How do we get our minds off of the US elections, antisemitism and COVID?

We want mashgiach now!

Israelis wearing face masks and gloves, walk outside an open restaurant proposing take aways and deliveries  takes away on May 06, 2020 in Jerusalem. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israelis wearing face masks and gloves, walk outside an open restaurant proposing take aways and deliveries takes away on May 06, 2020 in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
I intended to use this column to take your mind off your problems and the horrific news we now seem to be bombarded with all day, every day.
But this is November in the year 2020. No matter how hard I try, my mind keeps on creeping back to the only two things that seem to matter: COVID-19 and the US election. Oh wait – let’s not forget a perhaps somewhat related (why, by definition, does it always seem to be “somewhat related?”) third issue which consistently makes the headlines: the continued rise of antisemitism.
Surprise, surprise! Whether it’s aimed at maskless hassidim in the streets of Brooklyn, innocent bystanders near a synagogue in Austria, or a deserted Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids, our people continue to be the targets of verbal and physical abuse around the globe. An FBI report just released reported the highest level of hate crimes in the US in over a decade, with 953 recorded incidents targeting Jews and Jewish institutions – a 7% increase over the previous year. Even the discussion of antisemitism itself – the recent controversy surrounding the definition by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – has led to vitriolic editorials, podcasts and protests.
Well, perhaps there’s a perfect, handy dandy solution that can rid the world of all three headaches – simple way to make the pandemic, the “contested” election and the hatred of Jews all disappear at once!
The idea came to me shortly after the Jewish Holy Days. Sukkot had just ended, and I was reading an article in my Globe and Mail newspaper about Toronto’s attempt to keep outdoor dining viable for as long as possible given indoor restrictions. According to the city’s guidelines for restaurants and bars, “if a business is covering its patio, at least two walls of the structure must be open to the outdoors. If the roof of the patio is open, at least one wall must be open to the outdoors.” Hmm, I thought to myself, this sounds remarkably similar to the kinds of rules governing what constitutes a halachically “kosher” sukkah (“A sukkah must have three walls, and be positioned so that its roof is open to the sky”).
Then it hit me: Who better to monitor that restaurants are following not just patio, but overall COVID protocols than religious Jews? With a little retraining, a mashgiach could easily shift his attention from checking lettuce for bugs – or possible cross-contamination of a dairy spoon touching a meat pot – to ensuring that even non-kosher establishments are following the strictest possible guidelines of cleanliness and hygiene. And in the event the mashgiach pool runs dry, there is always the ability to tap into the supply of “mikvah ladies,” who can turn their well-honed skills supervising impeccable cleanliness and proper immersion procedures towards the prevention of further spread of the virus. No dirt under the nails here!
And now let’s look at the US election. Amid cries of fraud and illegal activity, who better to supervise the process than haredim? A Jew who is willing to abandon his car on the side of the road because it is one minute to the start of Shabbat- –who keeps track of chatzot, plag hamincha and shkiah – can most certainly determine if a ballot arrives before the legally designated time! And issues like “Shadgate” or “Sharpiegate” would disappear with a ba’al koreh on the case. Anyone willing to declare an entire Torah scroll unusable because of a possible imperfection with one part of one letter would certainly be able to determine whether a hole has been punched properly, a circle has been filled in accurately, or a line has been smudged. And if disputes still arise? A people that can spend centuries analyzing the minute differences between the Babylonian and Jerusalem versions of the Talmud, or debating the opinions of Shamai and Hillel, can certainly deal with any questionable issues or controversies.(And if not, the Beit Din is always standing by!)
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Just think about it – instead of Jews being vilified, mocked and threatened, we would now be welcomed with open arms. Supervising stores and restaurants, COVID testing labs, polling stations, post offices... We could even come up with a symbol, equivalent to that used for kashrut, which many non-Jews already equate with something “better quality.” Akin to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, it would let people know they are safe, protected and in good (and God’s!) hands – courtesy of The Chosen People!
Now wouldn’t that be an amazing way to Make America Great Again?

The writer is a Toronto-based writer and can be reached at ken.gruber5@gmail.com