Wednesday, January 20, 2021

So, Why DO Chassidim Disregard Covid?

In the previous two posts, I critiqued the massive crowded indoor maskless Bobov wedding. This is just one example of how Chassidim (and, to a more limited extent, many Litvishe charedim), utterly disregard Covid precautions. The consequences of this are sickness and death, not to mention economic hardship and backlash against their own communities. Given all this, there is an obvious question to be asked (yet which not enough people did ask): Why do they do it?

As I've stressed many times in this forum, people can be mistaken and wrong, but they are not generally crazy or evil. If large numbers of people are acting in a certain way, there must be an explanation for it. And it's important to know what that is, for several reasons. One is precisely to avoid seeing large numbers of people as evil. The second is that it's very difficult to change people's behavior, and easy to waste time on futile strategies, if you have no idea why they do what they do. I'm not going to engage in apologetics, but rather a sincere effort to understand and explain this very disturbing phenomenon.

Let me begin by rejecting some mistaken explanations for why chassidim and some charedim disregard Covid. It has virtually nothing to do with a belief that Torah and prayer and mitzvos protect them from it. That may be true for a rare individual like Rav Chaim Kanievsky, but not for the average person. People just don't really believe that and it's not what drives their behavior. They are also well aware of the many righteous Torah scholars who have died from Covid.

I've heard it claimed that as a community which is largely ignorant of (and dismissive towards) modern science, the chassidim just don't see any connection between their disregard of all health precautions and the Covid infections that they suffer. I find this difficult to accept. They do understand the concept of infection. They also generally have a high regard for doctors. Still, there is truth to the observation that the chassidic (and to some extent general charedi) community has not internalized the modern concern for general health, preventative medicine and safety precautions. But that's not the main explanation here.

It seems to me, and others that I've discussed it with, that there is another set of factors at work here. First of all, one must bear in mind that, just like with the modern phenomenon of mass kollel, it's not as though there was a planned strategy of how to respond to Covid. There was no council of chassidic rabbis and organizers debating what their community response should be. Rather, it occurred organically. 

Covid is a contagion. Aside from vaccines, which only recently arrived and are a whole separate discussion, the main way to fight it is to avoid large indoor gatherings. Now, large indoor gatherings are fundamental to charedi and especially chassidic communities to a degree that the rest of us cannot even begin to grasp. The yeshivos and the shuls are the primary focus of people's lives, and keep them in the safety of religious frameworks and away from the threats of internet and so on. Enormous weddings are a modern phenomenon, but they have taken on tremendous importance in chassidic communities. (And in a community where people have large families in crowded apartments without Netflix, keeping children in cheder and yeshiva is not just an educational priority, it's what stands in the way of insanity!)

So the strategies for fighting Covid would exact an enormous toll on the charedi way of life. And if there's one thing that charedim are good at - much better than Modern Orthodox and Dati-Leumi Jews - it's identifying threats to their way of life. To put it another way, someone reported the following statement by a charedi person: "If we need to stop being Chareidim to beat Corona, what are we fighting the disease for?" No, fighting Covid doesn't really force them to stop being charedi, but it causes enough of a challenge that it's understandable that they see it that way.

But there's more. For charedim in general and chassidim in particular, identifying and fighting against threats to their way of life forms a major part of their identity. As I described in my monographs on the Novelty of Orthodoxy and the Making Of Charedim, reacting against the modern world is the driving force in their society. They'll do it even when there is no particular innate reason, because of the benefits that Fighting In The Resistance brings to reinforcing their identity. As a charedi leader in Israel once said, "If the government tells us to learn Bava Kama, we'll learn Bava Metzia!" 

And so when a pandemic hits, the choices facing chassidim are as follows. They can cause tremendous harm to their way of life. Or, they can once again be heroes who are fighting against the goyim that are trying (for whatever reason) to cause tremendous harm to Yiddishkeit. It's a no-brainer.

What about the sickness and death that they suffer as a result - to a far greater degree than non-charedim? Well, they see that as an unfortunate but worthwhile price to pay, just as every society is willing to sacrifice lives for its greater values, whether wars or fast transportation. Besides, while attending funerals isn't fun, it gives an opportunity to cry about Divine punishments for bittul Torah and pritzus and Hashem's inscrutable ways, all of which further strengthen their identity. Getting into a fight with non-charedim and non-Jews about what they are doing further feeds in to their life's meaning. And they certainly don't care about the harm that they cause beyond their community.

That's why even something as simple and seemingly religiously harmless as wearing masks is a problem for many (though certainly not all) chassidim. There's a War to Save Yiddishkeit. You don't concede anything to the other side. You davka maintain your way of life in every way against attempts to change it.

So, what can be done about such a situation? Unfortunately, just like with the much more serious problem of charedim avoiding secular education and joining the professional workforce, not much. Dramatic and enforced legislation is very difficult to pull off when dealing with hundreds of thousands of people. And since they are a large voter bloc with simple demands, there's a big incentive for politicians to play along (which is why Bibi always wants charedim in his coalition).

Short-term solutions are difficult. In the long term, the only thing that can work is encouraging a societal change in which they learn that not everything and everyone in the outside world is to be shunned and feared. That's something which, when I'm not writing this blog, I put a lot of effort into.


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61 comments:

  1. It is important to remember that not all Chassidic communities responded in the same way, some communities such as Ger and Slonim have been very careful about following the restrictions.

    However, for communities that openly disregard the regulations (from all segments of the religious community), part of the problem is the way certain communities perceive history.

    For many communities, history can be summarized as "The authorities made a decree against learning Torah, yet the Jews bravely defied them, and now the evil authority is gone, and Torat Yisrael continues"

    This was the way we understand many chapters in Jewish history from Rabbi Akiva, to Yehuda Hamaccabi, to the crusades, inquisition, and even Nazi Germany.
    So when the Haredi world hears "There is a decree from the Government to close the Yeshivot", it doesn't matter what the reason for the decree was, they have been raised to see themselves as a modern-day Rabbi Akiva by standing up against the government.

