Sunday, April 11, 2021

Can Covid Cautious People Now Rejoin a Covid Reckless Shul?

What is the "right" way for people who were Covid cautious to relate to people who were Covid reckless?  For example, let's say you belong to a shul that went back to normal as early as last summer. The shul made no special provisions for the Covid cautious, and many of the members were mask shamers - or worse.  For the last several months, you and like-minded members have been praying outdoors or observing precautions indoors, but eventually, you will have to make a choice. Rejoin, or stand on principle.

The problem for many Covid cautious people in this situation is that they feel betrayed by their synagogues.  As a result, going back is hard. Re-establishing friendly terms with the people who committed this betrayal is hard. From childhood, Covid cautious Orthodox Jews were taught to honor the following ideals:

Rules apply to everyone
Science is reliable
In matters of halacha we follow the scientific experts 
We need to show respect and concern for our neighbors
We should always strive to be mekadesh shem shamayim in our behavior
We should go out of our way not to harm others in any fashion
We should minimize eiva
In religious matters, we should always error on the side of caution (be machmer) 

The Covid reckless, and the institutions that supported them, rejected all of these ideals. 

To get inside the head of a Covid cautious person who belongs to a Covid reckless community, consider the following example: Imagine your Orthodox shul installed an organ. To make it worse, imagine that your shul did this not on the basis of a sound halachic position, but in deference to a trend, and also as a way of showing political support for an immoral, hedonistic, vulgarian who strongly encouraged the trend. 

Would you understand why Jews who were brought up with different Jewish values might now feel betrayed, why they might balk at rejoining such a place, even after the organ was removed? Aren't the Covid cautious who belong to Covid reckless communities now in the exact same situation?