Webinar

COVID-19 Vaccines and the Faith Community

Tuesday, April 6, 2021
REUTERS / Antara Foto Agency
Speaker

President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Executive Vice President, Orthodox Union

Presider

Vice President for National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and lead pastor at The Gathering Place church, and Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, discuss the role faith communities play in the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process.

Learn more about CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Program.

FASKIANOS:  Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations Religion and Foreign Policy webinar series. I'm Irina Faskianos, Vice President for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. As a reminder, today's webinar is on the record and the audio, video, and transcript will be available on our website cfr.org and on our iTunes podcast channel, Religion and Foreign Policy. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We're delighted to have Reverend Gabriel Salguero and Rabbi Moshe Hauer with us today to discuss COVID-19 vaccines in the faith community. We've shared their bios with you but I'll give you a few highlights.

 

Reverend Gabriel Salguero is the founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, which offers an important leadership voice for the close to 8 million Latino Evangelicals in our country. He serves on the board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. He and his wife Reverend Jeanette Salguero are the co-lead pastors of the multicultural Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in New York City. They conducts worships in three languages: English, Spanish, and Mandarin. He has been named one of the most influential Latino Evangelical leaders by the Huffington Post, CNN Español, and Jorge Ramos’ Al Punto, to name a few. He's a feature writer for On Faith and he's served as an advisor to the White House on issues of immigration and health care and the faith community and also served on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New Jersey as well as director of the Institute of Faith and Public Life and Hispanic Leadership programs at Princeton Theological Seminary.

 

Rabbi Moshe Hauer is the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. Rabbi Hauer was the spiritual leader of congregation Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion in Baltimore for over 26 years. He's active in local, communal, and national leadership in many areas with an emphasis on education and works with social service organizations serving the Jewish community. He serves as a trustee of the Associated Jewish Federation of Baltimore, and is a member of the National Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as well as a member of the Rabbinical Council-Vaad HaRabbonim of Baltimore and the Rabbinical Council of America. And he's founding editor of the online journal Klal Perspectives, and leads a leadership training program for rabbis and communal leaders. And I know that Reverend Salguero and Rabbi Hauer have worked together as well. So it's wonderful to have you here today to talk about the role religion leaders are playing in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, what you're doing to work with other leaders on the issue and to manage a lot of the disinformation and misinformation about the pandemic and the vaccines. So I thought we could first begin with you Reverend Salguero to talk about your efforts, and then we'll turn to the rabbi.

 

SALGUERO:  Thank you so much, and good afternoon for those of you who are on the east coast and good morning for those of you who are on the west coast. And thank you, Miss Faskianos and the team for this opportunity. As you've heard, I'm Reverend Gabriel Salguero. I'm the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. And an update actually, I'm no longer in New York, I'm in the city of Orlando, Florida, pastoring in Orlando, Florida at the gathering place. Here's how I would take a Latino Evangelical position, not “the” Latino evangelical position, but “a” Latino evangelical position. There's over 10 million Hispanic Evangelicals in the United States, there's 60 million Latinos living in the United States, one out of every four children born in the U.S. are Hispanic, one out of every two is a person of color, and so it's a significant community. When it comes to the vaccine in the Latino evangelical community, which is the community that I serve, there has been some vaccine hesitancy so I want to talk, I want to frame my conversation with you all around three areas. First, taking inventory of the moment we're living. How do Latino evangelicals respond to the vaccines of COVID-19? Number one, we have to take inventory that there is some historical trepidation or what is known as “vaccine hesitancy” because of the history of inequitable healthcare distribution and, of course, although we are disproportionately impacted, Latinos are twice as likely to be victims of COVID-19 either to death or to contagion. And there is because of the history of sterilization that happened within the healthcare among Latinos, there's some vaccine hesitancy. That hesitancy is further compounded because there are entire streams of misinformation or disinformation that are being sent through social media, that are being sent through group chats, a WhatsApp of pastors, maybe 100, 150 pastors, and through the social media platforms that are sadly sometimes repeated in Latino evangelical platforms.

