I Am Disappointed with Our Community

From the Anash.org Inbox: “I am putting pen to paper because I am pained, upset, and frankly disappointed”.

I am putting pen to paper because I am pained, upset, and frankly disappointed at the Crown Heights community which as a whole (with extremely few exceptions) have totally abandoned social distancing and mask wearing.

But first of all, I must confess. I too sometimes walk into public indoor spaces without a mask, and I can hear the voices saying that perhaps I shouldn’t be writing about this topic, when I am not so careful about it myself.

But alas, I cave in to social pressure and I think that this is a case where the dictum “accept the truth from he who says it” applies, so I ask of you all to please take heed of the content of this article while ignoring the behavior of the writer of the article.

The reasons for social distancing and wearing masks are many:

1) Public Health – Although the doctors in the community had at some point given us a green light to return to normalcy, and many understood this as a green light to stop social distancing and wearing masks, this changed a few weeks ago. At that point with the re-emerging of cases of covid in the community, and concerns about possible reinfection the doctors found it fit to emphasize the importance of social distancing and wearing masks once again.

Halacha demands that we listen to doctors, and although there are many good arguments as to why social distancing and mask use may no longer be necessary, it is clear that one is obligated to listen to the doctors whether you agree with them or not.

2) Chilul Hashem and eivah (enmity), – Whatever one may think about the actual health risks, perhaps the bigger question really is as follows:

What message are we giving to our secular Jewish neighbors and visitors, as well as non Jewish neighbors, when we abandon social distancing and mask use at a time when most of the secular and non Jewish world are still abiding by these restrictions?

It seems to me that this is a Chilul Hashem of the greatest proportions and that we ought to remind ourselves that we have been tasked with bringing Jews back to Judaism and being a light unto the nations. Certainly, the way to do it is not by ignoring the social norms of the rest of us that are around us.

3) The law – it is the law to social distance and wear masks, and it behooves us to follow the law and do our part to be loyal citizens of the ‘Malchus shel chesed’ that we are privileged to be a part of.

4) Ahavas Yisroel – finally and in my opinion most importantly: There are many vulnerable people in the community, particularly the elderly, who are concerned about the virus and do not believe it is over. This is clear from the fact that many of them wear masks and many others hardly leave their home.

Don’t you think they would feel more comfortable and cared for if us young people would wear masks just simply out of Ahavas Yisroel and sensitivity to them.

So even if you and I and the rest of the young crown heights community agree that as a community we are no longer at any risk of an outbreak, the many elderly people who are staying at home and wearing masks when going outside clearly don’t think so. How about a little sensitivity for how they feel? How about making them feel that little bit more comfortable when they venture out to the store for their essential needs? They don’t think it’s over – and whether they are right or wrong, I think they deserve the basic decency and respect, knowing that we are thinking of them and care about them and how they feel.

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