Office of Research at the University of California, Davis

Dear Editor,

Why does it have to take a resurgence in COVID illness, and more severe illnesses and deaths for people to finally wake up and start wearing masks?

COVID never went away, despite what plenty of people proclaimed all summer long. A rav I was speaking to in July said, “Masks are not needed anymore; COVID is over.”

R’l, he now has COVID himself. He should have a refuah sheleimah bkarov.

Why are people so stubborn? Why does it need to come to this for people to think that maybe they need to comply with the law (yes, the law) and wear masks?

Let’s review what’s happened in the past few weeks:

1) People have made weddings and other events that are way too big with no social distancing and minimal, if any, use of masks.

2) Some schools have reopened, but without truly enforcing the rules

3) Some shuls are packed and almost nobody wears masks

4) People make kiddushim and other events as if COVID never happened.

Where has this led us? To an uptick. G-d willing, people will wake up and take this seriously before it gets much worse.

Why are the media and mayor targeting the frum communities? I agree that they are unfairly calling us out, when there are plenty of other communities that are also flagrantly disregarding precautions.

But we are not like the other communities. We are an Am Kadosh and we must act like one. The rules are annoying and they’re restrictive, but they’re in place to protect us and everyone else.

We are supposed to set the example for others. We need to show everyone else how it’s done.

We have an obligation to wear masks any time we’re among other people we don’t live with, and we have an obligation to social distance whenever possible.

Not when it’s convenient, but when it’s at all possible, we must do so.

Please, I beg everybody, please just listen. It will help:

  1. keep our shuls open
  2. keep our schools open
  3. keep our stores open
  4. keep our businesses open
  5. let us hold on to some semblance of normal life

Don’t tell me that you don’t need to wear a mask because Hashem decides everyone’s fate. It’s true that Hashem makes the ultimate decision but there’s the concept of hishtadlus and bechirah. He gives us a choice to try to help ourselves first, and then we must rely on Him to make our efforts successful.

Ignoring the guidelines that the vast majority and medical experts agree on (not to mention it’s the law in most places) is simply relying on miracles, and that is something we’re not supposed to do.

B’H, lately more people are wearing masks and I hope they’re social distancing too. In the z’chus of all of Klal Yisrael setting a good example and meticulously following the COVID rules as we do our Torah rules, may HKBH bring the refuah for this terrible plague quickly and without any more sickness and loss of life.


Preventing Further Shul Closings

I’d like to make people aware of a protocol that, perhaps, they may be unaware of. Nassau County and NY City Board of Health have both recommended 12 feet spacing for religious services where there is singing, chanting, or loud sermons. Take note: it’s not the standard 6 feet social distancing; it’s double that.

A recent article published by Dr. Sicklick states:

“If you walk in a room and it’s overcrowded (no 6 ft., or in a shul, 12 ft. distancing) walk out. This applies to any social gatherings and religious services. Don’t go in, and if you’re already there, walk out.”

I can’t emphasize sufficiently what Dr. Aaron Glatt stated about a month before Rosh Hashanah. Besides outlining the seriousness of COVID, he specifically stated that we worked hard to try to get our shuls reopened. If we don’t behave, we should remember that the government is more powerful than we are. At any moment they can close our shuls, and we won’t have much to say about it.

People sent scathing insulting remarks to Dr. Glatt for having said this. Guess what? Dr. Glatt was exactly right. NY State government forced shul closings in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and other areas exactly before Simchat Torah. A last-minute lawsuit by Agudah failed in court. Shuls were closed. If you were one of those affected by this, how does that make you feel, whether you’re a shul attender or not?

I shudder to think that my neighborhood may soon be next on Cuomo’s list, because my neighborhood’s rate was close to the mark, and I hate to think what secretly occurred during yom tov in other shuls in my neighborhood. We’ll discover the results in the next few days. I can tell you, that hearing or reading about shul closings anywhere and at any time but especially on yom tov bothers me emotionally. I don’t care where this happens. We can all argue and fight against the rulings of the governments involved in this decision. It’s a tough fight, and until we win, the shuls will stay closed until the numbers go down to our governor’s liking — whatever that number is.

In short, anyone who thinks that Governor Cuomo, Dr. Glatt, or anyone else was joking about shul closings hopefully got a reality check. I know that no matter what, there will still be many who will just do what they want and open up shuls in their homes and crowd it with as many people as they feel like accommodating. It’s just a matter of time before these people get caught and get fined or jailed — assuming that will deter them — as well.

Davening is meant to be in a shul — not outdoors. That’s a halachic viewpoint. The shuls also act as a social gathering place. Many are more than just a davening location. Prior to COVID, the ballroom and/or one of the other catering rooms were busy pretty much weekly. Since COVID hit in March, the shul has lost a major income source by not being able to rent out this room.

Whether your shul is a large place similar to mine or a smaller place, suffice to say that if the shul is closed for too long, it’s taking an economic loss. Every shul is, in some way, a business. The building is still there, electricity and heat has to be run; administrative workers and maintenance workers are still there and they expect salaries. All this is occurring while services are prohibited. It’s economically dangerous to keep shuls closed for that long.

In summary, if you want the shuls to reopen, inconvenience yourself a bit by masking and social distancing and doing every effort to get the numbers down so that the government will be willing to allow shuls to reopen. Religious Jews are experts at following numerous uncomfortable rules, many that seem illogical. I’d like to see more people set aside their differences and qualms with these regulations, for now. Consider the bigger picture and maybe, for once, stop being selfish and thinking about their own failed agenda.



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