I am writing this post on behalf of myself. Not on behalf of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County, simply for myself. I have surveyed the response to how members of our community are dealing with our current health crisis and I am worried.
To claim there is animosity toward the chasidic community in Rockland is nothing new. But the volume and severity of the threats its members are receiving is something we have not seen before. There are countless news reports of people continuing to gather and not social distancing. Church services, beach parties, golf outings, biker funerals, and the like have all been going on. Synagogues and mikvehs have been closed for weeks, yet the chasidim bear the brunt of the blame for spreading the virus.
To pretend that some in the chasidic community are not social distancing would be a lie. To pretend that all of them are guilty would be an even greater lie. Because many of them dress similarly and have similar hairstyles, it is easy to view one of them as all of them. But we cannot allow the few to define the many.
As covid-19 cases rise, we also see a rise in paranoia over who’s to blame. But hate is just as contagious as the virus. Day after day threats against the chasidim pile up online. These are not anonymous threats on underground message boards. These are on Facebook groups with people’s names and pictures presented proudly next to their comments, saying police need to round them up and the fire department should turn their hoses on their gatherings. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but I remember a time when our country routinely applied these techniques to African Americans and peace protests. We do not want to return to such a time.
I am the son of Holocaust survivors. I’ve heard stories my entire life about where hate can lead. Such a comparison may seem hyperbolic, but when there’s literal talk of rounding up the Jews and keeping them in containment zones, I can’t help but worry how far people will go.
During this month of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan, I hope we all take the time to reflect on what our actions were and what they will be. We will not overcome this health crisis by finger-pointing and calling for violence. We cannot allow ourselves to be overly skeptical of one group while overly sympathetic to another.
Please be considerate of one another. Please stay safe. And please stay sane.