Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Chassidic Coronavirus Policy

As the pandemic proceeds, a clear pattern of behavior can be seen among many (though not all) chassidic groups, which also extends to certain parts of the Lithuanian charedi community, of ignoring all coronavirus restrictions and guidelines. It's gotten to the point that it's actually been explicitly described by chassidic spokesmen as a deliberate, planned strategy, incorporating assessing all the data and statistics. (Though personally I think it's far more likely to be an ad hoc justification, not a planned strategy; careful strategic planning, with input from experts, just doesn't happen in those circles.) 

Charedim are already more vulnerable to coronavirus, due to their living in high-density communities. With the addition of a policy to ignore precautions, the infection rates have soared. Per capita, they have five times more cases than the general population, and despite being only 12% of the population, they currently account for 45% of all cases. 

So, what is the basis for their policy? We've already seen a "psak halachah" from Rav Moshe Shaul Klein of Bnei Brak. Now there is also a very revealing interview with Rav Pinchas Friedman, head of the Belz Kollel network, who is much more explicit. And his position is not entirely unreasonable.

Rav Friedman begins by saying that he is not giving his opinion on what other communities should do. He is only presenting the position of Belz. Which is that the chassidic way of life is of paramount importance. Their entire lifestyle is based on people crowding together, especially around the Rebbe, in the Shul and Beis HaMidrash. If they have to sacrifice a very small number of people to maintain their culture, so be it.

He makes the valid point that Judaism does maintain that there are things more important than human life. One is required to sacrifice one's life rather than transgress the three cardinal sins. At a time of religious persecution, one is required to sacrifice one's life rather than wear non-Jewish clothing! So at a time of great threat to their way of life, with a risk of youth dropping out of their system entirely, they can risk a very, very small number of victims.

I don't personally agree with how they perform this cost/benefit analysis. But I don't think that it's inherently problematic. More to the point, it's something that every community and society does. We don't always minimize risk to human life as much as possible. We all rate some things as being more valuable, even at small risk to human life. We have speed limits that could be substantially lowered but aren't. We legalize alcohol. Even bris milah is not entirely without risk. So I think that chassidim are entitled to choose to take a small degree of risk, in order to maintain their way of life.


Except that there are two problems.

First is that both Rav Klein and Rav Friedman claim to find it important to stress that the disregard for precautions is only insofar as the precautions interfere with Torah and prayer. Otherwise, they insist, it is important to observe the precautions. But we just don't see their communities actually stressing that. They don't instruct their followers to put on masks and try to socially distance when they leave shul or when they are shopping. (And it's hard to see how they can justify a maskless, crowded wedding as being an essential part of maintaining their spiritual lifestyle.) They don't show any concern at all for any precautions, ever. Why not?

I'm not sure of the answer, though I can think of several possible contributing factors. It might be that it's difficult to simultaneously fight against observing precautions in some contexts, and in favor of precautions in other contexts. It might be that they are only professing to care when it's in print, for PR purposes, but that they actually don't care at all, because of genuine or wilful ignorance. Or perhaps there is some other reason.

The second problem is that no community is hermetically sealed from the rest of the country. When charedi groups say that they are willing to pay the price for avoiding restrictions, they are also making other people pay the price. Disregarding the rules means more rapid exposure of more people, some of whom will get sick enough to require hospitalization. They have already begun to overwhelm the medical system. Which means that people beginning chemotherapy aren't getting it. And others who would ordinarily be admitted to hospital have no place to be admitted to, and there are insufficient doctors and nurses to deal with everyone. That means people dying. With certainty. 

There is blatant disregard for the rest of the population of the country. Of course, this is nothing new - this lack of "Klal Yisrael consciousness," as Yonasan Rosenblum calls it, is a defining feature of charedi society. It exists with the charedi avoidance of the military draft, the disregard for their effects on the economy, and even their lack of concern to move Lag B'Omer from motzai Shabbos to Sunday night in order to avoid chillul Shabbos for the emergency services. But with coronavirus, this disregard comes into sharp focus, causing illness and death, and national lockdowns which hurt everyone.

Unfortunately, there is no clear way to deal with this. You can't force hundreds of thousands of people to observe precautions. The only silver lining I can think of is that perhaps the harm caused by the charedi disregard for the rest of the country with coronavirus will incentivize people to deal with the long-term harm that the charedi community is causing to the national economy and the ultimate survival of Israel.

