in Israel and were brought to Jewish Agency Absorption Centers for isolation. The Jewish Agency has been meeting all of the needs of these olim—from basics such as food and medicine to toys for children. For olim who did not require quarantine, we explained to them the implications of making Aliyah at this time as we want to protect their health as well. As of May 2020, 6,000 olim in absorption programs continue to receive services and mentorship.
All delegations and missions: Any mission or delegation set to leave or come to Israel has been canceled until further notice as traveling into Israel from anywhere is currently likely to result in obligatory self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Other travel and expeditions abroad are also prohibited.
Amigour: In Amigour’s nursing departments, where hundreds of senior citizens requiring nursing care live, restrictions on visits weree imposed, in full compliance with the Ministry of Health’s instructions, and medical equipment and food provisions have been purchased to cover the next six months. The Jewish Agency successfully ensured the 7,000 older adult residents in 57 Amigour facilities were not exposed to the deadly virus. Each individual received the highest level of protection and staff ensured that essential needs came right to residents’ doorsteps.
Youth Villages and Youth Futures: Approximately 220 teens from unstable homes studying at Jewish Agency Youth Villages (boarding schools for adolescents with severe emotional and behavioral problems) have remained on-site and have been provided with room and board, counseling, therapies, activities, and other support to get through the crisis. And approximately 300 mentors (trained professionals who serve as guides, advocates, and role models) in our Youth Futures program have continued their connection with over 4,000 children and their families from afar in order to ensure that the children receive the emotional and mental support that they need, and that the families are provided guidance and support.
Jewish Agency subsidiary companies: Most subsidiaries have been affected in one way or another by the virus, and we are adapting in compliance with Ministry of Health guidelines so basic activities can continue, barring large events. Programs such as Project TEN and Israel Tech Challenge may need to cancel cohorts or market themselves only to Israelis for the time being.
Please continue to check this page for news and information as we will post updates as the situation changes.