MAILBAG: Five Towns Beaches Are OK, But Not A Backyard Minyan With Social-Distancing?


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Dear YWN,

I’ve lived in the Five Towns my entire life and I grew up always in the middle between Yeshivish and Modern, and recently due to the conversation of Minyanim the split has me confused.

Although I understand the concept of the extreme Chumra we have on Pikuach Nefesh its been really bothering me how come we cant have a Minyan in a backyard with x’s to mark off spots and a guard to make sure its enforced.

I always pride my self in having extreme Emunas Chachamim so of course I will listen to my Rabbonim, but the issue I am about to bring up is the final straw for me.

Governor Cuomo recently announced that the beaches will be open for Memorial Day. I know a number of members of local Modern Orthodox Shuls who plan on attending (planning on social distancing) and have already signed up for their beach clubs. These same people scolded the more to the right Rabbonim on allowing Minyanim when people stay on their own property.

This to me seems like extreme hypocrisy that I cannot accept.

Why haven’t the Modern Orthodox Rabbonim condemned this as they openly do porch Minyanim, and if this is allowed why can’t we have backyard Minyanim?!

A disgruntled Five Towns resident.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


  1. I doubt the rabbonim who you claim to respect carefully monitor how many frumme yidden living in the 5T who have renewed their beach club memberships for 2020 on the assumption they will open. There is nothing for them to condemn. Public minyanim are visible and something over which they have a responsibility to address. Hiring forensic experts to identify yidden who have signed up for their beach clubs so they can be called out in a kol koreh is not their priority nor should it be.

  2. KUDOS!!!! I am glad that finally YWN printed a positive opinion on behalf of outdoor Minyanim. Being locked into my home for 8 weeks I B”H had time to learn. I went through the entire Rambam on Hilchos Chilul H-Shem and could not locate where he would consider an Outdoor Minyan to be a Chilul H-Shem. I have with me an article published in the May 12th edition os Thw Wall Street Journal where the writer questions why may Liquor stores be open when Religious gatherings are off-limits even with distancing.

  3. Just because the government is permitting something to open, like the beaches, doesn’t mean it is truly safe. We Yidden stay safe even when the government permits not safe activities.

  4. “Why haven’t the Modern Orthodox Rabbonim condemned this as they openly do porch Minyanim”
    Because obviously there is a big difference between an organized, set gathering of yidden, meeting 3x a day who think they are doing the right thing in the eyes of Hashem…… as opposed to a very very small number of rogue beach-fanatics in certain areas, who are going for the purpose of pleasure.
    The first groups safety falls under direct responsibility of our Rabbonim to decide when to make a lo plug regarding pikuach nefesh.
    And I’m 100% certain if you asked any Orthodox Rabbi- modern or more right wing- they would all say no way can you go to the better way beach.
    So the comparison is ridiculous, there is no “hypocrisy” by the Rabbonim.

  5. I agree with you. It’s not fair that some things are OK and other similar things are not.
    I’ll just point out to you one difference between going to an outdoor minyan and the beach. People are going to the beach to spend time with the family. Same as Walmart. Noone is schmoozing with the person behind them in line. In shul and minyan, even if we only go to daven, by nature we will socialize with others. They are our brothers. We are all in this together. Hence, there may be more risk in minyan than Walmart and the beach.

    I truly hope that governments a cross the country can find a way to give us back our constitutional rights to daven together.

  6. In order to use our shuls on Shevous just like the parks are packed with no lockdown rules, it has been decided to bring inside trees, flowers & grass.

  7. Easy, if your question is indeed the last sentence in this letter as you claim.

    Rabbanim do not come out publicly do condemn everyone for every aveira they do. They try to address what they perceive as communal wrongdoing when they have an opportunity in Shul to do so, but they don’t write a Kol Koreh blasting every layman who wakes up late, compromises on Kashrus standards, or engages in other bad acts.

    Regarding Minyanim, it is the Rav’s job to guide his Kehillah as to how they should be davening as a Kehillah. He paskens the parameters of davening, the chumros and the kulos. When the question arises how to conduct oneself regarding this subject, it is the Rav’s job to be clear how and why we should be doing so.

