STOP THE MINYANIM: Respected Frum Doctor In Queens Writes Open Letter

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(Dr Bennett is a Board Certified Emergency Room Physician, NY Hospital of Queens, and also private practice in Queens)

This is Ellie Bennett.

You all know who I am and where I work. I just feel that I have to go on record.

It is my medical opinion, and the same of all the infectious disease experts, that these minyamin are going to kill people. I know it is very difficult for you all to understand it because it seems like an innocuous gathering of 15 to 20 people. I will happily take any of you on a 5-minute tour of what is going on in my hospital right now.

As of this past Thursday we had seven patients sick enough to be admitted. As of yesterday it was 30 and as of today it’s 50. Elderly people from our neighborhood are on ventilators in the ICU because of these minyanim.

There’s a 6:00AM minyan, followed by 7:00AM followed by 8:00AM followed by 9:00AM Minyan. Even if only 25 people come to each, that’s a hundred people in the same room in the same morning.

Statistically, you guys are going to kill at least one old person every time you guys meet.

You all trust me to treat you like family when you come to my office, so I’m speaking to you like family. Stop the minyan. Stop the gatherings. Stay home and pray by yourself. Have in mind the EMTs and paramedics and doctors and nurses working in the hospitals who are working under ridiculous conditions trying to save as many people as we can. I admit, there will not be thousands of deaths in Kew Gardens Hills (Queens). But are we really willing to accept that 1 out of 100 people in our neighborhood will die? I am not.

We trust doctors whether or not to eat on Yom Kippur or when to make a bris.

Why all of a sudden do you think it’s appropriate to ignore us?

Have a good day and good luck to us all.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




23 COMMENTS

  1. refua shleima to all – 3 questions i honestly want to understand
    how many of the 50 were in shul?
    why in bp & willy with many more minyanim and miamonodies has almost none?
    which hospital in ny has 50 corona patients

  2. We trust doctors whether or not to eat on Yom Kippur or when to make a bris.
    Why all of a sudden do you think it’s appropriate to ignore us?

    Stupidity has replaced religiosity

  3. Too many people are suffering from what it says in Parshas Nisavim vehisbaraich bilvovo lamor shalom yehye li. I too thought big deal until my friends Rebbe shut down his shul in Boro Park and told everyone to self quarantine. Do you think a rebbe of hundreds of chasidim will take it upon himself no davening with a minyon, no learning in shul if it wasn’t necessary? People stop being delusional we see what happened in other places. I daven that in three weeks we should all be well, We will be so tired of this mess that when Moshiach announces “I’m here let’s bring a Korbon Pesach” we will run as fast as we can to do it

  4. We trust doctors to advise us from their medical knowledge and to then take that advice to a competent halachic authority for direction/psak.

  5. Elderly and sickly people should stay home, and take measures against getting this virus. The medical community needs to take into account the economic and social impact of attempting to tell everyone to stop their lives and spend several weeks locked in the house. In fact, every year there is a virus that kills many elderly and ill persons, and we can’t expect society to stop for several months.

  6. MEIRG: I don’t know where you got your info but I hear Maimonides from a nurse friend who works there that the hospital has many Corona cases.

  7. Meir G: I can’t answer your questions specifically, but a crown heights news site has published the names of three men, the Rov of a big shul, a Yeshiva Rebbe, and a renowned tzedaka-giving businessman, all of whom went to minyan regularly (presumably daily) who have C-19. Two of these men are in ICU and their families are begging for Tehillim. All three contracted the disease from someone they encountered. These men all walked around for days without symptoms, presumably BESHOGEIG infecting other people. There’s no way to know if they encountered this person in shul, or 10 minutes after shul in the grocery. Al pi drech haTeva the only thing they could have done different to not be in this situation was to have isolated themselves. Not to catch and not to transmit C-19. Unfortunately they caught the disease before we as a society knew what we know now. At this point it seems to me we’re crossing into meizid territory.

  8. As many Rabanim have closed their Shuls, I respectfully recommend that they work with a Website developer to upgrade their current Web site (or create new Websites) to enable continuing participation of the members of their Kehilos from home.