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    1. Are you telling us all, that the frumers in Israel who resist are so stupid, they cant remind themselves they are living in the state of Jews that protects them daily, that finances their lives daily ? Are they walking around in some mystical trance that precludes them from distinguishing between Germans banning Torah study V Israeli authorities insisting on some temporary closures for their own welfare and welfare of others. WHAT RUBBISH. YOU WISH THAT WAS THEIR EXCUSE. The old, “they are out to get us” does not wash one iota. Its done and dusted. They are living in the land in Israel and its 2021.

      Unfortunately for them, the rest of the country, while not being as observant as them, still know that Torah observance and study and living separate lives doesnt turn you into a complete idiot. ( a completely selfish and rude human being maybe ) They know fully well what the threats are, but the sysyem has made them SO SOCIALLY HABITUATED, its like torture for them to stay at home because they live in a box. They often have no books, because they can read them in kollel or shul. They are physcologically addicted to their routines and its like hell for them to halt these routines. I can understand the predicament they find themselves in, somewhat, but to have a maskless wedding, singing together with 5000 other people. Sorry NO EXCUSES. That is nothing but the middle finger to everyone and everything. For a people who give their lives and define their lives by the axioms, “do unto others as they would do to you” or “ Mussar” or "man to man relationships are more important than man to G-d relationships" or "Ahavas Yisrael”, I see nothing but industrial HYPOCRACY, THUGGERY and ZERO MENSCHLICHKEIT. They are the absolute ANTITHESIS of Torah. They have brought massive amounts of shame to Jews worldwde.

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    2. Good points, but I take issue with the following sentence:

      "... the rest of the country, while not being as observant as them..."

      I don't regard the Haredi community as more observant than other segments of society. There are many people in the Dati-Leumi world who are far more careful in their Mitzva observance than the average Haredi Jew, and there are many mitzvot that the Haredi community as a whole completely ignore (as we have seen during this Pandemic)

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  2. Masks don't work. The science is very clear on this topic.

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    1. I'm guessing you don't believe in Torah She'Bichsav, as Midvar Sheker Tirchak seems to be foreign to you. Masks work. Like any prophylactic, they don't work in 100% of cases.

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    2. You use the word "science" but I am not sure you know what it means.

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    3. Masks very much prevent spread of infection.

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    4. "Science". He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
      I don't think he understands what the word "inconceivable" means either.

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    5. I suspect the confusion is regarding the word 'clear', maybe it is that word whose meaning is, ahem, unclear.

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    6. Saying "masks don't work" is misleading in a way that would make a propagandist proud.

      Masks are not 100% effective. Do you define "working" as being a fullproof protection of 100% reduction in transmissions? If you do, then you would claim they don't "work," but how very dishonest that is.

      If masks cut down transmission 80 or 90% that is a massive improvement over the maskless situation. They indeed block almost all large droplets and some aerosols.

      Wearing no mask is 0% effective. Wearing a mask is more effective than that.

      Wearing no mask INDOORS is just asking to be infected. It is a sure sign of low IQ.

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    7. You think masks work 80-90%? Can I ask where you get that data from (and not just "it seems logical that they would work")? For one, you can see from countless graphs that COVID cases continue to climb after the introduction of mask mandates and other restrictions.

      https://rationalground.com/mask-charts/

      This of course is not to mention the basic societal/human/freedom issues of requiring everyone to cover their faces, or the question of why this has never been enforced before for any other deadly contagion, or why we continued to enforce masks in say, NY, after daily COVID deaths were virtually 0, or why we don't mandate an end to all risks, which are an inherent part of life.

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  3. I'm not sure I agree with you. They can stand up to the authorities and defend their way of life my going to shuls, yeshivas and weddings and STILL wear masks but they don't. I think there is a religious element here God what hurt me for doing a mitzvah (i think Talmud Brachot)and the natural human response, it's not going to happen to me.

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  4. Or one could say that their approach, similar to Sweden's, was and is actually the best way -- and hey, there is even science behind this approach! But oh no, no one would ever admit a Swede or a Charedi got something right. And the argument on which approach is the best -- is not yet solved...so please don't go there. You want to hold them accountable for going against the grain of the community? Well, that is indeed their entire mode of life -- and it's to our benefit.

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    1. Tell that to the pregnant haredi women currently in hospital with severe covid. Also not sure how right the Swedes are with over 10,000 deaths so far and a total number of cases that puts them nowhere near herd immunity (population of 10.23 million, 523,486 confirmed cases).

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    2. 1) Today Sweden had some 4700 new cases. Within the past two weeks here are Swedish news headlines: "Hospitals to delay 'necessary surgery'", "More Covid-19 patients in Sweden's hospitals than at any point in 2020", "Sweden Moves Closer to Shutting Businesses With New Lockdown Law"

      2) The Swedish authorities always denied they were aiming for herd immunity by mass infection of the non-vulnerable. Rather they argued that citizens would be responsible & that the pandemic can be controlled without gov't enforcement.

      3) Now, one of the tropes has been that somehow Sweden took a less "authoritarian" approach. In fact, authorities secretly decided that they would take the mass infection herd immunity route. So the gov't that hides crucial health information from citizens is hailed by freedom lovers!? No longer a conspiracy since it's been uncovered by the mainstream Swedish & international media. (But no conspiracy missed by autistic channelers, QAnon or Tishler is worthwhile to report.)

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    3. What on earth are you talking about ? The Swedish strategy of getting early herd immunity was a DISASTER. Do you live under a rock. They have suffered 10 000 dead. The head decision maker has taken public responsibility for this mistake and the King of Sweden has come out and said it was idiotic. What science do you need other than their shocking death rate ?

