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I follow the news. Well, at least a little. I get a daily Need 2 Know update. It’s awesome, and I’m a huge fan.
But the other day I read two separate stories, and they made my blood boil.
The News of New York
The first story was about how awful New York City is doing after more than half a year of getting its ass kicked by the Coronavirus.
Restaurants are closing down. For good! Left and right, businesses are locking their doors, businesses none of us will ever get to see again. The city is in economic shambles, and things are only going to get worse if the businesses continue to be required to stay closed.
And how long will they stay closed? Until the city can severely reduce the numbers of new cases, whenever that might be.
The Jews of New York
In a somewhat unrelated story, the orthodox Jewish community was mentioned.
Now, after several years of receiving these emails, Israel or the Jewish people may have been mentioned a dozen or so times. My initial reaction is always excitement. Yay! Look at us. We’re in the international news.
But then I read what it’s about, and it’s almost never good. What in the news ever is!? We’re much better off staying as far away from the news as possible.
And this moment was by no means an exception.
Why did New York’s Jewish community find its way into the news? Because of a wildly disproportionate rate of Covid cases among its residents. It was explained that in these communities, compliance with regulations is rare if not flagrantly violated. And with rabbinical approval!
And I was so upset.
Why? For two main reasons.
The first is a concept called Chillul Hashem, which is a mega-important Jewish idea that says we should never do anything to embarrass our people or the Jewish faith. And here you have members of my people, wantonly risking their lives and the lives of everyone around them. And doing so in such a dramatic fashion that it reached the international news!
Now that is Chillul Hashem at levels I have not witnessed in my lifetime.
And there are some truths about this that are very uncomfortable.
You might be as far as possible from a Chassidic Jew in Boro Park, Brooklyn. Physically, philosophically, and in outward appearance. It doesn’t matter! That loud moron seen on TV running around without a mask represents you. Like it or not.
Every outward Jew has always and will always represent every Jew. That’s the way it has been for thousands of years, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. In fact, it’s usually the loudest person who gets to represent us. And therefore we are forced to be held to a higher standard. My thoughtless action, if it gets too much attention, could impact the life of a Jew somewhere in Venezuela. And that’s just the way it is.
So don’t say those people are not my kind of orthodox. And don’t say I’m not orthodox, so they don’t represent me. It doesn’t matter. History says otherwise.Chillul Hashem is a mega-important Jewish idea that says we should never do anything to embarrass our people or the Jewish faith. Click To Tweet
Blaming the Jews
And speaking of history, this brings me to the second reason I’m upset. And this is no laughing matter.
For generations, the Jewish people have been blamed for things. The justifications are mind-numbingly stupid, when we look back at them. A deadly plague swept across Europe, something so mysterious and misunderstood. People at large sought an explanation. What did they come up with? It must be the Jews are poisoning the wells!
A Christian boy goes missing. Where could he be? It must be that Jewish people snatched the child in order to murder him and use his blood to make wine and matzah.
These may sound inane at best to the modern ear, but these rumors resulted in the massacres of scores of Jewish people. They existed even after they were definitively proven false. And to some extent, they still exist to this very day.
But it was all lies, propaganda, and excuses. If you hate the Jewish people, you’ll always find a reason to do so.
So for thousands of years people came up with far-fetched explanations to loathe and ultimately murder our people. And those explanations were patently false…
What About Now?
Now, we are at a very problematic and complicated crossroads.
What if there were a city jam-packed with Jews who were ignoring the rules, spreading Corona like wildfire, completely disproportionately represented in the daily infection rates? And what if because of the outrageously high infection rates, there were a guy whose restaurant needed to be closed for the past two months, without any end in sight to the closure?
He built that business from scratch. Used up all of his savings. And it was doing pretty well, until March of 2020, everyone’s least favorite month in modern history. And now he’s stuck. He’s either headed for insanely miserable financial times or he’ll face economic ruin from which he will never be able to recover.
So with tears in his eyes, he closes down his restaurant for good. The dream he’d been working for his entire life is now lying in ashes.
And for the first time in thousands of years of history, someone can say the sentence, “This is because of the Jews”… and there’s actually a shred of truth to the statement.
I Hope You’re Proud
I hope those who are ignoring the rules and spreading misery and death throughout their communities are proud of themselves.
They’ve chosen to ignore rules and restrictions designed to keep people safe in favor of listening to ignorant authorities who believe praying with a large group is more valuable than the sanctity of human life.
Their choice is objectively wrong. It’s wrong morally. It’s wrong scientifically. And it’s even wrong in the eyes of Jewish law, which places life as the highest value above just about all else in almost every circumstance.
Members of my people have shamed the Jewish nation.
I am embarrassed and infuriated.
And I hope and pray for immediate change.