How Orthodox Jews Became Coronavirus Scapegoats

As Americans continue to debate the merits of various policies undertaken to confront the COVID-19 epidemic, Moshe Krakowski looks back on how journalists and even government officials sought to depict Ḥaredim as particularly dangerous vectors of disease:

In August of 2022, [the former chief medical adviser Anthony] Fauci singled out Ḥaredim as poster children for the loss of herd immunity: “when vaccinations get below that number you start to see outbreaks like we saw some time ago in the New Yor City area with ḥasidic Jewish people who were not getting vaccinated.” (This, despite the fact that measles vaccination rates in the ḥasidic community were shown to be 96 percent and other, non-Jewish, communities experienced measles outbreaks too.)

In November 2021, a Department of Health official confirmed in testimony to Attorney General Letitia James that Governor Andrew Coumo’s COVID-19 cluster zones had targeted Orthodox neighborhoods, even though other neighborhoods in the city met exactly the same COVID-positivity metrics.

Ḥaredim were routinely described as ignorant and clannish, and as engaging in mob behavior. Ḥaredi religious beliefs and values were mocked as unimportant. In April of 2020, [then-New York City Mayor Bill] de Blasio issued a special “message to the Jewish community” threatening that “the time for warnings has passed” and indicated that he would be dispatching the police to “arrest those who gather in large groups.” Jews were the only one of the city’s many ethnic groups whom de Blasio singled out for public condemnation.

We actually have very little clear or systematic data about how and why Ḥaredim responded to COVID-19—or how the virus responded in turn. There are strong reasons to believe the ḥasidic COVID-19 death rate was exactly the same as the rest of New York, despite the community suffering a massive surge of deaths in the very initial wave that kicked off the pandemic.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Andrew Cuomo, Anti-Semitism, Bill de Blasio, Coronavirus, Haredim


Despite the Toll of War at Home and Rising Hostility Abroad, Investors Are Still Choosing Israel

When I first saw news that Google wasn’t going through with its acquisition of the tech startup Wiz, I was afraid hesitancy over its Israeli founders and close ties with the Jewish state might have something to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong: the deal is off not because of Google’s hesitancy, but because Wiz feared the FTC would slow down the process with uncertain results. The company is instead planning an initial public offering. In the wake of the CrowdStrike debacle, companies like Wiz have every reason to be optimistic, as Sophie Shulman explains:

For the Israeli cyber sector, CrowdStrike’s troubles are an opportunity. CrowdStrike is a major competitor to Palo Alto Networks, and both companies aim to provide comprehensive cyber defense platforms. The specific issue that caused the global Windows computer shutdown is related to their endpoint protection product, an area where they compete with Palo Alto’s Cortex products developed in Israel and the SentinelOne platform.

Friday’s drop in CrowdStrike shares reflects investor frustration and the expectation that potential customers will now turn to competitors, strengthening the position of Israeli companies. This situation may renew interest in smaller startups and local procurement in Israel, given how many institutions were affected by the CrowdStrike debacle.

Indeed, it seems that votes of confidence in Israeli technology are coming from many directions, despite the drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the attack from Yemen, and despite the fact that some 46,000 Israeli businesses have closed their doors since October 7. Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, which creates software that identifies fake news, plans a $70 million IPO on Nasdaq. The American firm Applied Systems announced that it will be buying a different Israeli tech startup and opening a research-and-development center in Israel. And yet another cybersecurity startup, founded by veterans of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit, came on the scene with $33 million in funding. And those are the stories from this week alone.

But it’s not only the high-tech sector that’s attracting foreign investment. The UK-based firm Energean plans to put approximately $1.2 billion into developing a so-far untapped natural-gas field in Israel’s coastal waters. Money speaks much louder than words, and it seems Western businesses don’t expect Israel to become a global pariah, or to collapse in the face of its enemies, anytime soon.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: cybersecurity, Israeli economy, Israeli gas, Israeli technology, Start-up nation