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    4. That "approach" failed so badly that Sweden abandoned it.

      They thought it would lead to herd immunity more quickly. They even promised "herd immunity by May" and other baseless speculations.
      As it turned out, seroprevalence studies showed that they barely got above 10% of the population infected and that no matter what they legislated, when people started getting ill from Covid, behavior changed and people did not congregate as much. How stupid can people be who STILL congregate in the face of illness and death around them? That goes beyond stupid.

      Even the "herd immunity proponents" of Sweden didn't have the stomach for that. And they watched as their elderly died in much higher numbers than all their neighboring Scandinavian countries thanks to the phony and purposeless govt "approach" that has now since been abandoned.

      But keep fighting that "Muh Sweden!" fight, you propagandist drone

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    5. Wow...so much unnecessary baseless hatred in these replies...seems clear where people's focus ought to be.

      To reiterate my point, there are indeed scientific arguments to be made on both sides; I'm not suggesting one is necessarily right over the other, you are the ones doing that. I'm simply respecting alternate approaches, even if they are controversial.

      One comment -- Sweden has about double the amount of deaths Israel has (which is an extremely, extremely small 0.0005%), and didn't suffer the side effects of lockdowns (which arguably affects life and health much more than 0.0005%), then indeed there is science behind the approach -- and yes, you can tell the pregnant Haredi woman in the Corona unit about the countless others who got to live a freer life, as she did. By the way, the units are equally full and delaying unnecessary surgeries where lockdowns are used as well. The facts are the science behind lockdowns is weak at best -- and people and societies make difficult decisions for what is best for them -- and you should not be so assuming to think that you know what is best for them. V'kal l'havin l'mi sh'rotzeh l'havin et ha'emes.

      You wish to impose your values onto others, yet the first step of respecting others seems entirely lacking to even get the conversation going.

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    6. Neither strategy allows for hundreds of people to attend events indoors. It is simply arrogant on the part of anyone to defend these type of events. You don't want to wear masks, you dont want to have lockdown, fine, but no one, nowhere thinks mass indoor socialising is sensible. It is shockingly irresponsible and dangerous, and in the case of jewish people, brings a huge chillul hashem onto those following the rules.

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    7. Even the Swedish government admitted months ago that their approach was an abject failure

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  5. It's just a power struggle. Nobody is going to tell them what to do. Also, it's easy for them to dismiss corona since people aren't just dropping dead everywhere in plain sight. Understanding the dangers requires a tad of common sense, and they are like children.



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  6. You are ignoring some basic parts of human nature. You are claiming that they believe that the increased deaths are a part of the price they are willing to pay.
    That is not the case at all.
    Human nature being as it is (learn the parshiyos of these weeks, and analyze Par'oh's actions and speech to understand ourselves), we have the distinct ability to focus on individual issues and totally ignore others. For example, imagine a family member of ours was arrested for financial crimes and sentenced to twenty years in jail. His family is suffering, and he isn't 'licking honey'. Our sole focus would be our pity on them. When asked, "the guy is a criminal, shouldn't he be punished?", the answer will be some kind of distraction, because the sole focus is our pity.

    The Charedi way of life is quite important to us. And not large weddings per se, but davening in minyanim, learning in public, teaching children in Cheder, all of them are not just sociologically important, but a major part of our belief system. We all believe in תורה מגנא ומצלא, not just Reb Chaim. We would not risk our lives, or others' lives for that. But that causes us to focus solely on keeping up normal life, and ignoring the deaths. Deaths are not considered the price to pay, we rather ignore them.

    Various words and expressions are used to weasel out of thinking about those deaths, but all are methods of distraction, which is what humans do the whole time.

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    1. While you may be socially habituated to attend shuls and yeshivas daily, are the rest of the world not also socially habituated to lead their lifestyles on a daily basis that they choose for themselves ? Gyms,cafes,work enviroments they love, theaters, museums, galleries ? What a weak excuse to justify selfishness. Frumers say we are giving our lives to perfecting our characters and destroying their egos, caring for others and being holy and kind and sensitive with good middot. How is holding a wedding with 5000 maskless men, after the authorities HAVE PLEADED for them not to do it, humble and enlightened in any way ? ZERO EXCUSE. Thousand have died and they act like this. I will never ever ever take these people seriously again. They have lost ALL CREDIBILITY in my eyes. It was dubious to begin with, but this has taken the cake. The people I see as role models are people who went through the holocaust, who rebuilt their lives with honour, who worked for a living, who were refined and polite, who had dignity. You would never see a camp survivor throw himself all over the road, throwing stones at buses. They act like absolute thugs who have no direction, no dignity. An abject system failure. Why do you never see teh religious zionists act like this ? Because they have found balance in life, between the material world and the spiritual world. Its that simple. The chassidim have not.

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    2. Mr Unknown - take a deep breath and try and understand what I wrote. I did not say that they were right, this article was not about right and wrong. I explained the mindset, and it is a mindset we all have for own issues. We look away from certain things, and focus on what we want to focus. For some people it is the economy, for others it is 'social justice' and for others still it is keeping Torah life going at its optimal way.
      Nobody said that it is worth risking lives for Yeshivos to stay open. The imperative to have Yeshivos open caused some to ignore, turn away, cover up, the pandemic issue.

      And I brought an apt mashal for it. It is just human nature, and Charedim are humans too, believe it or not.

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    3. SO WHAT - the way of life of other people is important to them too. Everyone is inherently selfish to some degree. You think you are making a revolutionary new observation ? All you are doing is trying to offer an excuse. Are the people who had the decency to observe the law void of the same human attributes you described in the charedi world ? Are you the only people in the world socially habituated. What a weak self centred statement.

