Is Attending a Political Protest More Important than Attending a Funeral?

American rabbis were strongly in favor of strict "stay at home" policies--until the recent protests started.


Over at my Times of Israel blog, I note the sudden shift of position of leading American (non-Orthodox) rabbis about the relative importance of preventing the spread of Coronavirus.

For example, that the Reform movement's guidance, still up at its website, is that "Congregations should not facilitate or endorse any physical gathering of persons who do not already live in the same house." However, leaders of Reform Judaism (among others) have now endorsed mass anti-racism protests, calling them the equivalent of "praying with your feet," while apparently still holding to the position that traditional group prayer is forbidden, even if (unlike the protests) socially distanced.

You can read the whole post here.

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  1. We all know that COVID can’t spread at social justice protests because the magic of diversity and multicultural prevents it.

    1. The Gods of Multiculturalism & Diversity will prevent it.

      1. All these gods require is simple offerings of earth and water…

        1. The gods may require simple offerings of earth and water but it is blood that pays for the sins!

          1. There is only ZUUL.

        2. No, they require the blood of innocents….

  2. Reform congregations are to Judaism as Unitarian ones are to Christianity.

    Social gatherings with a thin coating of a weak version of the religion.

    1. As a Unitarian: Screw you.

      1. Meh. He’s just resorting to the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

        1. Eh, you’re right. I don’t need to take such things so personally.

          1. I’ve been told going to a Unitarian church is worst than not going to any church at all.

            1. Eh, I like it some. I went when I was little, and restarted going in my late 20s to meet women.

              Nowadays it’s more a source of community, food for thought, singing, a badass organ, and a good avenue for charity work.

              But I never went every Sunday.

              1. “a source of community, food for thought, singing, a badass organ, and a good avenue for charity work.”

                LOL Yet my comment was a “fallacy”.

                1. Is it impossible for an organized religion to allow for free thinking?

                  1. Some of the great thinkers of all time were adherents of organized religion, Aquinas and Maimonides for instance.

                    1. Don’t forget the noosphere by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. You’re living in it, and apparently it’s turning into a lemming-like Borg collective where drones are sent to regurgitate echo chamber memes and ostracize those who do not fall in line with the received orthodoxy.

                      And now, I shall quote a line from The Last Emperor. “Kowtow.”

                    2. The idea that all your opposition are controlled useful idiots has been around for ages.

                      Dehumanizing your opposition continues to reveal political strength and ideological weakness.

                    3. John & Abigail Adams come to mind.

                2. Bob, a lot of that food for thought is analyzing what Jesus said and why he said it.

                  Stop being the faith police.

              2. When I say Unitarian was worse than nothing, what they meant was in terms of Heaven/Hell, not enjoy-ability.

                1. Ah. Well.



      2. C’mon S0.
        Unitarianism, by its very name has naught to do with Christianity.

        1. Look up nontrinitarian Christians. There’s a bunch.

    2. Unitarians aren’t Christians — by definition as they reject the Trinity.

      1. Ah yes, from the Mormons are not Christians side of things.

        1. The great contradiction at the heart of a lot of devout Christianity, including especially religiously conservative Christianity, is that they want Christianity to be treated as a big powerful majority faith by the government and the culture, receiving all default rules and all deference, but they espouse definitions of Christianity that excluded more than 90 percent of believers.

          (And yes, I know a lot of Christians- though far from all of them- recite the Nicene Creed in church. Nonetheless, if you ask any typical Christian what their thoughts on the Trinity are, you will learn very soon that most of them have no idea and that it has nothing to do with their Christian beliefs, which are centered on salvation and the teachings of Jesus, not what a bunch of church councils decided hundreds of years later regarding rather obscure philosophical questions.)

        2. That is true because the Mormons think that Jesus Christ failed and then the angle Moroni (if i have the spelling correct) had to come and complete the job. But since Moroni gave Joseph Smith the Mormon Bible I don’t see that society is any better than it was before the Mormon Church was founded. One of the largest difference between Mormon Church and Christians is when the Mormons go to their heaven each male will be given a planet to populate himself with all his wives. Unlike Islam where the where the qualified man will be given 70 wives the Mormons will have however many that they can support. Both of these are different than what Jesus Christ said ‘in heaven there will not be any marriage because men (and women) will be like angles neither male or female. Now for my way of think the Mormons have to be in first place followed by Islam especially if I can keep up my strength so I can consummate the sexual act often.

          1. One of the largest difference between Mormon Church and Christians

            They call this begging the question.

