What are they thinking? A mask is not a political statement

Orthodox Jews protesting, dancing at Sukkot celebrations, praying inside secretly? Stop it! Worry about all of us, and yourselves! Op-ed.

Ronn Torossian‏ ,

Demonstrations in Borough Park
Demonstrations in Borough Park
Screenshot
Everyone should wear masks and keep social distance. Yes, everyone, even those who had the virus may still be contagious or, worse, be reinfected.

I am a proud traditional Jew. My children attend Jewish day schools and we attend Orthodox synagogues.

Inside and outside the Jewish community, mask wearing and social distancing should not be political statements.

As countless religious leaders have said, health is more important than minyans and mikva. This is a devastating virus which has shut down the entire world. None of us is exempt.

We should not be belittling it, quibbling about the Constitution, comparing neighborhoods or complaining about possible unequal treatment of our sector by governments - right now, we should just be concerned with keeping well and keeping those in contact with us well.

There are some distressing images from the Jewish community in both Israel and the United States.

In Jerusalem yesterday 18 people were arrested for disturbing the peace and throwing stones at officers during an operation to enforce coronavirus regulations in haredi neighborhoods in the city.

And throughout different areas of New York City, there have been images of religious people gathering for prayers, dancing at Sukkot celebrations - even protesting - and not wearing masks.

While the vast majority of the Jewish observant community is doing the right thing, those who don’t should be shunned. It is terribly sad that in both Israel and the United States Covid-19 cases have hit especially hard in haredi and hassidic areas.

Israel is on lockdown. Shas party Chairman Minister Arye Deri announced that "whoever doesn't heed the rules will remain in lockdown."

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that city schools in Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods experiencing coronavirus outbreaks will again be closed starting Tuesday – and many of these areas are in predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities including Borough Park, Midwood and Kew Gardens.

Cuomo said, “I would not send my child to a school in a hot-spot cluster. I am not going to recommend or allow any New York City family to send their child to a school that I wouldn’t send my child.”

While Deblasio and Cuomo are a complete disaster, and have terribly mismanaged many issues, on this one can understand their position because it is based simply on facts. Even if the vast majority of people wear masks, those who don’t put all of us in danger.

To not submit to contact tracing, to attempt to pray indoors in large groups, whatever the number of people who do this are wronging all of us and should be shunned.

The Orthodox community should ensure everyone wears masks and keeps social distance. To not do so puts all of us in danger and lets antisemitism out of the woodwork. Leaders should continue to speak out on the right side of this issue.

This is not a right wing vs left wing issue – it’s a right and wrong issue. All sane people should wear masks and social distance – whether they wear a kippa or streimel.

Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive.



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