      "We would not risk our lives, or others" lives for that. But that causes us to focus solely on keeping up normal life, and ignoring the deaths. Deaths are not considered the price to pay, we rather ignore them." - Yeah but you did and still do risk other peoples lives.

      As for the rest of your sentence "deaths are not ....” - I have no idea what you are talking about and trust me, trying to rephrase it will make it worse. Inherent human selfishishness is no excuse, it can be curtailed like what the bulk of Israelis have done out of decency and respect for their fellow Jew. Charedim have not. You plainly and obviously, in front of everyones eyes, exhibited a totally fatalistic approach to this challenge and the charedi world is producing people who are living a life that the Torah did NOT propogate. Protecting your physche from outside influences is absolutely fine, but not being prepared to curtail your routines for the greater good in temporary situation is not. If you think the Creator thinks any more of you because of your so called “passionate display of loyalty to Torah life” while other Jews and non-Jews are dying left right and centre around you and within you, you guys have a serious problem understanding what G-d is. Its that simple. If you think your selfishness is somewhat excused in heaven because you are displaying some kind of martyrdom like behavour, the Torah world has serious serious problems. If you think fearing the virus emboldens the virus in some mystical parallel upper world you are living in a reality that has nothing to do with truth. We live in a world of natural laws that include judgement and severity. Ignoring that reality wont avoid that reality. Responding to that reality with decency for your fellow man will always gain Heavens favour. You guys have ZERO balance and are way way off.

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  7. I live in Boro park and always amazed that hardly anyone here wears a mask. I think its because the virus is like an invisible plague to most people. . And most people here don't get scared by what's on the Tv or radio so without fear there is no real reaction to wear the mask

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    1. No TV - but daily Levayas. The are not stupid.

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  8. There's a lot of speculating here as to why they are acting the way they are. Why not try to discuss with some of the higher-ups in the Bobov community (if not directly, then though contacts) and see if you can get one of them to write up a defense of their actions? Maybe they have considerations that we haven't thought of that would change our opinions of their actions. It doesn't seem like that would be so difficult, and appears to be a much more intellectually rigorous method for answering your question of why they do it.

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  9. You didn't mention that chasidim are primed and prepared for accepting misinformation such as "anti-mask science" and the idea that covid regulations are specifically targeting religious groups. Magical thinking, conspiratorial thinking, scapegoating, blamelessness--these are woven in to the fabric of the stories and teachings that form these cultures. One of the reasons that the Haskalah came on so strong and so aggressively was precisely due to the sorry nature of critical thought in religious education at the time. If you cannot discern fact from fiction, if you cannot subject a statement to rational interrogation, if you cannot maintain a skeptical or critical posture before anything new or unknown or different then you might indeed have some form of emunas tzadikim, but you also very likely have emunas tipshim, and are ripe for manipulation by charlatans. The greatest rebbes of course tried to connect their chasidim not only to themselves but to emes... But whether any of them succeeded is still an open question.

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    1. Covid regulations might not specifically be targeting religious groups, but any regulation that says houses of worship are less important than liquor stores or acupuncturists will be rightly perceived as being totally insensitive to religion.

      "..If you cannot discern fact from fiction, if you cannot subject a statement to rational interrogation, if you cannot maintain a skeptical or critical posture before anything new or unknown or different..."

      - describes the vast majority of secular jews and non-jews. Look at how many people uncritically and unskeptically recycle despite the fact that most of it just goes in the landfill. Or how many people uncritically support rent control. Or "organics". Most secular people believe all sorts of nonsense, ashreinu that at least our "nonsense" causes us to daven more, or learn more Torah.

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    2. Sholi Katz - Monsey NYJanuary 21, 2021 at 9:29 AM

      Reb Yonah, Your summation is the closest to the truth. Trying to put some rationalization or logic to the way the charedim act is a lost cause. Add one thing into the equation, that in Monroe, Squaretown, Willamsburg almost 85% live take and live off gov't handouts. As you know the same story is in Israel. Should everyone live that way, it would be the death of society. Charedim are very content to let others carry the burden, while living off the spoils. Add that to any rationality or logic and it all falls away.
      It is difficult to say this, but we are dealing with an arrogant, selfish people. During my studies of Jewish history at YIVO, and other places doing research, I come across many that argue the Yidden living in the shtetels were knivers, selfish people, and some downright thieves. Being a “student” of history, which means going to where history takes you, it is hard to argue, The Haskalah was all over the charedim about their behavior to the rest of society, trying to reverse it with no success. Newspaper articles are full of admonishment by maskelim as to the way they live. Studying the pogroms, historians note, when a reporter or prominent Jews came to investigate, asking the intellectuals, the caring people, heads of universities, many friends with Jews, why they don't scream out about the killings, the rapes of young girls, reducing families to poverty, their shocking answer were, sure it is not right, but your actions all these years of not being good citizens, brought this catastrophe upon your community. As the peasants got the upper hand, their deep seated anger and rage over being swindled came out. (not to say they were friends with us before) Many that did these investigations were shocked by these replies of the elite. These were not anti-Semites, they had pity on the Jews, were upset at the violence, even contributed monetarily to the relief efforts, but logically disseminated the origin of the burst of fury that unfolded. I have argued with many over this point, and my response was not to deny their arguments, since it is an open book and clearly seen when studying any shtetel. I claimed that the double taxes put on them by the gov’t, the discrimination and oppression forced these Yidden to act in this way, basically they were pushed into a corner – hoodwink the peasants, or starve with your family.
      Here with this Covid episode my logic and argument ran into a problem, (it is really taking a toll on me) sadly my argument falls away. Here there was no oppression nor persecution etc. and look how we acted. Not caring about the welfare of our neighbors, not trying to do the best to be good citizens, all we have seen was wanton disregard of everything society took upon itself to help. We are not looked upon as a “light” to the nations but a as pariah to society by putting others at risk. I shudder to think the day they can unleash their rage on us. Only one community in America burned masks in the streets - Boro Park. Nothing we did made anyone look more favorable on us. Nor did we gain any new friendship, only extra hate. I unfortunately have to come to a conclusion that the more charedi you are the more selfish, arrogant, and are people of a lesser quality. Hard to swallow it, but hard not to admit it. Like many other I am contemplating leaving the Charedi community and settling in a more God fearing “rational society” - How sad we came to this.

