Prof. Donald Dixon & The COVID Epidemic

Though Donald F. Dixon’s undergraduate Marketing course was surely not my favorite (and I was never in danger of becoming his prize pupil), I did absorb some valuable pieces of knowledge during the otherwise uninspiring hours I sat in his classroom.  Prof. Dixon is noted in academe for advancing the concept that consumer purchasing behavior is best measured in terms of the household as the purchaser, rather than the individual.

In addition to Dixon’s “Household” concept (which has immensely helped me in understanding the dynamics of a marriage, including and especially my own), I also walked away from his course with a quoted statistic that for every customer who complains to a merchant, there are approximately 23 similarly disenchanted customers who politely hold their peace but will thenceforth curtail if not totally discontinue their patronage, and often not be hesitant to discuss with friends their dissatisfactions with the merchant.  While I never actually did any verification of this figure (nor even thereafter encountered a similar metric), I certainly would not dispute that the number of vocal complainants in any situation is but a fraction of the total dissatisfied throng.

In addressing the CoronaVirus pandemic, the Israeli government has in many resepects disregarded the household unit concept and has framed its actions in terms of individuals.  Just as the household unit is a consumer of goods and services, the household functions (or dysfunctions) as a unit with respect to the COVID epidemic.  If schools are closed and classes are Zoomed, then the breadwinner parent (if he or she still has a job) is affected, especially if he or she is precluded from attending his or her own business establishment.  For her part, the stay-at-home Hausfrau has a whole different daily routine from what had been her usual; she must continue to manage the household while also effectively serving as a schoolteacher for her homebound offspring who otherwise would be in their classrooms or ganim.

If but a single household member actually becomes infected (or even exposed to an infected person) then all members of the household are subject to movement restrictions if not enforced isolation.  And all too familiar are stories of households being broken up and otherwise disrupted when household members who are out-of-country or doing military duty are prevented by the application (and misapplication) of the emergency regulations from rejoining their families for occasions ranging from major life cycle events to the weekly Shabbat dinner.

My own classroom attendance at Prof. Dixon’s course was, shall we say, not 100%, so I will now take an excursus from Prof. Dixon to another accomplished academic, the recently departed Prof. Marvin Schick, whose manifold accomplishments have been detailed elsewhere and continue to redound to the benefit of the Jewish communities in the USA, Israel, and elsewhere.  While it cannot be said that Marvin and I saw eye-to-eye in all matters, we did have occasions to interact in our common interests; I now single out one significant pet project of his that has personally benefitted me immensely.

In his capacity as President of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, Marvin was the instrumental force behind the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society; he saw the need for an English-language publication that detailed the Halachic stance and processes as they apply to the challenges posed by current developments, trends, and technologies.  First published in 1981, the Journal was a familiar semiannual publication until 2017, when its publication was discontinued, apparently on account of financial pressures.

Happily, the Journal nominally resumed publication in December of 2020, when Volume 75 was released (what with the interactions of the U.S. Postal Service and the Israel Post, I only received my copy a few weeks ago); Marvin had worked behind the scenes to bring about the Journal’s reanimation prior to his passing last April.  As this is being written, the Journal is now regrouping, reorganizing, and transitioning to an internet presence with an eye towards resuming its semiannual publication schedule.

An article I wrote appears in the Spring 1993 edition of the Journal; in addition to having been cited in scholarly works by others and in a Knesset research staff report, its appearance in the Journal led to at least one remunerative case in my pre-Aliyah law practice.

Volume 75 of the Journal focuses upon COVID-related challenges to Jewish life.  One article in the latest issue, “Shomer Pesa’im HaShem and the Novel Coronavirus” by Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, sets forth some rulings and rationale of Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein.  Per Rabbi Bechhofer’s article, Rabbi Klein effectively ruled that because G‑d watches over the simpleminded, it is not an urgent matter to comply with the masking and social distancing regulations.

After analyzing rulings by other authorities and applying them to the actual situation, Rabbi Bechhofer’s conclusion to his article states that “[b]y now, it is evident that [Rabbi Klein’s positions] are problematic,” and proceeds to explain why.

Rabbi Bechhofer’s article, then, pushes the limits Marvin Schick would have set for criticism of rabbinical authorities.

Who is Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein?  He is a noted rabbinical posek who is the leading rabbi of Bnei Brak’s Ohr HaChaim neighborhood.  In light of the notorious CoronaVirus infection situation in Bnei Brak, the fact that Rabbi Klein is also the rabbi of the Bnei Brak’s Ma’ayanei Hayeshua Medical Center is highly troubling indeed.  Ma’ayanei Hayeshua, you will recall, recently forced the resignation of its then-Director for daring to call out the lethal noncompliances on the part of a significant segment of Ma’ayanei Hayeshua’s catchment area population.

The WuFlu situation and the economic slowdown it has brought about places Ma’ayanei Hayeshua under extraordinary stress which severely impedes its ability to provide all sorts of patient care.  This causes patients who, in ordinary times, would be treated at Ma’ayanei Hayeshua to appear at the doors of other hospitals, including Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva, itself experiencing an overload attributable to the COVID pandemic and its sequellae.

Which gives me a personal stake in the matter, because my wife is a physician on staff at Beilinson; until the second-dose of the COVID vaccination was very recently administered to the woman I live with, the blatant and unabashedly flagrant contumacious noncompliances by much of Ma’ayanei Hayeshua’s calling population materially contributed to a situation that posed a potentially lethal threat to my own health!

If Rabbi Klein’s position as the rabbinical authority at Ma’ayanei Hayeshua is highly troubling, then some comments I have heard from acquaintances who are in the healthcare field are downright scary:  Comments along the lines of denying medical treatment to Bnei Brak residents and others who have (or are perceived to have) refused to comply with the social distancing regulations and/or refused to cooperate in the vaccination campaign.

It is perhaps remotely understandable that someone might make such comments in the heat of anger or frustration.  There is no denying the increasing anger on the part of many Israelis towards certain insular groups* (though many members of such groups, even in Bnei Brak, do in fact comply with the social distancing rules).  But such remarks are a step in the direction towards a severe corruption of the healthcare system, and are most highly inappropriate when uttered by healthcare providers.

As apprehensive as I am over such comments by healthcare personnel, my wife is out-and-out appalled, for they are diametrically antithetical to every aspect of her healthcare philosophy; I would not wish to witness her reaction if she were to hear such talk from healthcare personnel in her own workplace!  My wife’s commitment to the effective and competent delivery of healthcare began before she ever enrolled in medical school; her father, a dentist who served as President of the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry, was one of her many role models.

So there is reason to be scared by some of the comments I have heard from the mouths of healthcare personnel.  If Prof. Dixon’s numbers are accurate, then the healthcare workers (and members of the general public) who are not making such statements but who are thinking along those lines are twenty-three times as frightening.

* [I try to avoid terms such as “ultra-orthodox” or “haredi” because people who pay bribes to cover up insurance fires in which responding firefighters suffer injury are not more religiously-observant than myself; it is noted that Parshat Mispatim, which directly addresses the issue of bribery, was the Torah portion read this past Shabbat.]

About the Author
Born in Philadelphia, Kenneth lived on Long Island and made Aliyah to Israel. Professionally, he worked as a lawyer in the USA (including as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service), a college professor and an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. He's also a writer and a traveler.