An article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency raises the possibility that the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn may have achieved herd immunity to the Coronavirus. The insular residents of this community were criticized by Mayor Di Blasio for not social distancing according to the mandates of our medical masters. Their way of life makes such spacing virtually impossible.

They suffered greatly from the current plague, but according to the Telegraph which in turn quotes Der Yid, a local Yiddish newspaper, life has returned to normal – “nearly four months after the virus first arrived, synagogues and camps are open, yeshivas resumed classes before closing for summer break and wedding halls are packed again, sometimes in violation of city and state rules designed to slow the spread of disease.”

 The unanswered question is have they really achieved herd immunity? Doing so takes about 60 to 90% of a population to acquire immunity secondary to infection. The absence of new cases suggests that it may have happened. Hasidic Jews interact in very close quarters and they contact each other with a frequency that’s found in few other American societies.

“They can’t socially distance because they can’t be locked up, because they chose a way of life in which it’s impossible to exist locked up,” one Hasidic man in Borough Park said about his community, noting that it’s not uncommon for a Hasidic family of 10 or 12 to live in a two- or three-bedroom apartment. “Yes, people are going to die, but they don’t have better options.” [From the article linked above]

Thus, it is possible, though not certain, that the crowded life which has killed many of the Brooklyn Hasids has saved many more the survivors. A little more time will enlighten us. Antibody testing may also detect immunity to the virus. But the same problems I’ve raised about the sensitivity to screening tests for the virus may also plague the tests for the antibody – ie, such tests could give many false positives.