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    3. Sholi,
      I was moved by your response to my comment. I can relate to the experience of using my mind and my scholarship to make limudei zchus about religious Jews, but then finding these positions difficult to honestly sustain. But I am a child of the Haskalah, a Baal teshuva who has retained the right to be a Baal Sheilah as well. I don't live in a hareidi community, so I don't feel the tension in my daily life. And yet, I love our tradition and believe in the Torah and I try to have faith in our people, and I will continue to modify and adapt my limudei zchus until the day I die. Because to make a limud chovah on the Jewish people is skating close to denying hashem. Here is my best attempt at this moment...

      There is indeed a dangerous chilul hashem being made in the covid era, as there has been in the past when Jewish behavior has not lived up to minimal universal ethics. There is an etiology to this pathology, and it is important to drive at it, as R. Slifkin and the rest of us are trying to do here. But at the same time, we should believe that this outer shell, this klipah, contains a brilliant spark. The age of moshiach is almost upon us, but it struggles to emerge. It is clear from many Neviim and Chazals that this transition will have everything to do with the Jews' relation to non-Jews. Malchus edom will not be destroyed but transformed. Esav will meet Yisrael at Seir. Only shibud malchuyos will be different about that age. We were only plunged into exile to gather in and add on stray sparks to our light.

      Now, if you want to take an off-ramp at this point you could go with the idea that we must remain odious to the world for now, so there isn't a huge rush of converts on the eve of the ultimate redemption. But if, like me, you aren't interested in going there, you can say something similar but I think better.

      Each part of the Jewish people represents and sustains and protects a part of our ultimate komah shleima, much like the mishkan is broken down and carried by thousands of Leviim. And like the Leviim, many of us are carrying important bundles that even we are not privileged to see. The coverings or klipahs wrapping the keilim must not be mistaken for what is within. And one piece or type of piece --say, the hooks or the beams or the copper utensils-- should not be judged as a whole. They only make sense when "we arrive" and they are unwrapped and united through the integrated builders art.

      So too, the very qualities we occasionally despise in hareidim, which seem to be bringing calamity upon themselves and inviting righteous scorn from everyone else (including non-Jews and secular Jews) are also signs and wrappings around specific holy keilim that this chelek of am yisrael is holding and protecting--for us, and which we also badly need.

      One step further, I will tentatively suggest: look at our righteous indignance even now on display. Look at the ethical drive that is accentuated in secular analysis of such behavior. Is this not bringing out in us, far more than scorn, a moral purpose and clarity that is perhaps more commonly associated with the very communities in question? Is it possible that these "errors" of our brothers and sisters are not authored by them but by hashem to bring us (and non-Jews!) secretly closer to them? If there is a shred of truth in this view, then I would urge us not to make our analyses (historical and contemporary) merely about discerning cause and effect and truth and culpability but about growing our love to encompass our full nation. When we take on the drive towards truth and justice, along with the love of our people, we can unlock the door to the universal Torah that will be accepted by maskilim and goyim AND hareidim, bezrat hashem, bimheirah beyameinu, amen.

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    4. Wow, amazing. Justifying pogroms with proofs from maskilim, taking their slander at face value. Goebbels would be proud.

      I think this just proves what chareidim have been saying all along. That the criticism of their behavior is mostly nothing more than naked anti-semitism, under the guise of public health, from the very same people who would justify pogroms.

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    5. Sholi Katz - you consider yourself a student of history, yet you have not learnt critical thinking. The newspapers were almost always printed by Maskilim, who had a bone to pick with the traditional communities. Why would you adopt their position over the communities'? Who is to say that their position was accurate? Just because they claimed they were coming to help?! They may have been heads of universities, but they were not fans of the religious Jews, and they were trying to reform them.

      And if you were a true student of history, instead of historical culture, you would know that the claims of the Maskilim have been thoroughly debunked. The pogroms were organized and orchestrated from above, from the cabinet of the Czar. They were not spontaneous outbreaks of peasants who were fed up of being cheated, they were organized attacks against the Jews, who were perceived as being too well-organized for the Czar to trust.

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    6. Both of the comments above misinterpret both the content of Sholi's argument and his motive. The heads of universities and other figures he referred to are non-Jews. They did not cause the pogroms, and they did not prevent the pogroms. They may have had their fair share of anti-Semitism as well, but their perception of Jews was not radicalized. It is all too simple to see pogroms as entirely abhorrent outbreaks of violence founded on entirely dehumanizing views of Jews. This view has the unfortunate effect of entirely dehumanizing the non-Jews! Yes people in general look for scapegoats when they are experiencing suffering, and Jews have often been the brunt of such injustice. But when the tide turns against Jews in a society it is folly to look only at the non-Jews for the reason why. They suddenly were filled with anti-Semitic rage? No, there is a process, a period of development and fermentation and magnification of attitudes in the society. And, sadly, moments like the mass nullification of mask laws by chareidim are the types of moments that figure in to these processes. Kiddush hashem and chilul hashem have very real historical consequences, over time. Now the commenters above will say: you are blaming the victims for the violent crimes committed against them! No, in fact, neither Sholi nor I are doing that. We are both trying to reconcile our ahavas yisrael with emes and emunah. Ahavas yisrael itself calls us to understand how anti-Semitism actually develops in a society, so that we may forge a different course. No, not to throw over our traditions and institutions for the sake of goyish haskamas, like SOME of the maskilim wanted to do (there was and are a wide variety of maskilim). But to be MAKPID on certain actual mitzvahs and midos that will also have a beneficial cascade in the society at large, to the benefit of all Jews. This is actually what CHASIDIM are supposed to do--it's the definition of chasid in the gemara! You are extra careful with your observance in situations that might conceivably bring others harm, and others includes non-Jews. Anyone could be walking on your land and fall in a hole or cut themselves on sharp things that you leave laying around-- Jews or non-Jews. Anyone could catch your deadly virus and transmit it unwittingly to their grandparents and end up killing ten people. Anyone (and not just anti-Semites!) who see a group of American citizens for whom various forms of fraud are common or universal cannot be expected to refrain from forming some sort of negative judgement on the klal. I am no talmud chacham, but I do not believe that dina d'malchusa dina is an optional thing, like a cute little trinket for softies and maskilim. It is deadly serious, and if Jews don't hear that from their rabbis then they will eventually hear it shouted from maskilim, not because the maskilim hate Jews but precisely because they love them.