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  1. Nicely put. Regarding your final point, the Charedi reaction to Corona has been a watershed for me (and I suspect many others) in the same way that the ban on your books was 15 years ago. It's brought home the fundamentally unreasonable nature of much of Charedism, and the failure of the Charedi leadership and askan class, in another area of life: not just reason/science and not even the costs they impose on others, but their impact on themselves. The fact that many of the same phenomena have been evident in Charedi (especially chassidish) communities across the world demonstrates that local are not a sufficient explanation.

  2. "So at a time of great threat to their way of life, with a risk of youth dropping out of their system entirely, they can risk a very, very small number of victims."... but that's a non sequitor - by observing the instructions of not congregating ..wherin lies the danger of youth disaffecting?

    Anyway it's a bad argument lacking internal logic. Surely the youth will have more respect for a leadership that helps klal yisrael and will stay rather than seeing the opposite and therefore opting out. Does the leadership not credit their youth with brains or the possibility of independent thougt at all??

  3. Imo the main reason is still this ghetto mindset that the goyim / doctors / statisticians etc are anti-Semitic, wrong, and out to get us, therefore we will just ignore anything they say.

    And the more charedi they are, the more eager they are to ignore it, as by invalidating the goyim/seculars, they think they are validating themselves.

    It's actually a very childish attitude.

    1. You nailed it. If the Zionists tell you to do something, ignore it. And the scientists? They're all atheists. Modern science is bogus. The Torah will protect us.

  4. Yes, there is always a silver lining in these things.

  5. I am not agreeing with Friedman's logic, but if it is true that the lockdown will cause shmad, they are obligated to risk their lives to prevent it. And they are equally obligated to risk other people's lives for the same purpose. Just like a person may not serve idols to save his life, he may not serve idols to save someone else's life.
    I happen to think that his premise is nonsense. We need a religious infrastructure, we do not need thousands of people watching 'the one who inherited the property of the business' (known for short as 'the holy Rebbe') chew cake. We can daven with a minyan with masks, without spiritual endangerment.
    His argument may carry some weight with regards to schools and Yeshivos, but they receive money from the government, so the messiras nefesh stopped there.
    Jason from Jersey

  6. The first objection is good and powerful. There ought to be more discussion among hassidic leaders about which measures could be realistically taken while preserving the integrity of their communities.

    But the second objection is erroneous. There is no need to hermetically seal off the hasidim. The whole approach taken by public health experts has been varying things of limited effectiveness. None of the measures translate into a 100% effective, hermetically sealed barrier against potential carriers. Such as masks, which are not hermetically sealed, are not 100% effective, and yet are still helpful. So too, even without full hasidic compliance, the rest of the population can take measures among themselves that will still be very helpful.

    1. R' Slifkin is not arguing that the chasidic/chareidi community should be "hermetically sealed off" off from the rest of society but rather that, despite their own much-vaunted efforts to isolate/insulate themselves from the "outside world", those selfish efforts do not prevent their reckless and irresponsible actions from affecting that outside world in a circumstance such as this.

      Once upon a time, this concept of one Jew's responsibility for another might have been called "areivut"...

    2. "A city can only be as healthy as it's hardest hit communities."

      And with regards to your first point, there is no need for "discussions." Bnei Brak is not a separate state, they can do what everyone else does.

    3. JC their actions are not reckless and irresponsible, as Rabbi Friedman explains in the interview. The fact that it may affect others is non sequitur, there doesn't need to be an expectation for them to never affect the outside world. Almost everything everybody does affects others. When you go to the grocery store, even with a mask, you also risk infecting others.

    4. "A city can only be as healthy as it's hardest hit communities." - You are claiming that no measures help at all unless there is full compliance from everybody. That is ludicrous and wrong. There is a great need for discussions, as without them the situation will continue. The government (thankfully) doesn't have enough power to completely enforce its will on the chareidi community.

    5. That's not what I said. Of course the rest of the population can take measures (as they are). But the country cannot move past the pandemic if the virus is given free reign to spread in certain areas.

    6. Isaac, "moving past the pandemic" is a very high standard that may not even be possible. If it would be possible, I would agree, and I'm sure that R' Friedman would agree that it is preferable to close shuls for a month so that afterwards life can go completely back to normal. But currently there's very little evidence that can be done. And so it is better to keep shuls, schools, and yeshivas open.