    The Rabbanim are showing the extreme stringency with which we must treat Pikuach Nefesh. Therefore, they issued guidelines regarding whether and how we should be conducting ourselves in this respect. If even minyanim are not allowed, then even more so does this apply to other areas of life! If you are someone who would prioritize beachgoing to praying with a minyan, then you have more problems than minyan guidelines. It’s not the Rav’s responsibility to micromanage everyone’s struggles and wrongdoings, he is there to lead the Klal in communal issues.

    Perhaps he should also issue a Kol Koreh about masks, gloves, sanitizer? Maybe you want to see a public lashing for anyone who doesn’t vote as you do?

    To be honest Reb Yid, if you don’t understand this, then I’m afraid you’re really asking another question, one that you probably want to hear the answer to..

  8. Spot on!! These people have no issue if guys go out in shops etc, they only have a problem when they see a fellow Jew prays with a Minyan with social distancing. This s called “mental disorder”

  9. Two point: (i) Before you were disgruntled, were you gruntled?

    (ii) Politicians, even articulate ones like Governor Cuomo, sometimes give orders that don’t make complete sense or are inconsistent with other orders they have given. The question of whether it is reasonably safe to have a backyard minyan is a medical question, and so is the question of whether beaches can safely open. Politicians, for a variety of reasons (some good, some not so good), are always influenced by their own judgments of what is politically wise. They can’t help it, because they are politicians. So If it is medically unsafe to have a backyard minyan, don’t have one. If it is medically unsafe to open a public beach but, for political reasons, politicians permit it, you should nevertheless not go to the beach. And don’t worry too much about politicians’ decisions that are inconsistent or hypocritical. Inconsistency and hypocrisy are the oil and grease that makes political systems run.

    And you can’t do mitzvos when you are dead.

  10. You just hit the nail on the head why Lakewood allowed minyanim in backyards as this is their top priority (and has been proven 100% safe) as opposed to others that have misguided priorities at the very least . I hope rabbi billet will come out with a letter calling anyone who goes to beaches a rodef….

  11. The general public is weighing health risks against economic consequences. if the risk is low and the economic gain is high, the government will open up many more places. HOWEVER, despite those armchairs, newbe talmidei hakhamim, the halakha makes a different heshbon. just like pikuach nefesh is doheh shabbat even if the probabilities are very slim, the halakha requires valuing a potential loss of life above any possible economic gain. the author and many above should refrain from trying to imply what should be done based on ludicrous comparisons. don’t due surgery or practice critical halakha using only your own VERY LIMITED abilities. you would be wise to leave it to clear thinking halakhists and sugeons

  12. I made a minyan this Shabbos for the first time. We social distanced and applied the recommendations from Agudas Yisroel on how to perform krias hatorah. There is no reason to wait our numbers do not justify dVening beyechidus. Also we had 15 people spread over two properties of about two acres. It’s time to start climbing out of the bunker.

  13. I don’t understand. What do beaches have to do with Memorial Day? Normandy? Hope Memorial Day doesn’t lead to more people to memorialize.

  14. Thank you for bringing up this hypocrisy, I have witnessed loads of times hypocrisy by some himeshe yiden, We have a minyan and some people never come out they say it’s not aloud last week someone made a BBQ and suddenly everyone was there, I was shocked that himeshe yiden can act like this- HYPOCRISY!!!

  15. The fact that ourdoor minyanim are not allowed everywhere is nuts. People have completely lost their minds with this pandemic. If you look at the numbers there is clearly no issue with people gathering for minyanim as long as you have some guidelines and vulnerable people do not go. The data (which no one seems to care about besides Emperor Cuomo paying lip service to) clearly shows that the risk to anyone under 45 is extremely minimal. Even older ages up to 70 the risk is minimal.
    Pennsylvania just released data on the people dying there. Couple of points – There have been more deaths age 100+ than there have been < age 45. Think about that. How many people do you even know over 100. In fact it is more than double (70 vs 33).
    In total, there have been more deaths from people age 85+ than there have been from people < 80. Again, think about how many people you know 85+ and how many more you know < 80.
    This is not a general population problem. It is specific to older and vulnerable. We should stop focusing our efforts on these ridiculous across the board things and use all our resources on nursing homes and protecting the elderly.

  16. cent_cent. i would pay less than your name for your terribly flawed advice. younger people who might be infected will then infect those older. a few will also die.

    disease spread is not a topic understood by all, as you make abundantly evident.