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Masks for the Holidays

07/09/2021 04:36:59 PM


Steve Fintel

Popular legend has it that King Christian X of Denmark ordered all Danish citizens to wear yellow stars in support of their Jewish countrymen during the German occupation of Denmark. This act had a great equalizing effect: without a marking that differentiated Jews from non-Jews, the German occupiers had no simple way of uniquely identifying people by their faith or beliefs and all were treated equally.

As we look ahead towards High Holy Day observances at Temple Beth Shalom, we struggled with the question of mask-wearing. With the CDC saying masks would not be necessary for vaccinated individuals, we could offer the choice of making mask wearing optional based on vaccination status. In fact we've implemented that policy for our more lightly attended events. Why require masks for High Holy Days?

First, we're all but guaranteed that some in attendance won't be vaccinated. Some because of health issues, some because of personal convictions and some simply due to their age. A mask-optional policy would expose the un-vaccinated and potentially make them feel less welcome or at least a little uncomfortable. This runs counter to our core value of being a warm and welcoming community.

So, as in the legend of King Christian X, we chose the most inclusive policy possible and ask all in attendance to wear masks. Due to the doubling up of the most popular services, the in-person experiences will be more concise (shorter) than in the past so the inconvenience of mask wearing for those who find it uncomfortable will be minimized. But no one will have to display their vaccination preference and we can all focus on the beauty of the service.

Footnote: According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Encyclopedia, neither King Christian X nor the Danish people donned Jewish stars during the German occupation. As it turns out, the German occupiers only minimally interfered with the internal affairs of Denmark.  Considering the relatively small Jewish population and the steadfast support most Danes gave to their fellow Jewish citizens, Germany did not push the Danes on the so-called Jewish question. But in my opinion, the lesson of this legend is no less powerful.

Tue, May 24 2022 23 Iyar 5782