It was common in the Middle Ages for Jews to get the blame for the spreading of disease. In the 14th century, Jews were accused of poisoning wells, infecting the water with something terrible that was then transferred to the whole community.
There was of course never one shred of evidence of this. The Black Death had nothing to do with the Jews—it was a bacterial infection transferred through many sources—but they caught the blame anyway. Indeed, that’s where we get the phrase “poisoning the well.” It has anti-Semitic connotations in history.
Scapegoating Jews is a habit with ancient origins. It is an ominous sign and a terrible omen of what is to follow. Indeed, the treatment of the Jews in any society is a “canary in a coal mine.” When they are unjustly blamed for social ills, nothing good follows. We know this from all experience dating to the ancient world.
To go “medieval” on a virus not only involves bad virology such as the miasma theory of disease spread, which the United States did indeed adopt. It was as if the whole of 20th-century scientific understanding just went out the window.
It also meant no modern medical care, which we also did by intubating patients to their deaths. We also got rid of dentistry: it was nearly impossible to get an appointment anywhere in the country for about six weeks. And then of course, as part of going Medieval, the attacks on the Jews began.
As a precondition of the attack, please recall that governments all over the country forbid in-person community religious worship. They shut down churches, chapels, synagogues, temples, everything, all in the name of disease control. The rights won from half a millennium of experience were thrown out the window by secular states.
Most institutions and groups complied. Some did not. That’s when the attacks began.
The center of Jewish resistance was of course the boroughs in New York City (Queens and The Bronx) with a high concentration of Orthodox Jews, particularly the Hasidim and Haredim. The attacks that began in May emanated from both the Governor’s office and the Mayor’s office, happily echoed for a full year of breathless reporting from the New York Times. They sent reporters out to discover and report unapproved gatherings of Jews and filed reports such as this one from Nov. 24, 2020:
“Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered to celebrate a wedding inside a cavernous hall in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood earlier this month, dancing and singing with hardly a mask in sight. The wedding was meticulously planned, and so were efforts to conceal it from the authorities, who said that the organizers would be fined $15,000 for violating public health restrictions.”
How dare they dance and sing without masks!
And yet a few months later, the mayor was defending BLM protestors and their right to gather.
Oh, we see now. Jews are the other, the noncompliant, the enemy amongst us. Where have we heard that before?
Anthony Fauci got in on the act; “when vaccinations get below that number you start to see outbreaks like we saw some time ago in the NYC area with Hasidic Jewish people who were not getting vaccinated.”
Early on, Cuomo himself singled out Jews. “I understand religious gatherings, I understand the Jewish Orthodox community .... But now is not the time for large religious gatherings. We’ve paid this price already. We’ve learned this lesson.”
Actually, the real lesson we have learned is that secular leaders who forcibly prevent religious people from practicing their faith are despots and dangerous. That reality didn’t stop all the leaders in the United States from targeting people of faith and scapegoating their traditions for disease spread.
All of this required that many Jews had to hide weddings and funerals from the hounds of government and media for the better part of two years. It seems astonishing to consider that this happened. Many decades of “never again” education and Holocaust museums around the world seemed not to have any effect when it came down to it.
Let’s be clear about the Jewish and Christian view toward singing. It stems from a deep religious conviction. When God created Adam, God gave him life by breathing into him. So our very breath is a gift from God. When we sing praises to God, we are giving that gift back to God in thanksgiving. That’s why the book that Jews and Christian shared most in common is the collected Psalms of David.
Any government at any time that bans ritual singing by a religious group is attacking a core belief and the religion itself. It’s literally demonic. And yet it went on in government and media circles for a year or longer, and without any evidence that singing was deadly or otherwise detrimental to community health. Hardly anyone even bothered standing up for the rights of people in these times.
There is a larger point about religious communities and loyalties. The COVID response was supposed to involve “the whole of government” and the “whole of society” but what about those who have loyalties to God first and must obey his commands? The expectation was that they would give in. Most did. But some did not: many Orthodox Jews, the Amish, traditionalist Catholics, fundamentalist Mormons, and, later, evangelicals. Their faith protected them against the pseudo-science of the medical and secular elites. In the end, faith led the dissidents to a better science too.
These are not the views of a people ready to comply with every cockamamie edict from Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And good for them. After long experience, religions have codified this suspicion and even sang about it. The Psalmist expresses the attitude perfectly: “Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of your word.” The Psalmist also says: “He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.”
Take note from recent experience. The first attacked were passionate adherents of the Jewish faith. And this happened over an extended period of time with nary a raised eyebrow from anyone in the mainstream press. Indeed, too many Jewish leaders themselves let the whole thing slide.
Too many complied and not enough defied. Certainly not enough people spoke out as the media and governments “went Medieval” and blamed the Jews for spreading disease.
As they say, never again!