      2. Lisa: “What flavours do you have?” Rev. Lovejoy: “Well, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and our new Unitarian flavour ice cream.” Lisa: “I’ll have that” (Rev hands her an empty bowl) Lisa: “But there’s nothing in there.” Rev: “Eeeexactly.”

    3. I ask again: Exactly what part of “Kill the Jews” do American Jews not understand?

      Antafa is very much “Kill the Jews.”

      1. Fuck you, Ed.

        I understand “Kill the Jews” pretty damn well, and I’m very far from alone among Jews in that understanding.

        You are even further out of line than usual here.

        1. What you may or may not understand is that I have been up close and personal with those schmucks because I know they’ll come after me next, so why are you nonchalantly ignoring them?!?

  3. It’s right and proper that these religious leaders should make the call on this for their own congregations.

    I am much less willing to accept that the government should be making the judgment.

  4. I think you put this question quite well: ‘Is Attending a Political Protest More Important than Attending a Funeral?’

    Seems like the answer these being given by these rabbis is ‘yes.’

    I’m not so sure I agree as a general guidance – the importance of funerals is pretty personal. But I don’t think that guidance is particularly unreasonable.

    1. If so, they should justify that reasoning publicly, and explain why protests are acceptable but other groups actions are not, rather than pretend they never gave guidance that all group meetings should be discouraged.

      But for what it’s worth, (a) I’d feel much worse about having to miss a relative’s funeral than any given protest march; and (b) religiously speaking, helping bury the dead and comforting mourners are generally considered among the most important mitzvot in Judaism, whereas attending political rallies, well, that’s not in the traditional hierarchy at all, but would have to be placed right at the top to be more important than funerals.

      1. In my experience, religious leaders working to maintain big-picture consistency isn’t that common.
        But my experience is pretty limited, and definitely not Jewish. Though I’d note that your experience is not Reform Judaism either.

        I myself would probably rather attend a funeral for a loved one than these marches.
        But I can absolutely see my church coming down on the side of populist historic social change versus individual emotional care. I don’t know that I’d follow such guidance for any and all deaths in the family, but I’d take it into account.

        1. Certainly, one can’t claim that mass gatherings for what ever reason are “following the science.”
          Rather the chant of “follow the science” is exposed as a debating ploy. So in that case I don’t see an inconsistency between the political advocacy and the contrary political rhetoric.

          1. I don’t understand this comment. You’re the first person here to bring up ‘follow the science.’ What contrary rhetoric?

      2. Perhaps they should publicly explain their reasoning. Perhaps that’s not necessary. But this is an issue where there are self-evident and obvious merits on both sides. (ie, the only position I find insultingly idiotic is to ascribe bad motives automatically…which you are NOT doing here, I think.)
        I think the argument might be, “This is not a *normal* political rally. Both conservative and liberal observers are saying that this is a once-in-a-generation thing, that the police brutality issue has reaching a tipping point with Floyd, for whatever reason. So, if you accept that things are at a critical junction (for those who want to effect change), then *of course* they will take risks that they normally would not take.

        No normal person lives their everyday life by saying to themself, “Today I will deliberately risk my life and safety.” People really don’t do that. But in the 50s’ civil rights marches and protests, people did exactly that . . . people were willing to make the hugely unusual decision to deliberately put their own safety at risk. With the goal of causing great social change. It seems perfectly reasonable for people who think blacks (esp black men in their teens and 20s) are treated quite differently by police to–finally–risk physical safety to protest this. The fact that the main danger today might be via Covid-19, and not by military and/or police spraying these protesters with bullets, is not relevant to the question of whether or not it’s okay to take much higher risks for what you see as the greater good.

        Seems to be a perfectly plausible argument and a perfectly legitimate moral position.

        1. I forgot to add one legit difference: A university student protester at Kent State 50 years ago was risking only her own life. While, here, with Covid, a protester is certainly also risking the lives or health of other people she will come into contact with over the next 2-3 weeks–and that’s a significant wrinkle.

        2. Your statistics are wrong. Base it on killing of cops.
          Base it on murders. Or violent crimes. Or whatever….

          Statistically, cops aren’t killing *enough* Blacks….

      3. My faith (which is not Reform Judaism, but then again that is not yours either I gather) has an easy answer for you: “”Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:60

        1. As you correctly guess, I am Jewish, but not Reform. (Or any other organized alternative.) But isn’t Luke one of the Gospels from the New Testament? Would Reform Jews even be going to the N.T. for religious or moral guidance? It’s not that the N.T. does not have lots of parables, teaching stores, etc that we all could apply to our own lives. But it’s that I was surprised that the N.T. would be a go-to source for any religious Jews (other than Jews for Jesus, I suppose).

