Honor the rules — and the health of others
There was a recent story in the Chronicle about an engagement party in Australia in which COVID lockdowns were violated (“An illicit engagement party roils Australian Jews during new COVID-19 lockdown,” Aug. 20). It hit home, as we in Pittsburgh just experienced a similar event. It may not have been civil law being violated here, but posted building rules and laws of common sense were flouted just as much as in Australia.
Our parents taught us to call out any Jew who brings shame upon us, because it is important how the world sees us.
Two weeks ago, here in Pittsburgh, in the middle of a high transmission-rate pandemic, in a building where mask mandates are clearly stated at every entrance, hundreds of wedding party members and guests swarmed throughout a local synagogue, without masks, with no distancing, despite having been asked to wear masks. Yes, they had rented space for their wedding, and such happy events are welcome. But this seemed too much.
The building houses not only a congregation and its offices, but also the offices of other organizations, a caterer and two preschools. Employees of the synagogue and of the other organizations were present and working during the wedding. There was a water crisis going on in the building, yet the wedding party requested that the necessary portable toilets be covered over and rendered unusable before and during the wedding because they deemed them unsightly.
The maskless guests even used rooms which were not specifically rented to them, setting up little offices in spaces where others were working.
All of this amounts to a number of violations of basic commandments, not to mention common decency. They were risking their own health and the health of those around them, including those who work in the building and those who were going above and beyond to serve them.
What possible justification could anyone have for holding such a gathering anywhere in these times? One of the commandments which comes to mind is that we must not act as if the world revolves around ourselves. Considering that mandate, as well as those which relate to maintaining the health of the individual and the community, and never posing risks to others, all I can see is a shonda.
The world is watching. Australia or Pittsburgh, we are Jews. We all have common ancestors. We all say the same prayers, observe the same holidays. Please stop bringing such shame upon us all.