months, there have been several news stories on how thousands of Orthodox Jews
donated plasma to help the recovery of Covid-19 patients. Antibodies are
developed in the plasma of the blood of people who recovered from COVID-19, and
it can be transfused into the bloodstreams of active patients. The reports
state that a large percentage of plasma donations at leading medical
institutions around the USA came from Orthodox Jews.
The problem is
that most of those news items present Orthodox Jews in a negative light. For
example, a recent NBC news item says that “Borough Park (Brooklyn) was
especially hard hit by the virus. The community has the fourth largest number
of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city and the highest in the borough of
Brooklyn, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental
Hygiene. The latest figures show 226 confirmed deaths in Borough Park, meaning
there have been 243 deaths per 100,000 residents in the neighborhood.” The
report then mentions a few incidents of Orthodox Jews not following distancing
guidelines in Brooklyn and in Lakewood, NJ. The narrative is clear: Sure,
Orthodox Jews help in overwhelming numbers, but that is because they were hit
hard by their own making.
The truth however
is that the level of known cases in a neighborhood merely reflects a higher
level of testing. If you test
more during the rise and peak of an outbreak, as was done in Borough Park and
in other Hasidic-populated areas back in March, you will find more cases. It
does not mean that you have more cases. To focus on the “infection rate” (the
percent tests that come back positive) is flawed too because a neighborhood
with a narrow criterion for who can get tested will yield a higher level of
positive cases than a neighborhood where anyone can get a test.
As for the deaths of 243 per 100,000, there are multiple points to consider.
First, the deaths in Borough Park include non-Jews too. Secondly, the deaths per 100,000 citywide is 225; it is 261 for Latinos and for Queens; 268
for people in poverty, and 274 in the Bronx. These data points show that
Borough Park is not an outlier to the negative side. Finally, there are no articles in major media outlets that portray members of the above
communities and neighborhoods as doing something wrong that led to the bad
numbers. So why is it okay to do to Jews of Borough Park?
Jews are about 12% of the NYC population. If Coronavirus deaths hit Jews in
proportion to their population size it would amass to 2,830 deaths out of the
23,586 confirmed and probable Coronavirus deaths in the city through early
August, 2020. This sobering number would be reached even without members of a
singled-out group doing anything wrong to cause it.
Finally, antibodies tests suggest that 20% of NYC residents were infected with the Coronavirus back in April. This would amount to at least 50,000 Orthodox Jews across Brooklyn, including 13,750 in Williamsburg and 20,900 in Borough Park. This created a huge pool of possible Plasma donors. As such, the Plasma donations are not a result of being hit hard because of a list of alleged faults by Orthodox Jews. Those are broad brush allegations that are not backed by data and would not be used in a generalized term against any other community even if it were true. Donations are a result of Orthodox Jews being taught in yeshiva to help people in need.