Gerrer yeshiva
Gerrer yeshivaYossi Zeliger/Flash90

Berele Crombie, a public relations worker in the religious and haredi sector, addressed the conduct of the haredi sector in the face of coronavirus restrictions in general and the significant gap between the conduct of the community during the first wave and the current wave in an interview with Arutz Sheva.

In his opening remarks, Crombie emphasized that he himself "strictly adheres to the guidelines. I am only interpreting what is happening in the haredi sector."

"There are two critical stages in the haredi sector, between the first and second waves. In the first wave there was a lot of criticism, people did not act carefully because of lack of knowledge, lack of understanding and contempt. This improved dramatically and we reached a situation where communities became even stricter than they were on kashrut laws," he said.

Crombie sees the conduct of the Gur Hasidic sect as a model for what is happening in many other Hasidic sects and as a model for the haredi sector in general. "I have prayed many times with the Gerrer Hasidim. When you come for prayers, if there is a suspicion that you aren't covering your nose with your mask then they will scold you. They stand at a distance and don't talk to each other." However, he said, "in the second wave, it's a whole other matter."

"The Hasidism that most adhered to the guidelines, the Gur Hasidism, who invested NIS 7 million in the layout of the capsules, built new mikvahs so that there would be a mikveh for each capsule, on Rosh Hashanah they built tents outside the beit midrash to pray outside and only by lottery could someone enter the beit midrash. Etc. After all this right after Rosh Hashanah there was a big outbreak, probably because of something that happened two weeks earlier. There were hundreds of patients and people said they were throwing up their hands in defeat.

"They look at Hasidism like Belz and the extremist Hasidism that gathered on Lag B'Omer in Mea Shearim and similar events despite the threat of hundreds of deaths - which did not happen, thank G-d. They look at all this and say that it is possible that in today's situation in the density of life and living conditions, reality is stronger than any outline, regardless of whether we keep it or not. In the end, everyone will be infected."

Crombie believes that in the haredi sector there is now a conscious decision, similar to that of Boris Johnson in the UK and that of US President Trump, to reach herd immunity. "There is a dramatic change in the conscious decision to protect the elderly and get to the point mass herd infection. That's what they have done in many yeshivas after the capsules system collapsed in them and the yeshivas became Corona hotels. The guys were a bit sick with something like the flu and got through it and now the yeshiva has herd immunity."

On the fear of re-infection, Crombie says that even in New York there is no such fear and that it is "claimed that they have moved past the coronavirus because the World Health Organization said that seventy percent have been infected. Therefore at the Trump campaign rallies they don't maintain [sic] and don't wear masks, it is forbidden to enter the White House with a mask. This stems from an approach for which it is clear how true it is, that whoever was infected has developed antibodies and there is no chance of further infection."

According to Crombie, among the considerations facing the haredi sector is the issue of possible desecration of G-d's name. "Many people in the haredi sector say that even though we maintained social distancing, wore masks, weren't with our families for the seder, we were still blamed and considered spreaders of the disease. So if we are blamed anyway and there is no chance of changing the narrative, then we might as well get through this to the best of our understanding."

"The significant point is to understand what is happening through Gur Hasidism which is the model. It is a Hasidic group that was zealously cautious, and when it collapsed the whole haredi society that looked at Gur Hasidism said that if even they raised their hands in defeat there is probably nothing to do."

Arutz Sheva asked what Crombie thought it would be appropriate for the Health Ministry to do in response to these developments. "For the haredi community, it is very simple. It is an obedient community. When you convince the Admors, the public will follow them. It is no easy task to convince hundreds of Admorim, but we saw the Prime Minister's conversation with the Rebbe of Viznitz. In the eyes of the Rebbe, the story of the desecration of G-d's name is significant and if the leadership succeeds in talking to the Rebbe, they may be able to move the wheel, even if it is difficult to assume that this will happen."