 

What are some of these myths that we are wrestling with? One, that there's a chip in the vaccines that are having Latinos or people of color attract: a myth, it is not true. Two, and this is much more theological to come from an apocalyptic and eschatological view that's dominant in many Hispanic evangelical communities, that is somehow the mark of the beast or the sign of the times a reference to the book of Revelation in the Christian scripture. Three, that somehow your DNA is being changed when you receive the vaccine. That coupled with the historical distrust of systems, be it government, some of us have traveled from Latin America and other countries where there's historical distrust of government and distrust of the healthcare system, given the history of sterilization and inequitable health care distribution has created a major challenge. What is the Latino evangelical community and what is now like the national Latino Evangelical Coalition doing in response? We have partnered with the Ad Council and we have created a public service announcement in Spanish for faith leaders, talking about the benefits of the vaccines and why they save lives, framed around the theological moral framework of the Good Samaritan; love your neighbor as yourself and taking the vaccine is part of this moral commitment of loving your neighbor and loving your community.

 

Not only are we doing public service announcements, we've had several national forums in Spanish with the CDC and the Health and Human Services, where we have talked about the realities of the vaccines and we've had epidemiologist answer questions. At one call, we had over 1100 pastors with Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is the Surgeon General, Dr. Nunez-Coba, who's part of the administration's response, Nunez-Smith, who’s part of the COVID-19 response, and two national forums on Facebook and on Zoom with over 500 pastors responding directly to the questions. And so the main thing that we have to do is be distributors of information. The second thing is we need to validate people's questions. It is not helpful in our experience to cast judgments around real and genuine anxiety that does not contribute to trust, that does not contribute to an increase in vaccinations if people feel that they're legitimate questions, and/or anxieties cannot be responded to by medical experts, and by trusted brokers, be they faith leaders or community leaders in the Latino community.

 

Lastly, many of our congregations are being used as vaccination sites around the country. And we're partnering with local and state outreaches in our communities and we're using our churches as vaccination sites. I think that the reality is that if we're not intentional about responding to questions, if there's not a collaboration between faith leaders and medical experts and researchers. And number three, if we do not take a pastoral using the language of our tradition approach to actually listen to people and addressing their anxieties, this misinformation will continue to expound and continue to reach these communities and we will have a harder and much regrettably, much longer time where we're rushing with the vaccines. The last thing I want to say and this is very important, is that we have to be committed for the long haul. People want to know that we're not just committed to COVID 19 vaccinations, but that we're committed to equitable health care distribution in communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted and that we're committed to bringing factual information, that we're committed to being consistent, and that the people who are speaking, my wife and I were fully vaccinated on April 1 and we took a picture. And so we can't just say we want people vaccinated. We need to share our stories and talk about what are all of the challenges that people face. We are about two weeks away from an interview I had with Brooke Baldwin on CNN. One of the questions she asked us is why should faith leaders be involved in a national information campaign. One of my simple responses is because faith leaders are historically trusted brokers. And if we are able to leverage that influence, to get people to a place of health, we're doing our job to the best ability. Thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to further conversation.

 

FASKIANOS:  Thank you very much. And Rabbi Hauer over to you to talk about the interfaith work that you're doing to inform the community about the pandemic.

 

HAUER:  Thank you. Thank you very much, and I want to really, first of all echo everything that Reverend Salguero said. The approach which he has taken is reflected in the approach that we have taken. The elements of making sure that clergy is educated so that they're able to speak with a clear voice, and reassure their communities and encourage their communities. As religious leaders we, certainly in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, we view the preservation of life, both of our own lives and our responsibility towards others, towards ensuring public health to be a religious mandate. And when faith leaders are able to themselves be made comfortable with the science, with the science of the vaccines, and to be able to speak with a clear voice, and yes, walk the walk, as the Reverend said, you know, to themselves be vaccinated and show its importance, show, it's important. So as a matter of personal safety and of communal responsibility, you know, thank God, all of us looking and seeing the trajectory of how it how the vaccine is having really positive effects on the trajectory of illness, and we can see this is something that we can do for our community at large. We have also done work internally, before I address, you know, some of the interfaith effort which we which we did, we did this, you know, similar kind within the Orthodox Jewish congregations, which we had significant work where we brought together, with leaders in the scientific community, some of the important halakhic voices, the voices of Jewish law leaders, you know, rabbinic leaders, to be completely comfortable with the science where it was and so that they could provide the guidance and the reassuring voice and worship reassuring voice to the community.

