Look at these diametrically opposed responses during the current pandemic:
Response Number One: In Tennessee, there is apparently a higher rate of COVID-19 infections in certain black communities. What do various media and community activists attribute this to? Racial discrimination in the administration of testing. What is the higher rate of infection not attributed to? A higher rate of ignoring the recommended, anti-COVID-19 precautions.
Response Number Two: In New York and New Jersey, there is apparently a higher rate of COVID-19 infections in certain Orthodox Jewish communities. What do various media and community activists attribute this to? A higher rate of ignoring the recommended, anti-COVID-19 precautions. What is the higher rate of infection not attributed to? Bias against Jews.
The radically different assumption about two different minorities are telling and disturbing. Now, discrimination in testing and the ignoring of precautions are both wrong and no doubt, here and there both exist. But what requires comment and critique is the assumption, absent evidence, that discrimination against blacks in testing is intentional and that ignoring the precautions by Orthodox Jews is disproportionate.
That said, there should be no ignoring the precautions in any Jewish subcommunities. It is not sufficient to point out that others around the country also ignored the recommended precautions. Examples include many ski communities in the Colorado mountains and Kirkland, Washington. In both places the recommended precautions were ignored even after the initial outbreak. It is not acceptable that various Jewish communities err like others. One cannot observe the outbreak in Boro Park, Brooklyn and say, “So you see, nobody’s perfect.” Wrong Jewish response.
In New York, first there was a warning against large gatherings, then a law against them (the executive order by the governor), but weddings, or even one wedding, attended by 10 or 20 times the number of people permitted to gather were still held. Wrong Jewish response.
One might say that the vast majority of Jewish residents of Boro Park followed the recommendations, and one would be right. But it doesn’t make a difference because this level of compliance (“vast majority”) cannot stop the spread of COVID-19, as it did not stop it Boro Park and elsewhere where a disproportionately large number tested positive.
We cannot help but notice that the vast majority of Americans, including Orthodox Jews everywhere, give their children the measles vaccine, but also notice that a large enough number of residents in, say, Williamsburg did not consent to the vaccine, and this affected the spread of the disease. Now we see the same with the coronavirus. Why? The rabbis are crystal clear in demanding both vaccination and anti-coronavirus precautions. There remains, apparently, not a religious but a deeper cultural issue that must be defined and addressed.
It hardly helps the fight against anti-Semitism if weddings, or even one wedding, are held with the usual cohort of guests during a pandemic, even as other population segments also flout the recommend- ations.
That said, we are grateful for the words of the governor of New Jersey condemning scapegoating. Clearly, in some communities, there can be many reasons for a greater rate of COVID-19 infections despite observance of the precautions. There is much still not known about this virus. Therefore, scapegoating is, as always, wrong, as the governor said. Equally wrong is giving anti-Semitism an excuse, which is what the wedding(s) with more than 10 people did.
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