  9. I have 2 comments. Firstly, EVEN if one still wants to go daven in a minyan, and I AM NOT SAYING ONE SHOULD, But until you stop going, you surely MUST MUST MUST WEAR GLOVES!!!! How could you not wear gloves?? You are possibly being mazik other people (not to mention yourself, but since you aren’t afraid about yourself, for whatever reason. who gives the right to possibly do damage to other people? No one can deny that they might be a carrier. If you deny that then you really are a mazik, and you just “don’t get it”. I know of people who went to a simcha this past Shabbos and the Gabbai from the shul who shakes at least the people who got aliyos hands, just found out yesterday THAT HE HAS THE VIRUS!! It was an aufruf, and the chasan also shook his hand as did so many other people in shul, instead of the more appropriate “elbow shake” IF you are in shul. OR HAD WE AT LEAST BEEN WEARING GLOVES THIS COULD ALSO HAVE BEEN AVOIDED TO A GREAT EXTENT. Again, we must get Daas Torah about davening in a niyan, who really should be asking the doctors opinion, so probably WE SHOULDN’T BE DAVENING IN A MINYAN, but if you do WEAR GLOVES FROM WHEN YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME, UNTIL YOU GET BACK HOME. THAT GOES FOR ANYONE GOING TO SHUL. Thde second thing is that we must WAKE UP AND START TO REALLY DAVEN. IF YOU ARE STILL DAVENING SHEMONA ESREI basically the same way you have been davening up untol now, THAT’S THE BIGGEST DISATER. It’s worse then the Coronavirus itself. I would like to suggest as a tikun, THAT EVERY PERSON REVIEW HILCHOS SHEMONE ESREI from the kitzur shulchan aruch to be mechazik the way we daven, or maybe the way we don’t daven. I heard from Rabbi Avigdor Miller ZT”L, where he said, todays Tefilla in a churban. He said what we see today in the shuls is a zecher L’Tefilla, but it’s not Tefilla. Vhu Rachum Yachaper Uvon.

  10. The sooner we shut down Minyonim, the more chance that maybe Miyonim could recommence by Passover, for major תפילות such as תפילת-טל and סיום-בכורים.
    BTW:- if we cannot attend Siyumim this year, do we בכורים have to fast? or attend a virtual סיום online? or simply just eat?

  11. is this site jewish???????????????????????
    why are you posting how reb chaim says stay open and doc says close you look pretty dumb yeshiva world!!!

  12. I’m shocked! What happened to klal yisroel? we used to be nation on our own and had a mind of our own. Now were just mindless zombies like everyone else following the advice of the health officials?? Is that what the world had come to?

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to doctors, but to add more restrictions than what the law requires? What did? Should we start closing down shuls and stores every year because of the seasonal flu that’s killing so many old and sick people? Who decides what justifies a global shutdown? The media? The health officials? This is compete insanity! The robbonim have never been that eager to comply.

    In years from now we’ll be looking back in horror and disbelief of what we’ve done. The world wouldn’t believe how quickly people lost their minds.

  13. If your wondering why people aren’t listening to you all of a sudden I can enlighten you. Because you seem to be basing your decision on what your seeing in the hospital. And to help the “greater good”. I believe that’s an incorrect decision. You need to base the decision on the actual risk to the person who is actually going to shul. And no one in the medical community nor the political community know the answer to that. All they have is numbers which doesn’t properly define risk. That’s why people don’t buy it. Whereas eating on Tom kippur is obvious. If you tell someone he’s too sick to fast he can’t fast.

  14. The assumption expressed above that you listen to a doctor to eat on Yom Kippur where there is Kores. But why? How did the doctor and professor get נאמנות? Now you extrapolate that you should listen now? The way to motivate is by explanation I think , not by fiat.

  15. This virus and spreads faster than the flue. All those who dont want to listen to Drs. should find an area upstate and create a fence around it. If thet get infected they should be prohibited from being treated at a hospital and infect hard working Drs and nurses

  16. i’ll be brief. The virus can spread and be left in a place for a while after the infected person having been there. Anyone who comes into contact with that can get it. Thats why 100 in 1 room over 4 hours can infect all. In turn these people can now infect others. this causes the virus to spread, and while some feel they are immune, these same people arent immune to causing others to be infected, so if you are a aish hamazik your chayav

  17. philo, others – this is NOT a seasonal flu. The globe doesn’t plunge into a depression with factories shutting down, countries and the UN declaring “war” over a seasonal flu! The spread of this is breathtaking, along with what it does to you. It effects everyone. Even if you are younger and in good shape, you can still have a traumatic experience. Do what you can to prevent it.

