Mazal tov on the upcoming simcha, I am so happy to hear about it.
Just to be clear: the simcha is the upcoming engagement, not the party associated with it.
I know how you and your family have been careful over the past few months. Even when mandatory bans were lifted and shuls began to open, you made it clear that you think its too early.
So as you continue to read this (and I assure you I will pull no punches) you will recognize what applies to you and what not. But really, my request is that you forward this letter as is to your future machatunim.
Before I continue, I will state my qualifications to speak on this matter. As a healthcare worker; a Paramedic for the NYC 911 system, and a volunteer for Crown Heights Hatzalah, I was in the thick of this pandemic almost from the get-go. There were weeks when I worked at my job all night, then came home to respond to Hatzalah calls all day.
Then, a few weeks later, when the Hatzalah call volume started slowing down, we began to have the levayas. I personally put more people in the ground (and I mean that in the most literal way) in a few weeks, then I had in all my previous years associated with the Crown Heights Chevrah Kadishah put together.
Making a L’chaim celebration in Crown Heights at this time is just straight-up wrong!
A lot of things in life fall into a gray area, this is not one of them; this is wrong! It is selfish and dangerous, and it puts people other than yourself in danger. It sends the wrong message to your children – the chosson and kallah – and it sends the wrong message to the world.
Holding a simcha now in Crown Heights is announcing to everyone that your vain party (and make no mistake, when simcha puts others at risk, it loses all hailikait, and all you are left with is a party) is more important than anything else. It also announces that you alone know better than everyone else how to do things safely, despite the clear request from our health care professionals, not to do so.
On the most basic level, the Crown Heights Jewish community, who host the entire world all year round, has asked that people not come to make simchas here at this time. It is a chutzpah, a slap in the face to the community to disregard that request.
Besides for the direct danger of your simcha (and the traveling to and from) infecting people, it’s the statement you are making, that people should disregard the request to avoid traveling to Crown Heights. As shluchim, I’m sure this isn’t a message you want to send to the world.
Any precautions that you are planning would be wonderful for an event that was somehow mandatory. Although even in that case, you have no way to guarantee that it would be enough to stop any chance of causing other infections.
But this is not a mandatory situation. I will venture to say, that if the future of a marriage in any way hinges on the engagement party, that is not a marriage I would wish on anyone I love or care for.
The simcha of the marriage and the building of a bayis neeman b’yisroel will in no way be diminished by the lack of a L’chaim party. On the other hand, if your party contributes to spreading this virus in any way – whether directly, or indirectly – and you have no way of knowing the ramifications of your actions, what kind of foundation is that for a marriage?!
I’m not advocating how you should be living your life (if you go to shul, wear a mask, or anything else). I’m asking that you respect my community’s wishes and not selfishly put us in danger.
So please forward this letter as is to your future machatunim, and I hope that we will see bimuchash, that divarim hayotzim min halev, nichnasim el halev, upoalim piulasom.
(Name withheld upon request)