Sydney Beth Din says Jewish society is closer and therefore vulnerable

March 20, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Sydney Beth Din says it has an obligation to the entire community, to advise and make public our Halachic view in dealing with Coronavirus and wants any member of the community who has recently returned from Melbourne to self-isolate for 14 days.

In a statement, the SBD says the Jewish community is more socially close with each other than the general Australian community.

According to the SBD: “Patterns of spread of disease are much more intense than they are in general communities as has been demonstrated tragically around the world. Government guidelines made to guide the general public may not be sufficiently protective for specific communities.

We have received a multitude of reports that social separation in place prior to the Jewish Community outbreaks overseas was too little and too late. Doctor after doctor literally implored their communities to socially isolate and stay at home. Israel’s Minister of Defence Naftali Bennet describes how the disease can be spread through people who are infected but otherwise are apparently healthy. He implores us that there should be a physical separation between even grandparents and grandchildren.”

The SBD continues to believe that the formation of any communal minyan for prayer, in any Synagogue, outside or inside, in a park or elsewhere is absolutely forbidden according to Jewish Law. This applies to everyone, whether saying kaddish or for any other reason. One not only endangers one’s own life but the lives of others that subsequently one may come in contact with.

The statement continues: “In relation to Kaddish, be assured that the mitzvah of protecting one’s fellow Jew certainly gives nachas to the soul as much as Kaddish if not more. There are also many other mitzvos that can be performed in honour of the departed. Please contact your own Rabbi for further advice.

We will as a single united community pray at home, and that unity, in caring for the health and welfare of our fellow men and women, will without a doubt hold us in good stead with the Almighty in the place of communal prayer.

Similarly, Simchas must be limited to immediate family only. Immediate family means only family members that are anyway in regular contact. In the case of a wedding, each side should practice social distancing from each other, and there should be no contact dancing.

We have taken advice from the medical profession in Sydney dealing with Covid 19 as well as colleagues and doctors overseas. The advice is that we must make every attempt to protect ourselves in advance and not resort to “it won’t happen here”. Halacha does not permit us to take that risk. We are not permitted to just “rely on the government” may have other considerations that are not purely “pikuach nefesh” and certainly do not have in mind the unique dynamic of the close nit nature our community. In any event we do not want to react after the event, as so many governments have done, but we wish to be proactive.

There is always a great deal of close interaction between the Sydney and Melbourne Jewish communities, including following the recent confirmation of at least three positive diagnosis of Covid 19 in the Melbourne observant community. The advice we have received is that potentially over the next several weeks unless we take drastic measures now, there may be infection on a mass scale.

We, therefore, advise that anyone who has returned from Melbourne has the Halachic imperative to self-isolate for fourteen days from the day of their return as if they had been overseas. If they have already returned, they should self-isolate from now until the completion of the fourteen days from arrival. We implore every member of the community who has returned, particularly those who have been in large crowds at Simchas, to behave in the socially responsible manner and self-isolate. Is avoiding the inconvenience worth the risk, no matter how small, of potentially putting in danger the lives of those to whom this disease may spread? How much more so with Covid 19 that spreads in such an insidious manner. If during the fourteen days, you experience any symptoms, see your doctor immediately.

In general, our advice for everyone else is to stay at home, work from home, keep your children at home, and when there is a need to venture out, ensure social distancing. Avoid any unnecessary contact. Hashem gave us cell phones, Skype, Whatsapp and every other means of social media in order to keep connected at this time.”

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