  18. @philo – you and people like you will lead all to see frum yids as the spread of a disease and you will lead to the deaths of major rabbonim who are old or very good yids who have undelying conditions you may not know about. I know someone through a friend who has a great friend who is 32 and in the hospital dying. No underlying medical issues known. The virus is making it impossible for him to breath. When this spreads it could be you next. Revise your thinking and pray to Hashem for mercy for the damage your comment may cause if it leads 1 person to go to minyan and then kill someone by transmitting the virus.

  19. I’ve been a YWN reader for years, and never created a login to leave a comment until now. I have been reading the articles and the comments on the coronavirus since it was first reported here. It is very clear from the comments and complaints that many people do not understand some basic information regarding why this is DIFFERENT than the flu, and what all the fuss around the world is about. The comments about how we don’t shut down over the flu- so why now, and how sick and old people die every year from the flu- I guess inferring that it is what it is and so why should the economy shut down, and no minyan, no yeshiva, and we don’t know what the risk is to this person or that person for going to a minyan, etc. etc. I am not going to address the callous disregard for human life that such comments imply. I am simply going to address why they are not relevant, regardless of any one person’s priorities, or what cost they are willing to pay- (with the lives of others) to not have your ________________ (fill in the blank) priority continue uninterrupted.

    True, many sick and elderly (and even children) die of the flu every year. I could look up the numbers and statistics- but again- irrelevant. Because they don’t die all over the world AT THE SAME TIME. And the ones who survive but are critically ill don’t need a hospital bed AT THE SAME TIME. Why is that? Because the various strains of flu have existed in humans for all of our lifetimes and longer- we don’t even have to know how long- it’s irrelevant. But because many of us have partial immunity to various strains of flu- due to previous exposure to the flu, or due to the flu vaccine many of us get each year- we either don’t get it, or we get it and feel sick as a dog in our homes for about a week or so, and we go on with our lives. And once in a while we have to go to that levaya of the little boy in our son’s class who we heard was born with a hole in his heart, or that levaya of old Mrs. Schwartz who lived down the block, because their cases of flu became pneumonia and they died- even with the flu shot. They just weren’t strong enough. Very sad- even tragic, we feel terrible, but we go on with our lives. It may interest people to know, that the “Spanish Flu” of 1918, which killed (according to even the most conservative estimates) at least 17 million people around the world, predominately killed young people under the age of 40- while the older people fared better. Why is that? It is thought that one reason is because the older people had some partial immunity due to having lived through a similar strain of flu decades earlier, while those younger had no immunity at all. Which brings us to COVID-19, and why it is different than “the flu” we deal with every winter. It is NEW to ALL humans in ALL countries. NO human on earth has immunity to it before they are exposed- not in China, not in Eretz Yirsroel, and not here in the US- nowhere on earth. We are learning about it for the first time, and learning more about it each day as we go along. Here is what the medical and public health community is telling us they have learned about it so far, based on a worldwide experience going on for a few months now:

    1) It is HIGHLY contagious, more contagious than the flu- which makes sense, since no one has immunity, most will get it if exposed.
    2) It has a HIGHER death rate than the flu. We don’t have to bother with numbers or percentages, just understand that more people die from it.
    3) It has a HIGHER hospitalization rate than the flu- even for the otherwise “perfectly healthy” persons. And as mentioned earlier, they are all needing to be hospitalized AT THE SAME TIME as it sweeps through the country- unlike the flu, which has both LESS and STAGGERED hospitalization rates over a flu season, due to being less contagious (relative to corona), and to partial immunity, flu shots, etc.
    4) It can live on surfaces for an unknown period of time- from hours to days and be picked up on your hands, where you can transfer it to anything you touch before your hands are washed or sanitized.
    5) You can have it without knowing it, and you are contagious to others even before you have symptoms, and even if you’re lucky and never develop noticeable symptoms.
    6) If you have it and cough or sneeze, you put coronavirus in the air to enter the nose or mouth and then the lungs of anyone lucky enough to be within several feet of you.

