As the deadly coronavirus continues to advance and poses a threat to millions, the number of people under quarantine has also been growing. It now includes 15 to 17 tourists from Israel being kept aboard a crowded cruise ship outside Tokyo; a Jewish businessman from Haifa living in the epicenter of the virus; and a Jewish woman and her daughter from Northern California still on hold at an Air Force reserve base far from home outside of Los Angeles.

Among those whose lives have been severely disrupted by what has been deemed by the World Health Organization as an emergency global health crisis are up to 17 Israelis who are among 3,700 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship stalled under quarantine in Japan’s Yokohama Harbor.

Whether aboard the ship or in other areas of the world where the virus is spreading, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries are striving to provide those in need with kosher food, emotional sustenance and advice, protective masks and whatever else they need while taking their own precautionary measures.

“I am in touch with them on a daily basis, and we sent them wine and challahs for Shabbat,” Rabbi Mendi Sudakevich, who co-directs Tokyo’s Chabad center with his wife, Chana, told Chabad.org about the situation aboard the ship. “We can’t really do much else. They are locked on the ship. They can’t go out, and we cannot go in. I went over there to speak with the government officials [overseeing the quarantine] to bring them the challahs and the wine and, Baruch Hashem [thank G‑d], it worked out.”

None of the Israeli citizens is believed to be among 64 people on the ship who have tested positive as of Sunday for the virus. All of the infected have been removed from the craft and taken to Tokyo treatment centers, the Israel Foreign Ministry and Tokyo health officials said.

Concerns about the virus being spread through the ship’s ventilation system were quelled by the Japanese government, which said the virus is not transmitted airborne and instead through cough droplets or sneezes directly passed from person to person, or that can be picked up after landing and sticking on surfaces. Cruise ships are viewed as particularly vulnerable as thousands in close quarters embark and disembark in many ports of call. A man aboard the ship who tested positive for the virus upon disembarking in Hong Kong prompted a two-week quarantine of the ship on Monday as it entered the harbor.

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, co-director of Chabad Lubavitch of Beijing, gave out face masks to passersby.
Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, co-director of Chabad Lubavitch of Beijing, gave out face masks to passersby.

Volunteers Distribute Face Masks to Residents

In Wuhan, China, Haifa-native Ofer Dekel may very well be one of the only Jews living in the city among an estimated 50 million people either on home lockdown or quarantined in the wider province of Hubei.

“I will do whatever I can so that my family can spend Shabbat together,” Dekel, 56, wrote from Wuhan as Shabbat was approaching amid worries that one of his children showing respiratory symptoms would be whisked away at any moment to a quarantine center.

Health officials have instructed anyone with a fever of 99.32 Fahrenheit (normal is 98.6 Fahrenheit) to report to one of the many quarantine centers in the city, with random checks until recently being made door to door by health officials looking for people with symptoms.

The death toll from the virus rose to 636 by Friday, and the number infected in China and at least 23 other countries climbed to more than 31,000, with suspicions that the number is higher.

In Shanghai, Rabbi Shalom Greenberg co-director of Chabad of Shanghai and other volunteers from the Jewish community went from house to house on Sunday in various neighborhoods of the city to distribute surgical face masks to the elderly and the sick in a bid to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. And in Beijing, Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, co-director of Chabad Lubavitch of Beijing spent much of the day on the streets of the city handing out masks donated to Chabad to grateful passersby.

In Riverside, Calif., Rabbi Shmuel Fuss hands kosher food to be delivered to Esther Tebeka, a Chinese doctor from the Chabad community of Palo Alto, Calif., and her 16-year-old daughter, Chaya, who spent their second Shabbat on the March Air Reserve base in Riverside, Calif., hundreds of miles away from their home in Northern California.
In Riverside, Calif., Rabbi Shmuel Fuss hands kosher food to be delivered to Esther Tebeka, a Chinese doctor from the Chabad community of Palo Alto, Calif., and her 16-year-old daughter, Chaya, who spent their second Shabbat on the March Air Reserve base in Riverside, Calif., hundreds of miles away from their home in Northern California.

A Home-Cooked Shabbat in Quarantine

Across the Pacific, Esther Tebeka, a Chinese-born Jewish doctor from the Chabad community of Palo Alto, Calif., and her 16-year-old daughter, Chaya, spent their second Shabbat Friday night and Saturday on the March Air Reserve base in Riverside, Calif., hundreds of miles away from their home in Northern California.

The mother and daughter, who traveled to Wuhan to visit family in early January, were among 201 fellow civilians and U.S government officials evacuated Jan. 29 on a converted freight carrier chartered by the U.S. State Department. They were told they would be spending 14 days on the base from the date of their arrival on Jan. 30.

Shabbat and weekdays in the base’s hotel facility have been made more palatable through the attentions of Rabbi Shmuel Fuss and his wife, Tzipora, who co-direct the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Riverside, which includes the University of California at Riverside, said Tebeka.

Tebeka’s husband, Chaim, was able to make the trip—eight hours by car from Palo Alto—to deliver goods for his wife and daughter’s first Shabbat in quarantine by Shabbat eve, Friday Jan. 31, but since then has not been able to be their supplier.

Thanks to the kosher ingredients and a makeshift kosher kitchen provided by the Fusses, Tebeka was able to cook a Shabbat meal while in quarantine.
Thanks to the kosher ingredients and a makeshift kosher kitchen provided by the Fusses, Tebeka was able to cook a Shabbat meal while in quarantine.

This past week, the rabbi and his wife saw to it that the Tebekas were outfitted with a makeshift kosher kitchen and coordinated with the U.S. government to provide a constant supply of kosher food and other ingredients.

Showing off a picture of her first self-cooked meal, Tebeka wrote to Chabad.org: “Look at my kitchen and the first meal I cooked in my room at the quarantine camp, thanks to Rabbi Fuss and the U.S. government.”