Readers Write: Why do some in G.N. court the virus?

The Island Now

Below is an e-mail I wrote on May 15, 2020, early in the Covid-19 pandemic when our community and our state were supposedly on lockdown in an effort to subdue the spread of infection. With hindsight, the most stunning observation would be this: Jews comprise 0.2 percent of the world’s population and barely 2 percent of the population of our country. I would have expected observant Jews, especially, would refrain from thinning our ranks. But no. In light of the event detailed in my e-mail and the 1,000 cases of Covid-19 on our peninsula to date, it is to our shame.

from: Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar

May 15, 2020


Two hundred people in Great Neck gathered in a public school parking lot (without permission) at an event for which the mayor of the Village of Great Neck was a central organizer.

On Tuesday, May 12, carloads of people in a procession drove along Hicks Lane in the Village of Great Neck accompanied by loud music. As the cars were at a standstill waiting for the light to change at the intersection with Middle Neck Road, I saw a lone police car in the long line of cars and went out to ask what was happening.

.In response to my question, the Nassau County police officer said they were celebrating “(something).” It took me some seconds to process the words he mispronounced. I said, “Do you mean Lag BaOmer, the Jewish holiday?” He did. “Where are all these people going?” I asked. “To the park,” he said. The light changed and the line of cars streamed on by.

A short while later a neighbor on another street phoned me and said a parade of cars and a number of fire trucks had driven past his house earlier, and he thought there was a fire nearby and he began to worry.

Then a neighbor on Arrandale Avenue heard what she thought was loud music from the vicinity of Parkwood Pool. She grabbed her mask and headed out. When she arrived at the Parkwood parking lot, it was filled end to end with private cars plus three fire trucks and an ambulance from the Vigilant Volunteer Fire Department. There was also an ambulance from Hatzalah, which is not based in Great Neck.

She stood at the entrance to the school parking lot astonished. She noticed the children playing outside the cars. Some of them had climbed on top of the cars. She noticed an absence of masks.

“What on earth is going on?” she asked. A participant replied: “It’s a Jewish holiday.” “I know it’s a Jewish holiday,” she said, “but what is all this?” He answered “We’re celebrating the holiday.” She asked if they had permission from the Great Neck School District to be in the parking lot, and she was told “yes.” This turned out not to be true.

The gate to the adjacent Parkwood lower parking lot, which is Great Neck Park District property, was closed, and this was fortunate because it prevented the assemblage from spilling over and extending the jeopardy to the children running among cars.

The school security guard from Great Neck North Middle School came across the street and saw grownups yelling and horns blowing and music blaring. He saw liability on property maintained with public tax dollars. He said, “I’m calling the police.” Then he instructed people to take some children down from a car roof.

When police sirens sounded in the near distance, the cars were set in motion to leave, but they were like a herd of cattle in a pen, big-bodied and in each other’s way.

Our observer was standing at the entrance to the parking lot. The exit is at the far end (beyond the 285 parking spaces), but drivers were trying to exit at the entrance, making the inside of the lot chaotic and unsafe.  (Soon after, the school district closed the gates.)

Back on the sidewalk walking home, she slowed down because a man with his wife pushing a stroller and their children were in front of her. The man waved her on, but she told him, “We need six feet between us before I can pass.” He laughed and replied, “Don’t believe what you hear on the news. It’s not true.”

Much about this event is perplexing: What lured a Nassau County police car and the volunteers of the Vigilant Fire Company to take part in this? Why were there Vigilant fire apparatus but not the Alert rigs that serve this village? Were the Alerts not invited or did they decline? What caused five emergency vehicles to become cornered among all those cars in the parking lot? Why did they place ambulances, which had recently transported Covid-19, within a crowd?

Mayor Pedram Bral of the Village of Great Neck was an acknowledged architect of what turned out to be an insult to the New York State mandate “New York On Pause,” an initiative intended to control the spread of the coronavirus. The tally of Covid-19 infections in Great Neck [on May 12 was] equal to the population of one of our Great Neck villages.

There is also this unanswered question: With at least six synagogues right here that have substantial parking lots, one of which was the point of origin of this holiday procession, why did the event planners send the procession to none of these?

Hundreds of people went joy-riding together in my village because if we ever needed joy, now is the time for it. But the event was poorly planned with no respect for or concurrence with the imperative to diminish the spread of the infection and the death toll of the pandemic.

We live on a small peninsula, and this jamboree was a manifest indifference to the health of our entire community. Apparently science and rational thought played no role in shaping what should have been. Perhaps what we need is IQ testing.

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