NY's Hasidic Community Continues to Attend Funerals Despite Virus Warnings - The Jewish Voice
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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

NY’s Hasidic Community Continues to Attend Funerals Despite Virus Warnings

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There is irony in the fact that Hasidic Jews who continue to hold public weddings and funerals in Brooklyn despite the coronavirus pandemic are themselves breaking Jewish law, which states that Jews must uphold the laws of the countries in which they reside.


Case in point: several hundred Hasidim turned out for the very public funeral for a local rabbi, Tzvi Hirsh Meislish. Crowds of mourners took to the streets Sunday night at Hewes Street near Marcy Avenue in Williamsburg.


Meislish, 80, reportedly was another victim of COVID-19, which also serves to underscore the irony.


Police, of course, responded the way police always do, breaking up the assemblage with sirens and blasting social distancing messages from PA systems. To the NYPD’s credit, officers refrained from making arrests or handing out citations.


“The NYPD needs all New Yorkers to cooperate with the ban on social gatherings in order to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” a police spokesperson told the New York Post. “It is important to note that the vast majority are following all guidelines. The NYPD will continue to enforce social distancing and any large gathering — including services — put both members of the public and officers at risk. These gatherings must cease immediately.”


Instances such as this are also causing rifts in the Orthodox community. “Some of Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox leaders are demanding an end to ongoing prayer services, funeral processions, and other illicit gatherings in parts of the community, as COVID-19 continues to rip through the tight-knit religious neighborhoods at disproportionate rates,” noted gothamist.com. “Frustrated by what they say is a continued dismissal of the threat of the virus, some members of the community have taken it upon themselves to ensure compliance from their neighbors. On Saturday, Dr. Stuart Ditcheck, a physician at NYU, called the police on the Chabad of Marine Park, one of the few synagogues that’s remained open in that section of Brooklyn.”


Such behavior is also causing theological arguments, with the long-held belief that leading a Torah life can protect individual Jews from harm is being hotly debated. The web site rationalistjudaism.com recently discussed Jews ignoring shelter-in-place orders in Israel and noted: “It’s horrific. A top health official estimated that nearly 40 percent of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak – around seventy-five thousand people – have contracted coronavirus. Per capita, its infection numbers are four times higher than the next most infected city, Jerusalem. The government met last night to approve a full, military-enforced closure on Bnei Brak… It’s a shocking thing for believers in Daas Torah to accept. It’s not just that Torah turns out not to protect against coronavirus. It’s that the mouthpieces of Torah, the living embodiments of Torah, the guiding lights of the community, gave utterly disastrous guidance, with fatal consequences.”


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