Eliot Strickon (WI): ‘In My Orthodox Community, There Were Still Large Gatherings’
Eliot Strickon (54), a Democrat from Milwaukee, WI, lives in an Orthodox Jewish and African American urban community and serves on his synagogue’s board. He is the child of anthropologists who were students of Margaret Mead, and he describes himself as a Bundist (a secular Jewish socialist movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s). His grandmother joined the hatmakers union in the 1930s. Following in her footsteps, Strickon, his mother and his sister joined teachers’ unions.
What do you think about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic?
I am still amazed, though I should be over it by now, about how the human desire to pander to power and profit circumvents rationale analysis and the consideration of long-term consequences.
What do you think about the response in your state/community?
As the situation has developed it became clear that institutions were always two steps back. In my Orthodox community there are still large gatherings through last Saturday night–20 guests from Brooklyn! Handshakes! Hugs! Sit down meals for 100 with senior citizens and small children! Despite being VP of the synagogue I didn’t attend most of the Shabbat services, and when I did I doused myself with Purrell and stood with plenty of “social distance”.
What measures have you taken in your own life to protect yourself and others from the virus?
We are self-isolating at this point. Everything is online. Work, school, shopping, social life. I am still taking the kids outside to run around, but we are not going to other people’s homes or entertaining guests. We pulled our oldest son out of Yeshiva last Friday only to see the whole school close down by Sunday morning. The synagogue was shuttered by Tuesday morning. Thursday the Yeshiva reported one of its students at the school tested positive for Coronavirus.
Are you concerned about casting your ballot during the pandemic? Have you or did you already vote absentee?
My wife and I both asked for absentee ballots, as did many in our congregation.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Significantly, I missed another possible effect of the coronavirus: Anti-semitism. During services, I was told by the rabbi that a man approached the entrance to the synagogue and verbally harassed entering congregants. Our security guard, an off-duty cop, asked him to move on, which he did, until he came back shortly thereafter with a club, which he proceeded to swing around in proximity to people approaching the synagogue. At this point our guard drew his service revolver. I am happy to report that the intruder left the area with no shots fired.