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    7. @Yonah as you probably know anti-semitism is the subject of much study, and many reasons for it have been explored, but it is absolutely abhorrent to use the most vicious and slanderous anti-semitic tropes to blame it on the Jews.

      Nevertheless I have a pet theory, that when things go wrong in society, people are quick to blame the capitalists. We can observe that historically and we see that now, with otherwise normal people nonchalantly suggesting that we should guillotine landlords and pharma executives. Some of this is due to jealousy, and some is due to conspiratorial thinking, with people blaming the capitalists for their own poverty. You can see how this fits very well into the anti-semitic narratives of the Rothschilds pulling all the strings. So when things go wrong, who is better to blame than those Christ-killing, mercantile, overly-successful Jews?

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    8. Zichron Devorim - I take issue with your statement "claims of the Maskilim have been thoroughly debunked" I find it extremely difficult to converse with those who never studied, only to repeat what what others had fed them.
      First of all, let me take this opportunity to inform and enlighten you, the Maskilim had a huge and diverse range between them. From the German reform that wanted to do away with Torah M'sinai to those with long beards a peyos that just wanted to change the education system in the shtetel. The Maritz Chayas was a good example of an "Education Yid". As they tried their hardest to help the poor uneducated coming into a shtetel to implement a learning system, by taking it out of the hands of the most incapable person in town. The Rebbe's of the village or leaders of the town pushed back hard and argued WE know better what is needed for our children, all the while starting a campaign calling them German reformers out to shmad the children. That is what you were exposed to and never bothering to take a closer look
      When Tzar Alexander II came into power in the 1850's and gave yidden freedom (not a full emancipation), while at the same time the Industrial revolution started and the laying of the railroad. These very same "education Yidden" begged for implication of a universal standard of education for all the towns. They argued as long as the youth will live in the shtetel, they have no other choice, nor place to go and will just fall in line to their upbringing, However, should they go to any large city they will not possess the resources and critical thinking to remain religious. They cried and begged - to no avail. Study history and see what actually transpired. Once they had the opportunity to move, or were forced to do so due to industrial revolution. Now with the ability to walk into a library the result were horrific, not thousands, not ten of thousands, but millions threw off the yoke of our Misorah. It started with the girls who got no-education, starting secret book clubs, while their brothers followed close behind. In a family of 5 if one remained religious it was a novel thing. Sara Schneirer tried to stop this calamity, keeping in mind she was also an 'Education Yiddinah". So these are your maskilim that you claim are totally debunked. These are the same maskilim that critiqued the shetel's to act civilly to the surrounding society.
      Today's days, should any of these 'Education Yidden AKA Maskiliim wake up they would jump for joy. Not just do we look for a good Hebrew education, we choose schools for our children based on their English curriculum. If you are from these parents welcome to the maskilim club. The only setback for them, would still be the chassidisha schooling, where almost 80-90% cannot speak proper English, nor write proficiently and then are handicapped in in trying to make a parnusha - basically the shtetel education (okay- show me the 1 in 500 who made it big in business - what about all the others - 85% that are forced to live off gov't handouts.
      It would be nice if other would study history and take a closer look trying to seek the truth

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    9. Mr Katz - you are making a complete kugel out of things.
      The Maskilim's claims that the Yidden were to blame for the pogroms have been debunked. Totally. The Beis Halevi and Reb Yitzchok Elchonon said this at the time, but the super educated maskilim thought differently. Read Zichron Yaakov and you will see that they knew from day one that the pogroms were not spontaneous or local, and they had clear proof that the Czar was behind it.

      Your kugel between reform and haskala is also small minded. Haskala in Galicia was not haskala in Russia, and the Maharitz Chayes and Shir were in Galicia. Russian haskala was not haskala per se, it was the same motivation the communists had to undermine the Czar. It was a frustration with communal life, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and a desire to rebuild an entire society. Funny how things turn out, but were they right? Did the world become a better place through overthrowing the Czar? Who ended up having the clearer vision, the Chofetz Chaim or Lilienthal?

      I am not discussing current events, I am talking about the history of haskala in Russia.

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    10. "I come across many that argue the Yidden living in the shtetels were knivers, selfish people, and some downright thieves."

      Oh really? And I'm sure they are completely without bias in characterizing Jews that way, huh? I guess we should just take their word for it because they really established how trustworthy and non-biased they all are. We'll just pretend that hundreds of years of persecution and the holocaust didn't happen and that no one had any preconceived biases or axes to grind, nor religious or racial hatred, even though this is all plainly evident in all historical sources.

      And not only do you take their word for it but you allow that *THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY* was full of maniac fraudsters and huksters. I'm sure that's not biased at all.

      The shtetls had their share of criminals and deviants just like any and every community does. Presenting that entire world as consisting solely or as a majority of criminals and evil people requires a very sick and hateful mindset. You sound extremely deranged!

