Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Three Times as Many Charedim Over 60 are Dying

Preparing COVID victims for burial (VIN)
I happened to hear an old song on the radio in my car yesterday by Queen called  ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’ It was one of the most popular songs of 1980 when it was released. I couldn’t help thinking how sadly appropriate that song is for our time. 

According to one report I heard a few days ago, COVID-19 is the biggest cause of death in the US today. Kills more people than either heart disease or cancer. It was just about last year at this time that the US had is first COVID fatality. One year later over 460,000 people in the US have died so far! And the number keeps growing. 

For those who don’t get the song title, ‘biting the dust’ is an idiom for dying. It is usually not uttered about people we know or care about. I sometimes wonder if that’s the reason the Charedi world has reacted so poorly to the pandemic. The fact that so many of our own people have died from COVID - including many respected religious figures has nevertheless not moved them enough to be more careful. 

It seems as though the opposite has happened. Huge and unmasked Charedi weddings and funerals seem to be saying exactly that. They don’t care. People are dying everyday and their reaction is more or less ‘Another one bites the dust’... and they just move on, hardly even noticing it

Just last week three of the most prominent religious figures in Orthodox Judaism succumbed to COVID. And on practically  the same day a few Shuls in Chicago declared that they are now mask optional! If one goes to Lakewood one will be hard pressed to see anyone masked at all in that town. 

Meanwhile the Charedi world is the hardest hit by the pandemic. At least in Israel. VIN reports the following: 

Professor Eran Segal, a Weizmann Institute researcher whose studies are presented to the coronavirus cabinet in the Israeli government, revealed a startling fact Monday regarding the mortality of the 60+ age group in Israel. 

In the chareidi sector in Israel, 1 in every 100 people over the age of 60 passed away from the virus, as opposed to 1 in every 140 Arabs in this age group and 1 in every 350 in the general public in Israel. 

Prof. Segal added that “if the level of infection in the general population had been similar to that of the chareidi population, there would have been a possible 7,600 more fatalities in the 60+ age group, which represents 93% of those who passed away from coronavirus. 

How in heaven’s name can the Charedi world be so casual about this when it is their people that are  dying the most from the disease? How can they keep losing great leaders to COVID and then turn around and discard a precaution known to help reduce transmission of the disease? Is this how the most religious among us behave? Do they not care that their percentages of COVID deaths among people over 60 is over 3 times that of the rest of society? If their percentage of death is so much greater than anyone else, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to be doing more - not less? 

For those who see this as yet another attack against the Charedi world… that is not what I’m doing. I’m trying to save them from themselves by urging them to be more careful with their health. Why do they violate one the most important Mitzvos of the Torah – to guard their lives exceedingly? 

They are not guarding their lives. They are risking in their lives. And for what? So they can be a little more comfortable in Shul for the half hour or so they spend there every morning? Or is it because they are just plain tired of the whole thing and couldn’t care less that so many of their own died? Believing that its not going to happen to them.

Do they think it is God’s will to kill a greater proportion of Charedim over 60 than anyone else? And that there is simply nothing they can do about it?  

I just don’t get it. I know I keep saying that. But that’s because... well... I don’t.