September 28, 2020 A shutdown of the NY Hasidic community?
It’s been a normal summer in the Hasidic community. Schools, shops, and synagogues have been open. Weddings were held nightly. The streets were busy. We didn’t see masks. Everyone was fine, and life had moved on from the hard spring. While my part of Brooklyn remained mired in obsessive precautions, the Hasidic areas were bubbles of the old normal.
And then came the fall. Those of us who followed the lockdown story closely saw this coming. Doctors who are critical of over-testing have been warning that the flu seasons will bring more positives and more reason to panic, and so it has been.
The Hasidic community has seen a rise in positive cases, and the community is gripped with anxiety. The fear is not that people will get sick, but that the city will again shut down schools, synagogues, and weddings. People are asked to take actions not for health reasons, but to get the city off their back.
Here are examples of community announcements, translated by yours truly. I do not share this to indict the community. In fact, I believe history will show that the over-zealous governmental responses to the virus have led the western world down a dangerous path of intolerance, religious persecution, and harm to children. I share these because the Hasidic community provides a fascinating case study of a completely different attitude toward the virus which brought most everyone else to a crushing stop. There is much to learn from the community’s successes without masks, and also how the city is able to find a roundabout way to strong-arm this community into compliance. The following five examples demonstrate this in various ways.
The United Institutions of Williamsburg
It’s time to act in the interest of the community’s children!
Dear honorable public:
We remember how hard it was a half a year ago, when the schools and synagogues were locked. Sadly, there is a great risk that this may happen again.
The city and the press point to our higher positive corona rates in our neighborhood, and they threaten to close the schools again. Regrettably, they already locked several schools in Queens, and they are now going around to schools and inspecting and they are saying that the coming week this will be very strictly enforced against schools, synagogues, and businesses.
This is not a time to sit with idle hands. The education of our children, the wasted Torah study, and prayer of the public are all on the scale.
According to experts, it could be that the reason why our positive rate is higher is because most of our population already had the virus, or already have antibodies. Therefore, only a small percent get tested—those who are most susceptible to the virus and don’t feel well. But this is false, because as is known the official position on prior infection or antibodies is that it’s not a guarantee to prevent reinfection.
It is therefore very important that everyone who has antibodies or who already had coronavirus should get tested again.
The fact that, when you visit the neighborhood you don’t see masks, angers the media and authorities and they then go after us, therefore:
We please: everyone should make sure to carry masks when they are in the street.
PEOPLE: we are playing with the education of our children! We are not allowed to ignore this and then we will cry that the children are just roaming the streets. Take action now.
Now is the time to act! Do the honorable thing for the innocent children of the community, and in doing so, may be blessed with a good new year!
Good Erev Shabbes dear Jews, this is a VERY important phone call to you.
They just finished an emergency meeting with the principals of the schools, the administrators, activists who are very busy during these days. City Hall of New York undertook a mission to shut down, god forbid, all the schools and Yeshivas, as they did before Passover. And they can’t watch that in the whole city there are rules…and among the Hasidic public it looks like no one is paying attention and people are taking pictures of it.
They will come out Yom Kippur god-forbid and shut everyone down.
The first thing that they demand, and this is the most important, is that when you leave the house, you should go with masks and we should show at least that we are in compliance with the requirements of the government. There should be masks. When the children go to school they should go wearing a mask. When they go home they should wear a mask. On the buses they should wear masks. Always when you go in public view, where people can see, you should be wearing a mask. This should be the first step to calm down the incitement of the staff in city hall.
Remember, if you want to have children in the schools that they should be educated there, or you want to be able to come pray normally, you want to be able to celebrate weddings in proper wedding halls, please cooperate with the requests from the activists, from the administrators.
A terrible decree hangs over our community god forbid. It’s time to act for the children of the community.
A good Shabbes!
Important timely announcement!
In recent days we sadly heard of a rise in corona cases, where a lot of people don’t feel well with symptoms of the virus, and so on.
We therefore want to make you aware, in the name of activists:
If you don’t feel well, don’t go out of your home and take care not to come in contact with others, according to the instructions by the government.
But there is no obligation to go and get tested to find out if it’s indeed corona, because this brings nothing.
Knowing that you have it won’t make it easier in any way.
Please keep in mind:
Testing for corona brings no use, not for you, nor for your family, nor for your family or the whole public. Only the opposite, god forbid!
Make sure to be careful to [according to the precept] “guard very much your body” based on the government demands.
And may it be His will to bring health and healing and all sorts of good influences, and some-expression, amen.
Wishing you a good new year,
The Organization of Institutions of Williamsburg
(Here’s one which needs no translation, but which reiterates earlier signs quite clearly.)
In Montreal, where synagogues are permitted 25 people but theaters are allowed 250, compliance for the high holidays was as easy as renaming itself a theater!