Avi Berkowitz to 'Post': There should not be large Sdarim

Ahead of Passover, Special Assistant to President Trump, Avi Berkowitz, told The Jerusalem Post that people should celebrate the Seder with their nuclear families this year, urging social distancing.

Avi Berkowitz (photo credit: Courtesy)
Avi Berkowitz
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON – Following the outbreak of coronavirus in the US, the administration's peace team is now solely working on advising President Donald Trump on the pandemic.
Avi Berkowitz, special assistant to the president – who under ordinary circumstances is the White House Middle East point man – is now helping the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to search for ventilators.
Berkowitz, an Orthodox Jew, held a phone briefing with 15 rabbis in the beginning of March, explaining the need to shut down yeshivot and synagogues. Now, ahead of Passover, he told The Jerusalem Post that people should celebrate the Seder with their nuclear family and that he intends to avoid visiting his parents in New York this year for the Seder.
"It is essential to follow the social distancing guidelines laid out by the president," he said. "For many, this pandemic has disrupted holiday plans and celebrations. This Passover will be different and may feel unfamiliar. Synagogues are closed, and there should not be large Sedarim. Many families will be physically separated from their loved ones, even those that live nearby.
“As we observe the holiday, please pray for those too sick to be at home and our medical professionals working long hours fighting to save lives,” he added.
Asked when the peace team would get back to promoting Trump’s vision for the Middle East, Berkowitz said that for the near future, his main job is to help in getting protective equipment and other urgent medical supplies.
“The peace team is closely monitoring the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories," Berkowitz said. "Ambassador [David] Friedman is in Israel and has shared nearly daily updates. Over the past few weeks, I have had calls with the UN representative, Nickolay Mladenov, and with the Quartet.”
“Still, the vast majority of our time is devoted to combating the coronavirus,” he noted. “I spend most of my time working under Jared Kushner at the White House, and have also worked with the teams at FEMA and HHS responsible for finding ventilators, setting up testing sites and finding PPE [personal protective equipment] across the globe.”