  7. A missing part of the discussion is even davening/learning/ritual-aside, the COVID shutdown is actually much harder on the charedi/ultra-orthodox communities as individuals and families. They have much larger families packed much more tightly into higher density housing (even tighter if some kids have been sent home from dorms). They have no internet, TV, pleasure reading or other modern forms of passive entertainment, and less involvement in exercise and other hobbies and pastimes than the general population. Without internet (or even a sufficient number of phone lines) there is no alternative to online or remote school. I would suspect that those working are much more likely than the general population to be involved in businesses/jobs heavily impacted by COVID shutdowns, especially without the communal option or infrastructure in place for going online. I can only imagine what 8 months of quarantine must have been like. The potential for another year or more would be untenable.

    Compound this with the elimination of time spent in, and meaning derived from, yeshivot, shuls and other religious activities and it's understandable why the situation is a powder keg even before bringing in the leadership's desperate efforts to maintain tradition, structure and control at the communal scale.

    My experience as an MO Jew living in a (way) out of town suburban community (with a mild shut down) is not even close. My 4 kids with their own bedrooms that were able to learn online, and their day school is now re-opened for in person learning. My wife and I are able to continue working remotely online. My shul, designed for a large number of 3-time-a-year non-observant orthodox-affiliated Jews, has the capacity to house the rest of us masked and distanced. We have exercise, hobbies, the great outdoors and many forms of entertainment to keep us sane. We use technology to connect to friends and family, do our shopping, fulfill communal responsibilities (online board meetings!) and access Torah learning.

    Add to this that a significant and growing proportion of the haredi/UO community has already has and recovered from COVID and is de-facto immune (despite the establishment being mute on this point). I'll bet the community could fill many schools, shuls and siyum-like events just with the recovered. So far no jurisdiction has made exceptions for 'immunity passports', but given the above impact on this community, I can't blame anyone who recovered to be eager to go back to their normal life even in the rules technically don't allow it (for reasons of practicality and enforceability). I am doing everything I can to avoid exposure, but if I found myself and my family recovered, I would definitely take the opportunity to travel (somewhere that would usually be too crowded) once the risk is off the table. This is a problem that will need to be addressed for the broader community as % immune grows to significance, and many other feel this way.

    I'm not sure what governments could have done better under the circumstances, but it might have been worth publicly recognizing that this was going to be harder on the haredi/UO community than for most and pre-thanking them for the sacrifice. For what it's worth, this conflict is similar to the broader (US) political divide between shut-down-for-safety and open-the-economy factions which is at its core a conflict between those that can more or less keep working and playing from home online and those with an occupation (or primary lifestyle activity be it gym-going or religious worship) fundamentally affected by closure that are simply baring most of the cost (especially the entrepreneurial class that are literally losing their life's work).

    1. 100% agree. This is not about stubborn, anti-science chareidim resisting anti-Semitic edicts (as some have suggested), although this idea has certainly become part of the dialogue. It's ALL about an "intrinsically crowded lifestyle" - large families in close quarters that completely revolves around intense social interactions with compatriots (praying, learning, life events). It simply cannot survive using social isolation techniques that are (relatively) easily adopted by others.

    2. So true. This is a societal / cultural difference not ideological.

      Saw this way back in March. Families here in Borough Park cramped in small apartments, with nothing to do. No TV, no internet for children, our lifestyle doesn't entail many hobbies and extracurriculars (especially for kids), No media, and add to that lots of blue collar workers, and supportive industries.

      This is laughable compared to the average hipster who barely has any children, and both partners work from home.

      Our lifestyle is lived as a constant drum beat, a structured rhythm of school / prayer/learning/work. Disrupt it, and families literally Will not cope for long.

      When the parks needed to be open the city failed to understand it then. And then Brooklyn they're failing to understand it now again, in terms of what the upcoming yomtov means to us.

  8. If a lockdown is enough to threaten the very existence of your religion and social structure, it may be time to reevaluate the way you do things...

  9. It's ironic that the same people who advance convoluted reasons why a pandemic that is known to be harmful can be disregarded give equally convoluted reasons why things mentioned in the gemara as harmful, which cannot be shown to cause harm, are nonetheless harmful!

  10. The second problem clearly demonstrates that the Hareidim are rodfim. They should be put under military rule, like the Arabs of Israel were between 1948 and 1966. And, if necessary, shoot to kill, like in Kafr Qasim in 1956.

    1. I think this comment should be flagged for actual incitement to harm "the Hareidim". Which is a predictable consequence of this post, btw.

    2. AV I have very little respect for them, but that is a terrible comment.

    3. I have no idea what AVi is trying to say. If he is inciting violence, how is this any better then Yoef Mizrachi? I think his comment should be removed as well. Though I disagree with JS that RNS's essay is to blame.

