Things seemed almost normal along the strip of Pico Boulevard near South Robertson, an L.A. intersection that has for decades become the center of Jewish life, especially Orthodox Jewish life. A man dressed for Shabbat walked purposefully through the quiet neighborhood this past Saturday. Others milled about visiting at a distance, or went for what appeared to be a stroll.

But this kind of scene in the age of coronavirus has set off a social-media firestorm in the community: Why are they out, and where are they going? With Passover just days away, some members of L.A.'s Orthodox Jewish community took to social media, upset over alleged secret prayer gatherings and underground efforts to celebrate the Sabbath and upcoming holiday in person. Some advocated that those who arrange these meetings along the Pico-Robertson corridor be turned into the police, according to messages and screenshots reviewed by dot.LA.

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Last Friday morning, 406 Bird employees – who had been working from home for two weeks because of the coronavirus and bleary-eyed from putting in longer than usual days in an unprecedented effort to rapidly wind down global operations in cities around the world – received a generic-sounding Zoom webinar invitation titled "COVID-19 Update."

Travis VanderZanden, 41, a former top Uber executive who founded Bird only three years ago, had abruptly cancelled the previous Thursday's regular biweekly all-hands meeting, referred to internally as Birdfams. He had not addressed Bird's thousand-plus employees since they were forced to leave their offices, so most employees assumed he was giving an update on the company's response to the worsening global pandemic.

But some grew suspicious when they noticed the guest list and host were hidden and they learned only some colleagues were included. It was also unusual they were being invited to a Zoom webinar, allowing no participation, rather than the free-flowing meeting function the company normally uses. Over the next hour, employees traded frantic messages on Slack and searched coworkers' calendars to see who was unfortunate enough to be invited.

"It should go down as a poster child of how not to lay people off, especially at a time like this," said one employee.

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When Pope Francis delivered a special prayer in advance of Easter this past Friday, he did so to a hauntingly empty St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

A tiny figure in white, the leader of the Catholic Church's address is a particularly dramatic and high-profile example of how the inability to gather has played out in houses of worship around the world.

As the novel coronavirus has spread, prompting the closures of schools and workplaces, religious spaces have also been forced to empty and typical outlets for many to manage fear, anxiety and stress in a time when that's elevated, have been upended.

The month of April will prove a particularly challenging time for religious adherents, with Passover starting the evening of April 8, Easter on April 12 and Ramadan starting the evening of April 23. All three holidays are almost guaranteed to be celebrated virtually this year in many parts of the world.

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