While New York continues to suffer greatly from the new coronavirus pandemic that has claimed nearly 15,000 lives in the US so far, members of the Empire State’s Orthodox Jewish community continue to refuse to observe social distance. A large concentration of the Hasidic Jewish population lives in Brooklyn, where some of the most severe districts are located.
In Rockland County, located not too far from Brooklyn, 13,506 cases of the corona virus have been reported while 135 lives have been lost. The district is home to more than 320,000 people and the largest Orthodox community lives there. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal in 2014, the number of Hasidic Jews living in the area was 60,000.
Also in Borough Park and Williamsburg, two neighborhoods in Brooklyn, some continue to oppose the rules of social distance to gather at the funerals of people killed by the virus. Both neighborhoods have more than 550 cases of infection and can surge to more than 1,600, New York City health data released on April 7, said, according to Daily Mail.
On April 5, New York Police Department personnel (NYPD) tried soft ways to convince the public to keep a minimum distance of six feet from each other at funerals or wear masks or gloves.
According to local reports, the appeal fell on deaf ears. Last month too, police personnel were seen dispersing a crowd of Hasidic Jews who came to get free food at Brooklyn ‘Yeshiva’ (religious education institutions).
If not all, hundreds went out on the road only hours later to mourn the death of a rabbi or spiritual leader and they also refused to withdraw even though the police rang the sirens.
Community leaders say only a small portion of the population ignores social advice, but lawmakers worry that such meetings will not only put their own lives but also many others in danger.
Hasidic Jews came under scanners last year also when a measles outbreak in Brooklyn was linked to a community that did not take their children for vaccinations. The current situation is a far greater threat because there is no vaccine for COVID-19.
Ed Day, Republican executive, Brooklyn, to The New York Times that the situation is “annoying”. “By going to this cemetery and being close to each other, they will curse others for going to the ground,” he said.
New York Andrew Cuomo, who had slammed the meeting many times, said on April 7 that he understood and sympathized with the people and their desire to bury their loved ones but added that it was not the right time. He called on the NYPD to be more aggressive in dividing religious communities from all religions, including Orthodox Judaism.
Community leaders appeal to distance the social
Rabbis in some communities also pleaded with their congregations to observe social distance.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a letter, “When the COVID-19 global pandemic changed life on planet Earth, there was absolutely no way similar to our holiday celebrations last year. The fear of distance, shelter in place, and widespread fear are significant obstacles to making Pesach happen at all, much less embracing it as a time of joy and renewal. “
“This year, let’s open the door of technology to our homes for all those who might feel lonely or isolated or who need connections and spiritual renewal that can be provided seder,” he added.
Cuomo said at a press conference earlier this week that the country was approaching a number of festivals but warned that nothing could be done even if people were offended because they were not allowed to hold meetings.