    2. Sarcastr0…I do not agree with the ‘Yes’ answer given by these Rabbis. They are completely wrong. Our duty to the dead and to comfort mourners far outweighs any duty to protest injustice in demonstrations. The two are not even remotely compatible.

      As an aside, I would personally encourage you to attend your church more frequently. 🙂

      1. I personally disagree with them as well, but I would not put myself in their place and say my guidance for myself should be theirs for their temples.

        I do need to do better in ensuring my Sunday morning, if not spent at church, is well spent.

  5. So, there were many arguments made that the COVID lockdown was important because it wasn’t just your life you were risking…it was other people’s lives that you might be meeting.

    There were other arguments made that if a business was to open up, and someone caught COVID at an opened business, the business might be liable.

    Now, we have these mass protests, which were clearly against the current lock down orders in many places. In addition, some of those police and National Guard which were required to show up in order to control the protests have now come down with COVID. Presumably from the protestors.

    Can those police and National guard individuals sue selected identified protestors for exposing and infecting them with a dangerous disease? Can the police arrest selected protestors for deliberately and negligently exposing and infecting Americans with an infectious disease?

  6. As it has been said, all animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others.

  7. It has long been known that large numbers of people have replaced belief in traditional religions with a belief in political ideologies, primarily collectivism. As a consequence, we are now hearing more and more absurd statements, such as the claim that attending a Black Lives Matter protest march is “praying with your feet.” How long before igniting a Molotov Cocktail will be described as the same as lighting a prayer candle.

    1. Wow. What the heck kind of religion are you a part of?

      It’s not at all absurd to call social activism an act of devotion. That’s been part of organized religion for centuries, if not millennia.

      Plenty of Christian collectivist communities throughout history.

  8. “gives us a strong idea of where these rabbis’ priorities lie, and it isn’t with Judaism.”
    You mean the rabbis who do not believe in the Torah do not place a strong value on Judiasm? Gasp.

    1. A Captain Renault moment for sure.

      1. Awesome. Attack these Rabbi’s faith. That’s sure to bring people around!

        1. Their “faith” is not to any god, but to leftism.

  9. They are the type of Jews for whom Judaism is not a religion. It is just another way to support their politics. And when Judaism gets in the way of their politics, it is ignored.

    1. Right. Their “Judaism” is just a way of cloaking their preexisting liberal beliefs in religious tradition such as to give it more credibility.

  10. In fairness, the marches could be justified by Pikuach Nefesh–that is, acting to save lives, which does top the list of mitzvot. One can argue that as a religious “legal” matter that the posited cause and effect is too remote, i.e. it is not the same as violating the sabbath to rush someone to the hospital, but the argument is colorable. The apparent inconsistency is that the same mitzvah is what is claimed to trump religious gatherings, so the real question might be which action is better calculated to save lives. But is it the statistical likelihood that matters? Whatever statistical projections one might employ, it would seem that on this basis the moral/religious question would then boil down to the “trolley problem.” Or it might be a qualitative issue in terms of preventing endemic “murder” as opposed to spreading a pandemic disease that perhaps someday soon may be curable, or whose risk can be mitigated by masks or personal distancing. (E.g. driving carries an inherent risk of death, but can be mitigated by doing so carefully, wearing seatbelts etc.)
    In any case, the judgment necessarily shares the hard questions of the broader policy issues on how to deal with the pandemic. Recognizing trade-offs, and making a judgment about them, will inevitably conflict with some “principle” that leaves all open to the charge of hypocrisy, whatever their stance.

  11. Formerly Stash, you have a profound misunderstanding and misreading of Pikuach Nefesh if you actually believe it applies to marching in a protest. It does not.

    1. That’s not an argument. It is just contradiction.

  12. Reform Jews are not Jews at all, but liberal morons that wear yarmulkes and eat bagels.

    1. Reform Jews wouldn’t be caught dead with a kippah outside of their once a year attendance at synagogue for the High Holy Days.

      At least most can recognize a good bagel…

      1. Haha. Very true.

    2. Leftist, not liberal — there is a difference.

    3. So the secular Jewish founders of Israel were not even Jews? Who are you working for?

      1. Not much of one.

      2. Wrong place. No, they were more ethnic nationalists than Jews.

  13. Ah, I get it. You hate those Jews, but for totally non-anti-Semetic reasons. In your own mind, at least.

    Good one.

  14. Liberal Orthodox rabbis (like one of the rabbis in my community) similarly encouraged congregants to go to a city-backed “spontaneous rally” (that we all knew about well in advance).

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