The Single Sickest Group by Proportion – the Most Violent Protesters of Covid-19 Lockdowns – Pikuach Nefesh F-U

Dear Reader:

The hypocrisy is astounding.

By proportion all over the world, the single sickest group of people to population numbers is the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community. It is in the numbers and the math speaks for itself. These rates of illness (and death) are consistent in the US (with particular attention to New York and New Jersey), in Israel (Bnei Brak, Beit Shemsh, Beitar Ilit), in Belgium (Antwerp), in the Ukraine, in the Netherlands, in England (London) and the list goes on and on. And with the increased rates of illness and flouting of Covid-19 precautions, the increase in many of these places is resentment, hatred and ultimately anti-Jewish sentiment.

Everywhere there are large groups of organized religious people (whatever the religion), the numbers of Covid-19 infected people are higher. Most religious groups have scaled down. The ultra-Orthodox have not! Where they have stopped congregating, the numbers have reduced, sometimes dramatically. Sadly, the ultra-Orthodox Jews have, in large part, not stopped congregating. The rabbis are telling them that it’s all in G-d’s hands. But, if G-d sends us a lifeboat are we not supposed to acknowledge it is there for a reason?

As those same religious Jews profess to be pious and observant, (Talmidim Chachamim) to study Torah and worship One G-d as the Chosen People, they have set aside the single most important tenet of the Jewish laws, the notion of THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE. (Pikuach Nefesh) To that, they have said a glorious F-U.

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Jewish Pilgrims to Uman, Kanievsky, Covid-19, a Jewish Public Relations Catastrophe

Kiev closed its borders for most of the month of September citing a growing number of coronavirus infections, but the pilgrims attempted to bypass the restrictions by travelling through Belarus / © TUT.BY/AFP/File

OPINIONAs Jews, we are confronted not only with divisions within the Jewish community but vastly differing viewpoints within sub-divisions of the different Jewish sects. We are confronted with bigotry and racism, anti-Semitism and hate, yet we ourselves are not really the shining example of tolerance and consideration, obedience and lawfulness.

The lip service paid by many Jewish organizations is really just that, a nod to other organizations hoping to conquer hate as a global problem. For most Jewish organizations, bigotry is a Jewish problem and anti-Semitism is rampant and of course, unjustified.

With that thought in mind and with Israel now reeling from a rapidly uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 within the ultra-Orthodox community, albeit hidden at the behest of many ultra-Orthodox rabbis instructing their followers to avoid reporting, who really speaks for worldwide Jewry? Shuls in the US and elsewhere will be packed with Jews for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and the holidays that follow without any regard for the dangers presented by the lack of social distancing and mask-wearing. The spread from within the ultra-Orthodox communities will inevitably spread to the secular communities in Israel and elsewhere and with so many who traveled to Uman, despite warnings that they would not be granted entry due in large part to Covid-19, what is it that we want to be the face of Judaism?

Setting aside the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Uman and the strife that tragedy has caused to international relations between Belarus and Ukraine, the ultra-Orthodox Jews that made that journey have, in their own unique way, put every Jew worldwide in danger. This entire affair has risked a worldwide increase in anti-Semitism that should be understood but requires careful damage control.

The photographs and videos of openly religious Jews tearing down gates in an airport speaks volumes to a selfish and harrowing lawlessness. The filth at the checkpoints due to a situation that was foreseeable speaks to an inability of the Jews there to manage the human context of their pilgrimage. And the entire notion of openly religious Jews being told not to travel in light of Covid-19 who disregarded, if not obliterated a reasonable request, reflects an inherent lack of consideration for the ramifications of that travel. It reflects a decision to choose ritual over religious virtue which is not Judaism.

When we consider the “public face of Judaism” it should not be that of the Pilgrims of Uman who attempted to enter the Ukraine after being told multiple times not to come. The face of world Jewry should not be Rabbi Kanievsky of Israel who has told his religious followers that it is all in G-d’s hands and yeshiva students should not be tested. G-d gave us brains, we should really be using them.