My father, whose 10th Yahrzeit is the fourth day of Chanukah, did not like to talk about his growing up in the Lower East Side. It was an experience that he wanted to forget. However, one story he did mention on more than one occasion was his experience working in a kosher butcher. He remembered that that the owner, who was a religious man, would put his thumb on the scale when weighing the meat to increase the weight. This had a profound negative effect on the level of his religious observance. I am sure he was not the only one whose level of religious observance was negatively affected by conduct of religious Jews.
Unfortunately, on occasion when there are publicly reported incidents involving religious Jews when they engaged in improper conduct or a non-religious person who had a bad experience with religious Jews, the secularists question me about the Jewish religion. They claim that if this is how religious Jews act, it shows that there is something wrong with the Jewish religion. It pains me to have to answer these questions. My answer is always that the fault is not with the Jewish religion, it is with the people who engage in activities which are contrary to the religious beliefs they espouse. In other words, the Torah is perfect, but the people are flawed.
I see a similar argument made by those who are against regulations set forth by various state and local governmental entities to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. They point to various elected officials who flout the rules they set for their communities, such as mask-wearing, group gathering, traveling, etc. Their argument is: Why should anyone abide by the rules if those who made them are not following them? They do not realize the flaw is not with the rules but with those who set the rules and do not follow them. I agree that those in charge must set an example by abiding by the rules they set or otherwise administer. It is unfortunate when an elected official does not abide by the rules. They should be called out for their conduct, whether it is the president, a governor, or a mayor.
As the numbers continue to grow, it is getting worse by the day. By the time this column is read, 300,000 people will have died from COVID-19. There are records in the number of people per day testing positive or in the number of hospitalizations. It should not be surprising, since winter is coming. People are forced to do more things inside without any outside ventilation. Furthermore, many people are getting tired of the mask and social distancing routines and letting their guard down.
In my neighborhood of Kew Gardens Hills, the CDC requirements generally are being taken seriously. I see the line at the library waiting to take a COVID test and feel heartened that people are serious about making sure they are safe and will not harm others. Unfortunately, there are some communities that still have not gotten the message and do what they want. They continue to engage in reckless and dangerous activity concerning the virus.
It would have been expected that the exponential rise in cases, deaths, and hospitalizations would have had more of an effect, so those who do not comply would be few and far between. Unfortunately, people become immune to numbers. That is why it is important to mention personal stories of families who have lost loved ones from COVID or others who have suffered because of the virus. Jews understand this firsthand. People who would not blink at hearing the number six million are affected when they visit the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam.
We all need to work together and get through the next few months until the vaccine is available to the vast majority of people.