    4. and this is the real time result of your incitement. a russian boy of 17 set fire to the building
      he said he did it because of the propaganda of the media that he was hearing.
      shame on you. your words clearly demonstrate that you need some serious self reflection.

      the actions of the police here are also not exactly improving anyone's health.

  11. I think the 2nd point you raise is the crucial one - this is a public health issue and every person infected has a knock-on effect on the rest of the population. The fact is if transmission rates were low enough then hospitals would be able to cope, businesses would be able to function normally, and it would re-open all sorts of doors including international travel. So it is a selfish approach with disregard to the rest of the population, even if on a strict halachic basis this is not שכיח (which is debatable).

    That being said, I agree with others that the government could be doing more to meet charedi leaders halfway. Maybe the government should be sponsoring the equipping of all shuls and botei medrash to be covid-friendly with perspex dividing screens which would negate the need for masks, and sufficient handwashing facilities. The short-term outlay would probably save money in reduced burden on the economy. No doubt there would still be flouters but there would also be more scope to crack down with fines. There definitely needs to be a change of strategy because the current one is clearly failing.

    1. " even if on a strict halachic basis this is not שכיח"
      What is being measured? The probability of death, or the probability of some other damage. If we consider the damage to the nation as a whole, then it's not שכיח at all- it's a וודאי.
      But they're not considering the damage to the nation as a whole.

    2. How about the damage to the nation as a whole when thousands of young teens have spent months with no structure? How about the damage to the nation as a whole when thousands of boys and girls in religious schools from non-religious families have had no backing or help in continuing their religious growth?

      If we need to look 'as a whole', I am highly unsure that the lockdown is beneficial.

      Again, I believe that, in this case, the law of the land is paramount. But the Charedim have a good point when pointing out the terrible spiritual dangers of the fallout of this lockdown. For people on every part of the religious spectrum, not just Charedim.

  12. There seems to be a bigger problem - if they are concerned that davening and learning in small outdoor groups will lead to a number of people going off the derech, there is a serious problem with their educational system.

    I young Yeshiva Bochur should be able to daven and learn just fine in a small group of people outside. If they see this as a threat to their entire way of life (so much so, that they are prepared to sacrifice human life to avoid it) there is a much bigger problem than this virus.

  13. I enjoyed readying this post as it focused on a point people rarely discuss in this era of black and white opinions. I have already heard from 2 very prominent Rabbonim from different points on the spectrum both bringing different Mekoros in Torah to support their view, that when it comes to weighing up the cost of life versus the impact it will have on the Rabbim then that is something where the principles of Pikuach Nefesh do not apply.

    The values of each society therefore are the deciding factors when it comes to figuring out how to respond to the pandemic. Naturally, those who oppose those views can not comprehend their actions, but that is only because we are trying to understand their actions based on our values - an impossible task.
    Bris Milah is a perfect example as someone who had no exposure to religion would surely be baffled and possibly angered by the mere though, but that is because they have a different set of values. If we are able to appreciate that there are different sects within Judaism and they each have their own views and values of what is dear to their own Yiddeshkeit then their actions will become more understandable.

    Where I would like to add to Rabbi Slifkin's criticisms however, is that the question has to raised whether 1) The people making the decisions are doing so with the requisite and correct information - because if their knowledge is incorrect and hastily provided by people with their own inherent bias then their decisions are null and void 2) Whether the cost-benefit analysis is being done in a responsible manner and whether it is being done at all?
    Why is it that the sects of Chassidus and Litvish society which are the most anti-Zionist are also the ones which are disobeying the rules to the greatest extent?

    It would be argued be that that is because they are the one who value the worth of Torah learning and prayer over and above other segments of Chareidi society, which is of course naturally leads them to be more anti the Secular establishment. But I am also inclined to believe that it is because of a general disregard and natural pushback to any laws. Are they doing a cost-benefit analysis at all? That is an accusation hard to prove, but perhaps to uproot your way of life for an external and unseen force which you only know about from the untrustworthy world outside just really isn't worth it?
    The fact of the matter is that I have heard many Chareidim dismiss the virus using irrational arguments (such as it is all a government plot to accuse China), whilst these are not unique to Chareidi society and certainly most Chareidim do not believe them, however there is certainly a larger proportion than in general society. Living in Chareidi society there is a general attitude of circumventing restrictions, just because why should anyone tell us how to behave?
    Maybe I am wrong? But that is the clear feeling I have received.