      "asking the intellectuals, the caring people, heads of universities, many friends with Jews, why they don't scream out about the killings, the rapes of young girls, reducing families to poverty, their shocking answer were, sure it is not right, but your actions all these years of not being good citizens, brought this catastrophe upon your community."

      This is such delusional dishonesty that I have doubts whether you are who you present yourself as, "Sholi." If you really are a Jew, you have been taken for a serious ride by altright neonazi propaganda.

      The most cultured and the most educated *participated* in the pogroms. This is one of the primary reasons Pinkser gave up on the idea of cultural assimilation and education as the path to end Jewish suffering and became a Zionist visionary and leader instead. Because he saw many of his fellow enlightened intellectual (but non-Jewish) friends participate in the pogroms and not carry out the values that they all preached in the classrooms and study halls. So your sources are clearly lying to you. Or you are lying to us.

      Can we verify if there is a real Sholi Katz in Monsey NY and whether he is the one posting here?

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    11. Yonah - "Conspiratorial thinking" is an easy way to dismiss arguments that are at odds with establishment viewpoints. Do you have evidence that "anti-mask science" is pseudoscience? There is certainly a legitimate scientific viewpoint that masks aren't effective at significantly reducing transmission in a pandemic. Dismissing a viewpoint you don't like as "conspiratorial" is in fact anti-science.

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  10. Great post, you really nailed it. Much better than the "what is the gedolim's justification" post. The first time I've seen you write about chareidim/chassidim in a non-insulting way.

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    1. Oh, if you think Slifkin is bad, check out Rabbi Bar-Ron's post here. He makes Slifkin's "insults" look like a firecracker. This rabbis calls for the destruction of Chareidim way of life! I don't agree with it. See below:

      https://www.facebook.com/michaelshelomo.barron/posts/923312045143898?notif_id=1611595742217500&notif_t=comment_mention&ref=notif

      PS I bet Slifkin will write a piece on this next, although without the strong tone.

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  11. Lots of folks like to attribute the behavior of (many) chassidim as resulting from a mistrust of authority, mistrust of science, belief that by now they have some kind of herd immunity, a disregard for the consequences of their actions on other members of society, a lack of education. All of which are MORE OR LESS true. But more emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that the entire lifestyle of chassidim is one of intense social interaction. Denying them the ability to celebrate, mourn, and learn en masse is viewed as destroying their entire way of being. What is their alternative? To comfort the bereaved over the phone, to have a quiet chassanah with socially distancing witnesses, to learn on-line, all the while remaining cooped up in a small apartment with 10 kids? This is not merely (to paraphrase) "the goyim and reformers are trying to destroy us" but a much deeper attitude surrounding their core purpose in life. Ivdu et Hashem b'simcha. You do allude to some of this but I believe it is the root cause of their approach to the pandemic.

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  12. Rav Slifkin, you missed one important point. The Haredim are overloading the hospitals. That makes them rodfim. You don't need to have malevolent motives to be a rodef. You just have to be engaged in an activity, for whatever reason, that is killing someone else. All Haredi neighborhoods should be put under martial law.

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    1. Very good article. It addresses all the important points. Bibi and the government enforce mass masks on the public. The Chareidim refuse because its at odd with their community life. A way of life is very important and we need to respect their way of life. If it means they should not wear masks then so be it. On the other hand, we must be careful not to allow them to get sick. As for Avi's point about hospitals, we are doing all we can to prevent and save as many lives as possible.

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  13. Yes but all this can be done with a mask

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  14. one could argue that most of these chissidut's lost many members to prior plagues---the most recent major one is the nazi plague that killed the vast majority of Ger for example. but things will come back , like they have done 75 years later. and even if this kills every chosid over 40, the binareinu will make up for the bizkeineinu , shehalchu...

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  15. I really appreciated this post, as my husband and I, who until this past March considered ourselves to be fully part of Israeli charedi society, have been REALLY struggling with the behavior of almost all our acquaintances, neighbors, and friends.

    We've spent countless hours discussing and analyzing the situation, and still can't comprehend how people can so recklessly and thoughtlessly endanger themselves and others, believe every insane conspiracy theory out there, etc. etc. In our neighborhood (which is considered one of the "best" of the charedi neighborhoods in Yerushalayim, the vast majority are this way, and we are the "weirdos" who've worn masks even before they became compulsory, who haven't hosted anyone for Shabbos or gone to our parents for Shabbos since Purim, who daven outdoors even in the freezing cold and boiling sun (even when it was allowed to daven indoors, since there was too much crowding and no following of the rules at any point in almost every shul in our neighborhood), etc. etc.

    I know that our thought processes (in general) are not that of the typical charedi - we're both relatively well educated, we read secular news sites to know what's going on in the world, especially nowadays, and especially scientific / medical news. Oh, and we don't believe everything we read / hear. And we don't like fighting others - we're happy to live our life doing what we need to do. But in this case, we feel like almost everyone we know is about to kill us, and that's an awful way to live.

    I still identify as charedi in terms of practice, but both my husband and I are so torn about this - at this point, we'd like to move to the other side of the world because we're so fed up with what's going on around us.

    Because when all is said and done, Judaism is NOT about mass weddings or even about davening in a minyan (although of course that's important). To me, insisting that everything stay the same actually exposes how weak charedi society is, that without keeping everything the same, people will slip and fall, and I don't think that it needs to be this way at all.

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    1. Thank you for writing this. I really appreciate this perspective.

      People like you who are being careful but living in a community with less regards for the rules must be very difficult.

      If it makes you feel better, I think that all thinking people from time-to-time question whether the community the identify with represents their values.
      I am proudly religious-Zionist, but in the almost 30 years living in this country there have been several moments when I questioned whether the kipa a wear on my head represents a community that I want to identify with.