    Now, any and all of the above information may be concerning to you- but it doesn’t even have to be. If you are someone who still doesn’t care, (or even believe) any of this- you don’t have to. You don’t have to care a wit who has it, who will get it, how they got it, or who will die. You don’t have to care if you can bring it to a minyan, or get it from a minyan, or spread it in a beis medrash, or at a wedding you were asked not to attend. You don’t even have to care about the extra levaya you won’t have to fit in your schedule, or whose it will be, or how old and sick they were anyway. You can disregard it all and not give it a single thought. Let’s focus ONLY on YOU now, and the things you might care about:

    Scenario #1- Your wife goes in to labor and you rush her to the hospital. Labor and delivery go okay, B”H, and hopefully neither the delivery nurse nor the baby nurse are carrying the coronavirus, because they had to take extra shifts and fill in yesterday in the ICU, due to a shortage of nurses because many are already out sick from taking care of all the coronavirus patients. But what’s this? Your wife and newborn are discharged after 12 hours, because they had to downsize the maternity ward to make more beds available for sick people, because of the large influx of critically ill coronavirus patients. Too bad it wasn’t a c-section, or your wife and baby would have been able to stay a FULL 24 hours. Think it can’t happen? It’s happening. Would you care? Perhaps not- but I bet your wife will.

    Scenario #2- Your 14 year old daughter runs a fever with abdominal pain. Hatzaloh responds to your call within minutes. Hopefully, none of them have the coronavirus, which they’ve been busy with all week. They think it might be appendicitis, and normally they would rush your daughter to Emergency Room X, but what’s this? They are taking your daughter to a retrofitted abandoned warehouse, because that emergency room and every emergency room in the area is overrun and understaffed, because so many healthcare workers are out sick from the coronavirus. You get to the makeshift warehouse Emergency Room, which is thankfully staffed mainly by healthcare workers who were called upon to come out of retirement, due to a nationwide increased need for doctors and nurses in light of the coronavirus. They determine that your daughter’s appendix is about to rupture, and she needs surgery right away. Right NOW- in a makeshift hospital/warehouse. Think it can’t happen? Well, all over this country, large cities are scrambling to plan and set up makeshift hospitals in empty or abandoned buildings, because of the coronavirus. There are reports that New York and California are even getting Navy hospital ships. I hope no one in your family is prone to seasickness.

    Scenario #3: You have chest pain, and are taken by Hatzolah to not a ship, not a warehouse- but lucky for you a real Emergency Room. It turns out to be heartburn, and things will be okay- but you notice something strange while there. You see MASKS that look like something your son made in pre-school last week on some healthcare personnel, while others are wearing bandannas on their faces. Even more unsettling- some doctors and nurses have blood splatter stains on their ER scrubs, as if they’re in a war zone. The ER has run out of masks and disposable gowns- because of the coronavirus. Think it can’t happen? There is already a nationwide mask shortage, the government has asked the construction industry for their masks, the CDC is recommending that nurses wear bandannas if they have no masks, and right now nurses are making home-made masks with arts and crafts materials- all because of the coronavirus. And it is already known that at this rate of coronavirus infection, there will come a point where there will not be enough disposable gowns and possibly gloves for all of the healthcare facilities around the country- because of the coronavirus. At this rate of infection, there won’t be enough ICU beds, or enough respirators. And that means deciding who gets one and who doesn’t. Think it can’t happen? It is happening right now in Italy. It will happen here in possibly a few short weeks -at this rate of infection.

    So don’t care about the coronavirus in and of itself. Don’t care who will get it, how ill some will be from it, or how many will die from it. Just care that our health care system can’t handle it, will be overwhelmed by it, and the myriad ways that will impact their ability to be there for and have supplies and equipment for the people and the situations that you WILL care about. And that means YOU must slow down the infection and avoid spreading the coronavirus. Klal Yisroel is counting on YOU- to do the right thing, to make pikuach nefesh your new priority- even if you don’t care about the coronavirus, even if it’s inconvenient, even if it’s an affront to all of your other valid priorities. Pikuach nefesh MUST come first in your life right now. IT’S. THAT. SIMPLE.