  14. I think the (now former) head of Maayenei Hayeshua summed it up perfectly:

    "זה אחד מהאירועים הפרועים ביותר שהיו בהיסטוריה של מדינת ישראל. אני חושב שלא היה בעצם עד היום קהל שלם שפורק עול בצורה כזאת והורג אנשים, זה אפילו לא מתוך אמונה אני לא מבין מה הקשר בין יהדות, דת לבין מה שהם עושים. יש פה התרסה של אני ואפסי עוד. הם התחנכו לקבל הכל ולא לתת כלום במשך שנים וזאת אחת התגובות".

  15. Be real- the pandemic will not end until the population develops herd immunity. All the lockdowns and precautions are only kicking the can down the road. The more precautions the longer the current abnormal conditions of life will exist. The precautions should be observed by elderly and people with some chronic conditions. For the rest of people covid is just like flu.

    1. " until the population develops herd immunity."
      This is pseudoscience.
      The latest numbers show that only 5.5% of Israelis have anti-bodies. Even if we assume that such anti-bodies confer immunity, we still have nowhere near the 60% supposedly needed for herd immunity. Plus, we know that recovered patients from other corona-viruses only have temporary immunity. That means by the time 60% of the population has been infected, many of them will have lost their immunity.
      "The more precautions the longer the current abnormal conditions of life will exist."
      And if we are indeed living in abnormal times what's wrong with abnormal conditions? And how abnormal? Is it worse than the wars, major or minor that this nation has endured? Is it worse than the Depression? Is it worse than the best years of the 1200s? 1700s? 1800s? A Jew has to have a sense of history- even the most severe restrictions would be considered excessive luxury to those living in previous generations.
      So why do the fanatics call the police "Nazis"? Because we all know that the Nazis forced the residents of the Warsaw ghetto to social distance!?

    2. Covid is 6 times more deadly than influenza for a thirty five year old and 13 times more deadly for an 80 year old.

      Your analysis is basically correct, although it omits the effects on mortality of a huge transient wave overwhelming health care providers. Herd immunity can be provided by either infection or inoculation. We are likely 9 months away from mass vaccination.

    3. So-called "herd immunity" (really, population immunity) is a great idea from an evolutionary perspective, but what people don't seem to realize is that is that, as "The Hat" pointed out above, it requires enormous numbers of people to become infected (or vaccinated).

      While the resultant population immunity will be great for those survivors who recover from their infection (and, presumably, their offspring), a significant number of those infected will die. Again, this makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective (i.e., the weak/unfit will be culled, the strongest/fittest will survive), but as a moral civilization that values individual human lives, we are (rightly) not prepared to pay that price.

    4. Population immunity could also be achieved by mass vaccination, but that requires at least 3 conditions to be met:

      1. The immunity conferred by the vaccine must be durable (i.e., the immune response it stimulates must be protective and not wane over time).
      2. Vaccination efforts must not be thwarted by mutation of the virus (into a form the vaccine does not "cover").
      3. Enough members of the population (something like 70%, I've read) must choose to get vaccinated. This may prove the hardest condition to meet, given certain people's mistrust of vaccines in general and, possibly, this rushed-to-market vaccine in particular (Kamala Harris has said she won't take a COVID vaccine "if Trump tells us to take it".)

    5. It seems that people don't want to hear/believe this, but the best and simplest way to stop the transmission of this disease in the short term is for everyone to simply act like you and everyone else has the disease right now. This means:

      1. Universal masking (yes, everyone knows/admits that masks do not provide 100% protection, but they afford enough that my mask helps protect you and your mask helps protect me, and they are only one element of a comprehensive strategy).
      2. Actually staying away from people (this means really maintaining at least 6 ft of distance from everyone else, even if you’re outdoors, even if you’re wearing a mask—which you should be doing also).
      3. Rigorous hand-washing/sanitation practices (this should go without saying).
      4. Ideally, robust contact tracing, so that those who have been exposed and are likely to be infectious can be even more stringently quarantined.

      If the virus cannot spread from person to person (as a result of the measures above), it will simply “die out” over time as (progressively fewer) infected hosts recover. It’s not rocket science, but it seems to be a “bridge too far” for far too many people.

    6. 1) Experience from respiratory illnesses and other coronaviruses leads me to believe that immunity conferred either by infection or vaccination will last a mean of 12 months. However, the implication is not that we are doomed, but that we will arrive at a point of stasis in which there will be a steady rate of infections in the community. This is likely to be societally acceptable, rather like influenza now. Of course we all are doomed, and we will all die of something.