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    2. You are obviously from America or UK. And I hazard to suggest that you recently became Chareidi. It's certainly a real culture shock to you and I feel very sorry for sincere decent people like you.

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    3. I grew up in the Charedi community & I'm still shocked at the Charedi response. Even with 20-20 hindsight I still can't explain what happened. Nothing in most extreme aspects of that Chareid world- the anti-Zionism, the anti-Education, anti-Job explains this insanity.

      "as my husband and I, who until this past March considered ourselves to be fully part of Israeli charedi society, have been REALLY struggling with the behavior of almost all our acquaintances, neighbors, and friends."
      Exactly. There's no reason why Charedi ideology could not have been reconciled with an exemplary response to the pandemic. Indeed we're dealing with a community which is not generally indulgent and knows a little about מסירת נפש.

      "I still identify as charedi in terms of practice, but both my husband and I are so torn about this - at this point, we'd like to move to the other side of the world because we're so fed up with what's going on around us."

      Of course you're charedi. And yeah you should be "torn about this". Don't let any of your neighbors convince you that you're somehow not "charedi" enough. I suspect that Rav Asher Weiss would agree with your sentiments 100%.

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    4. If it's any consolation, this is a challenge for many fine people. One needs to keep in mind that a Torah lifestyle is not an all-powerful bleach.

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    5. https://www.jpost.com/opinion/op-ed-contributors/the-making-of-post-haredism

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  16. I wonder if there could have been a way somehow to make masks "kosher." Maybe if they had a writing on them saying something like "Shivisi Hashem L'Negdi Tamid" or "Am Yisrael Chai" or whatever slogan of choice is appropriate for the Chassidic sect (like Chachmah Bina Daas for Lubavich).

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    1. There are many masks with suitable messages. My daughter bought a mask that says לשון הרע לא מדבר אלי

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  17. Shaulson reports: מאמר מערכת הבוקר ב׳יתד נאמן׳: ״מי שלא מקפיד על הנחיות מרנן ורבנן רועי ישראל שקבעו כי יש להקפיד על כל הוראות הרופאים, לא יוכל להגיד 'ידי לא שפכו את הדם הזה'. מי שאיננו הולך להתחסן כפי הוראתם הנחרצת - מסכן את עצמו ומסכן את חיי האחרים״

    So now you can add the Yated to the list of authorities who are using such strong language, "murder", "blood spillers" etc.. (Though months ago the Yated used the term "shahid" to describe a maskless bus passenger)

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  18. Virus Shmirus, COVID Shmovid. We got the shield, yes we got the shield of Avraham. Don’t you see it’s the G-d Virus. ACJA

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  19. Although the majority of this article is well founded, especially the importance of community gatherings and also the lack of 'entertainment in homes' and small living spaces etc. There is a slight flaw to point out. It is not the 'secular government' telling people to obey social distancing, like your quote of ' we will learn Baba Metzia..', it is in fact the very medical experts they would fly to to receive the latest medicines for themselves and their leaders as well as the vast, if not all, of the Charedi halachic authorities, who are the very people whom they would rely upon without question in regards to other matters of halacha and Chashkofa. The entire situation in regards to social distancing and mask wearing is also so difficult to understand as the Torah and Chazal place such tremendous importance on the sanctity of life and concept of Chillul Hashem especially for those who live in the Diaspora. Not wearing a mask in a shop is not going to cause someone to go of the derech and not having Netlfix is irrelevant or and not having several scattered minyanim Shabbos morning to limit numbers is not going to cause people to fall from the Torah way. Although a limited disregard for these laws is understandable, although I might personally disagree, however to disregard everything and to cause people to most probably die or at the very least became ill seems illogical and I am personally at a loss to explain the behaviour and find it truly heart breaking.

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  20. I am an Avreich who learns in a big Charedi Yeshivah in Yerushalayim. I was diagnosed with Corona this week and am currently in Bidud. The Yeshivah I belong to continued throughout this current lockdown as if usual, with busloads of Avreichim coming in everyday and no efforts as social distancing enforced or encouraged in the Yeshivah.

    At the moment there are very few Avreichim who have not contracted Covid over the past couple of months - I was one of the last, meaning that there is very little incentive for the Yeshivah to close anyways even if they wanted to.

    I was very reluctant to go into the Yeshivah last week due to the situation and the lockdown, however the fact that my Chavrusas and Chaburah were functioning as normal meant that I felt like I was missing out and bucking the trend to stay at home when everyone else was continuing as usual. In retrospect the situation is crazy and almost unbelievable, in the Yeshiva Covid is non-existent asides from the odd missing Avreich who is recovering from Covid and the signs on displayed on the notice boards asking us to daven. I am embarassed and ashamed to be even considered part of such an institution and I wish I had the courage to stay home and buck the trend.

    Indeed, I can testify that everything written in this article (my Yeshivah is in Meah Shearim) is 100% true https://www.jpost.com/opinion/haredi-autonomy-is-killing-israel-with-covid-19-656279
    I have thought long and hard as to the rationale and justification behind ignoring Covid - and whilst on the surface the people around me justify it because of the price of Torah learning that clearly isn't the real reasoning, or at least for 99% of the community, rather I also came to the same conclusion along the lines of Rabbi Slifkin that it is a general attitude of ignoring all attempts to influence their way of life. The insular Charedi community has morphed into a crazy and sick almost idol worshipping habitat which values insularity over anything else. It will cling on to its way of life all the stronger if threatened by something like Covid- what drives them is not the desire to do G-Ds will but rather the desire to push back against any attempts to influence their way of life - that is idol worship. Whilst on an individual basis I value the community greatly there is so much good and the insularity is fantastic in building a true Torah lifestyle. However, on a community level it has led to these types of terrible atrocities and Chillul Hashem.

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