During a health crisis, the application of Covid restrictions should be applied equally across the community. This does not appear to be happening, with Victoria once again caught side-lining a religious event while permitting a sporting match.
Rosh Hashanah is the second holiest day on the Jewish calendar that requires ten men called ‘minyan’ to gather.
Jewish groups tried to get approval from Victoria Health for this gathering, agreeing to abide by social distancing regulations. The health department rejected their application on the grounds of risk. Last Friday, this dispute made its way to the Federal Court where it was subsequently dismissed.
At the same time that the Jewish religious event was effectively shut down, the same Victorian Health Department permitted a boxing match to go ahead in front of a live crowd of sixty-nine people.
The Muay Thai boxing event was held indoors at the Melbourne Pavilion in Kensington under ‘restricted activity directions’ which Victoria health created for professional sporting events.
Victorian Police confirmed that they were in attendance at the Father's Day boxing match, but did not find any breach of public health orders.
All of this is happening while police lay in wait outside places of worship all over the city, particularly within the Jewish community.
The Health Department justified their exemption by saying the fight fit into the special category of ‘professional or high-performance sports persons’. No one at the Health Department has explained why professional sport is ‘less risky’ than religious gatherings.
Everyone at the boxing event abided by Covid-safe directions, where the crowd signed a good faith declaration that they had not been at a Covid hot spot. Religious groups were not given the opportunity to do the same.
The Jewish community are not the only ones being discriminated against by the Victorian Health Department. Gyms, clubs, and restaurants are also closed – not to mention playgrounds.
Even when religious communities are given approval, they have found themselves the target of heavy-handed police attention.
“The obvious overreach of the police in the Caulfield and St Kilda East areas during the two days of Rosh Hashanah was most disturbing,” said Rabbi Yaakov Glasman in a Facebook post.
“I am not referring to the police response to the clear violations of the current health regulations in the form of illegal prayer services. All Victorians must abide by the law even if they vehemently disagree with it.
“I am referring to the many members of the Jewish community who, like last year, were participating in the Project High Holydays experience as sanctioned and approved by DHS and Victoria Police themselves but were accosted by the police for doing just that.”