      2) Rates of mutation of the SARS-Cov-19 virus appear to be extremely low. In particular, the spike protein, which is the target for most treatments, appears to be highly conserved evolutionarily.

      3) The idea that R is a fixed number for an entire population appears to be flawed. For the young, urban, sociable, and Charedi, herd immunity will likely require around 80% immunity. For more isolated communities, 50 - 70% seems to suffice.

      4) Universal masking seems to bring significant benefits at minimal societal costs.

      5) Distancing is a highly effective way of prevennting transmission. It carries significant societal costs in specific contexts - for example in running a restaurant - and these need to be considered against the benefits. Im ein kemach, ein healthcare.

      6) There has not been a single documented case of Covid-19 which has been shown to have arisen through fomites. ( Much of the emphasis placed on this has arisen from pre-rehearsed government plans for the entirely different disease of pandemic influenza. Handwashing, theatrical deep cleans, and various other performative measures (such as wearing gloves to handle a sefer torah) don't cost a much, but are unlikely to provide any benefits.

      7) Track and trace is an important part of the suppression plan. It seems to me that insufficient financial and practical support has been given to those who are asked to self isolate for 2 weeks for the benefit of the wider public, and this has led to low rates of compliance.

      8) As mentioned in 1) above, there is little prospect of eliminating the virus entirely. It follows that measures which aim to gradually acquire herd immunity while attempting to balance simultaneously the needs to protect the economy, protect mental well being, and protect the capacity of the healthcare system to treat ill patients is the only logical strategy. Putting the country on lockdown for an entire 9 months until mass inoculation is available is not a viable strategy as it fails to proportionally balance all aims.

      Unfortunately this virus will continue to kill a lot more people directly or indirectly. There is an upper limit to the ability of government and healthcare to mitigate this. Excessive measures which destroy the economy will kill people indirectly. I suspect that there is literally nothing that doctors, or Trump, or Netanyahu, or the Charedim can do which will change the final fatality count by more than roughly 30% at the very most.

    7. Just curious, that is a great idea... except that it requires all 8 billion people in the world to behave themselves for 3 weeks. Remember, the virus started from one person - it could start again from one person.

      On the other hand, bubonic plague stopped ravaging Europe after a few years - I suppose it hit herd immunity by then (also some people people naturally were immune or didn't get it or something).

    8. This is essentially the Swedish model; it has it's advocates.

    9. Yosef R,

      Exactly, kind of like the old "if all Jews just observed two shabboses, mashiach would come"!

      You do realize that the Black Plague is estimated to have killed 75,000,000 to 200,000,000 people before it "stopped ravaging Europe after a few years"...

      The Hat,

      I think we are fundamentally agreeing, but I would clarify a couple of things:

      Re: your 1) What "Experience from respiratory illnesses and other coronaviruses" are you referring to re: estimating durability of immunity?

      Re: your 6) No one is suggesting that this virus is transmitted via fomites, but there is no question that handwashing remains a sound practice when respiratory droplets on the hands can be introduced into mucous membranes as with any other respiratory infection.

    10. for duration of antibody response.

      Everyone is suggesting this virus is spread by fomites. That's because it likely it almost certainly is , albeit at a minor level compared to direct transmission. The US Centre for Disease Control, for example, put hand washing at number one in its list on 28 March ( but it should probably have been further down the list (behind avoid close contact and wear) in October See also

    11. OK good I understood you... and how unlikely the possibility is that this proposal could be followed.

    12. It is a completely unreasonable ask of human beings. If we could have done it, we would have done it already.
      I grow weary of people comparing this to the black plague or even the Spanish Flu. It is clearly no where near that deadly. It is certainly not worth persecuting large populations of people over.

  16. Police are forcing Jews to disperse and remove sukkahs in New York city. And I have a friend who is currently in New York. Alexandra Cortez and de blasio are anti-semitic turds. Its disgusting.

    1. Do you also find it disgusting that Beresh Getz, brother of the owner Eichler’s, was beaten unconscious by other orthodox Jews? He opposed the anti-mask crowd and was deemed a moser.

      There are mask burning in Boro Park as we speak.

      This goes WAY beyond a protest about religious freedom.

      This goes WAY beyond a

    2. @Zdub at first I thought you were providing fake news. The claim you made was so foreign to the Orthodox Judaism I grew up with that it was beyond belief. But it seems that not only are you telling the truth but the facts are even worse. These same Jews will then shout ANTISEMITISM, but they ought to consider if their actions will fan the flames of antisemitism. ACJA

    3. @Zdub Yes, I do find it disturbing. Though this is definitely about religious freedom. Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo's restrictions on church and shul, is an anti-religion/anti-semitism movement, preparing the roadmap for marxism. Their stance is one of socialism and they need to declare that "G-d is dead" before they can implement communism. Coronavirus is only an excuse.

      And I find it hypocritical that houses of worship must be closed while the riots over the death of criminals are allowed. I find it disingenuous and a blatant lie that if you protest against the police you become immune to coronavirus due to a "good cause," whatever that means. We heard this excuse before when Rav Chaim Kanievsky claimed that studying in a yeshivah makes you immune to the virus. This is nothing new. But to remove sukkahs, which is an enclosed environment, far away from people, speaks plainly enough that this is a policy of anti-semitism. 

      Of course, I am all for masks. I wear a mask when needed and I do it property (not to expose the nose). And I dislike how the Charedi community is burning masks. And I disagree with their use of force on Jewish reporters who advocate masks and social distancing. But the lockdowns had left an effect. Charedi Jews don't use the internet and most lack jobs. They are economically ruined and so I can understand where they are coming from. But a "riot" is no way to protest restrictions. We need to have dialogue with New York's mayor, not protests burning masks in the streets. 

  17. "You can't force hundreds of thousands of people to observe precautions"---- Good Morning! This was one reason, among many others, that the brilliant idea of "masks" to stop a global virus was stupid and doomed from the start. אין גוזרין גזירה שאי אפשר לעמוד בו. You can insult them and call them names all you want. The FACT is, as you said, you cant force hundreds of thousands of people to do something they don't want to do. So what good are masks if huge numbers of people - and they are not "hermetically sealed" off, as you also admit - simply will not abide by it.

    How ironic that the Bibi haters of the world have a perfect opportunity to bash him with on his botched job here, but they have to close their mounhs because it would be an admission that the left wing gospel was wrong yet again.

    1. "אין גוזרין גזירה שאי אפשר לעמוד בו."
      Nonsense. A bunch of whiny cry-babies. The people in Asian countries manage just fine with the masks. And compliance here in Israel is rather high, even among the Charedim. There's a significant minority who don't care about killing their neighbors. To close the gap, we just need massive enforcement- fine the fanatics (שקשה להם מסיכות משפיכת דמים) & cry-babies till they whimper "uncle" from a safe distance.

    2. How is it that observant jews can be expected to wear a kippa on their heads (or even a shtreimel on 100 degree heat), but a mask on our face is a גזירה שאי אפשר לעמוד בה?
      Same with not mixing fish and meat bcs of סכנה? Who would dare do that? In the hassidic and hareidi communities all that has to be done is for the rebbe to issue a public instruction and compliance would be quick and universal. This underscores the problem.

    3. Charedi, refuses to wear masks.
      Same charedi: "What good are your darn asks if we refuse to wear them!? Ha!"

      And you don't see how this is circular logic and a self-fulfilling prophecy engineered by your stubborn refusal to adopt a harmless intervention?

    4. Most charedim are (or think they are) following the guidelines. Too many aren't. The stupid excuses for not are expressed in charedi cultural terms. When a posek 'passels' masks he does so in "halachic" terms. When a BLM protester does so, he does so with statements like "Slavery & racism kills much more than a fancy flu virus". When it's a wingnut, he believes that not wearing a mask is today's patriotic equivalent of tossing tea into the ocean.

    5. RNS said, quite rightly, "you cant force hundreds of thousands of people to do what they don't want to do." Ephraim disagrees with him and claims you can, if you only hit them hard enough. Some might say you should investigate Ephraim's יחוס for a statement like that, though I wont go that far. I'll just say its wrong.

      But the other two commenters say its harmless, no different than wearing a kippah. I think that's clearly ridiculous, but it doesn't matter what you or I think, its what the charedim think. And if they wont wear it, whether they are right - as millions of people think - or wrong, then it was stupid from the get-go to try to force them into it. We don't make rules doomed for failure ab initio.

    6. Commenter Smash Kernel: "In the hassidic and hareidi communities all that has to be done is for the rebbe to issue a public instruction and compliance would be quick and universal".

      Commenter Smash Kernel, you don't understand how the world works. "I have to follow them, I am their leader." Look it up in Bartlett's or Oxford. The point is, people choose leaders who align with their points of view. If the leader would ever drastically depart from that perspective, the people wouldn't fall into line behind him, they would simply choose another leader.

    7. Bottom Line: RNS has his point of view, and the Chassidim have theirs. There are staggering amounts of data to show masks wont work, and we can all see with our own eyes what a failure they've been. There are papers from professors and researchers in Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, you name it, showing that lockdowns don't work and the best policy is to return to normal life. Will RNS reconsider? Of course not. As I and many others have said many times, arguing this is not *like* arguing politics, it IS arguing politics. Pointless She-b'pointless. From the dozens of posts RNS has written on this, and from all the comments pushing back, very much including this one, not a single person has changed or will change his thinking.

    8. "There are staggering amounts of data to show masks wont work, and we can all see with our own eyes what a failure they've been."
      Nonsense. We have not seen any such thing "with our own eyes". Where have seen "with own eyes" rebbishe weddings, hakafot, tishim where there are less than 30 attendees with masks and distancing? Where are the funerals that follow the guidelines? The fact is that there hasn't been pervasive compliance in the Charedi community, even if the majority follow the rules. So how can you claim masks don't work if it hasn't been truly tried? And don't overstate the claim for masks- mask advocates have always emphasized that social distancing and other precautions are also necessary.

      "the best policy is to return to normal life"
      How abnormal is life with a few restrictions? Are we that soft & indulgent that we consider these moderately annoying restrictions are considered that abnormal & a hardship? Do you think the current situation is more difficult than life in 1850? 1935?

    9. One more note: Any claim that masks & social distancing is too oppressive & difficult to comply with should look at Kiryat Yearim (Telz-Stone) where the Charedi community is doing rather well under strict observance of the guidelines.

    10. You see what you want to see. If you haven't seen the data I refer to, it can only be because you're refusing to look.

      As for Telz Stone, I haven't seen any data showing they're doing "rather well." And last time I checked, there were no significant chassiduses of any size located there. And in any event I have no reason to look there when I already know how Williamsburg and KJ are reacting.

  18. How do you explain this data?

    1. Haredim have a younger population

    2. What is there to explain? It appears that, after confirmation that they are ill, Arab men have the most chances to be very ill, then "others", then Haredim. Which is consistent with their life expectancy in normal times.

    3. Age, pre-existing medical risk, different standards of care at different hospital, non-universal standards of determining cause of death. In summary: there's nothing to explain because the data is too general to infer anything meaningful.

    4. Arabs have a younger population too

  19. So we can sacrifice the lives of "some small number of people" to save the chassidic Belz culture, but we can't sacrifice "some small number of dropouts to the chassidic Belz culture" to save the lives of other people!??
    Truly perverse.
    They don't worship God, they worship themselves and their so-called "culture."

  20. A few points:
    1. Chassidim may feel there is a truly minimal burden on the country's hospital system if they are aware that many chareidi patients --even serious ones--are treated at home by a private Satmar chessed org working off the grid.
    Read this article and then tell me it is irresponsible to allow chareidim to take greater risks if they are caring for their own.

    2. It is really, really hard to be critical of people flouting government rules in this pandemic for a truly righteous religious cause, when leftist protesters--in Israel AND America-- are flouting them with impunity at the same time. And they are flouting them by the tens of thousands standing shoulder-to-shoulder screaming at the top of their lungs for weeks and weeks and weeks.
    So we can't have large gatherings for hakafos? Absurd.

    3. It isn't Rav Klein's fault that the media treats leftist protesters like heroes fighting corruption while portraying us as selfish sectarians. Notice that the news articles never characterize the protests as "violators" of the lockdown laws. They are acting "in spite of" while the chareidim are in "flagrant violation of".

    Most people have either swallowed the media's biased narrative or believe we are obligated to bend over backwards and compromise our avodas Hashem to appease the biased media narrative. Rav Klein is quite right to rule against either of those approaches. To his credit, Rav Klein takes Rebbi Akivah's parable of the fox and the fish very seriously.

    1. @Dovid Kornreich, Yes, the anti-Semitism of the left in liberal-held cities is astonishing. They allow "protest"--really riots--but ban all houses of worship. I will add here, that Rav Chaim Kanievsky ruled that "telephones may be answered on Shabbat to get COVID-19 test results." He was very sensitive to human needs. So he ruled that Jews can answer phone calls during Shabbat. Meanwhile, he also ruled and agreed with the many restrictions imposed by the gov. IF the Left wants a lockdown, then let's see it. But they can demand we go on lockdown (Shul), while they "allow" riots on the streets to burn our cities. This is absurd, stupid, and wrong. If they want a full lockdown where we cannot pray they they should not be able to riot on the streets. Period.

      I agree with you.


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