 

The interfaith work which you refer to was actually, was with the National Association of Evangelicals. I had the privilege to publish together, Dr. Walter Kim and I, an op-ed which was really a letter calling upon the government to view the religious community as a partner, as a partner in making the vaccination efforts successful. We published this, this goes back already a few months. And it was at the beginning, towards the beginning of the vaccine rollout when we felt, and we continue to feel ,and actually I think the time really has ripens for it to work, that using the vast infrastructure of houses of faith in the in the community as sites for vaccination would be an outstanding opportunity for the government to be able to achieve their goal of being able to make vaccines available for all. There'll be an outstanding opportunity as well for the private industry that was involved, you know, the CVS’s and the Walgreens. You know, our houses of faith are both experienced and well equipped of having hundreds of people come through for different kinds of health initiatives, blood drives, and the like, and probably easier than getting down the aisle of a pharmacy. You know, trying to you know, to do it with safety and social distancing, the social halls that we have in our houses of faith would really be and are becoming, thank God, an important site and for us to speak matters one faith community, but as a joint faith community that we want to be part of the solution to this problem. And we want to be able to help not only the members of our own faith community, but the members of our neighborhoods, all of our communities to be able to access.

 

I took a family member for vaccination, to a mass vaccination site, which was at stadium. And it was it was magnificent it was well run, you know, the National Guard was there, that was incredibly pleasant. But getting, there getting to the stadium, which was downtown, and you know the distance to walk in the lines and going to the proper level of the stadium to be able to get the vaccination, I was able to do it, thank God, I'm a relatively young person, not everybody is going to be able to do it, being able to go to your neighborhood house of faith, which is both comfortable and accessible. And providing the, you know, the neighborhood with a sense of confidence, this is not going to some strange, unfamiliar location with, you know, as friendly as they would be and as efficient as they would be with strangers. But to being it's being able to do this, with which people face with an understandable degree of uncertainty, to do it in the friendly and inspiring confidence of their house of faith of a neighborhood, of a neighborhood facility, it can really make a difference in fighting this battle. You know, there's the informational battle, trying to combat the disinformation that the Reverend spoke about, which our faith communities, frankly, are especially vulnerable to because they’re networked. I don't know what the percentage of WhatsApp groups there are with religious communities of the whole, but people are networked and they share with each other and sometimes they share with each other things that are not so responsible.

 

We have to be able to provide not just the counter education, but just actions that speak louder than words. If your house of faith is a place where you can go to get vaccinated, I think that that helps us a lot to get people and to get people over the hump. When Dr. Kim and I published that op-ed, I would hope that there was an eventual effectiveness, I would say unequivocally that at the time, there was very little impact that was able to be seen that the process of the vaccine rollout effort was so early, it was so early in the process, and the government was really finding itself in terms of how to do it. And the private industry, that pharmacy, the great national pharmacies, were just trying to find themselves as to how to get this how to get this done. And it was too early, really, for them to think about actively using us as partners. I think that has shifted, thank God. And I think the consistent voice which has come from so many, way, way beyond beyond the article and the readiness of the administration, the strong outreach of administration to the faith community, is now really starting to see it pick up steam. We're hearing many, many synagogues that now are being given the opportunity, many, many churches, and all kinds of houses of faith, mosques, that are there are being given the opportunity to serve as vaccination sites as supply starts to rise. And I think that we would believe that if we do our job as faith communities, we're going to help the demand rise as well. And together that that will that will, with God's help, help us overcome this, this pandemic that has altered our lives.

 

FASKIANOS: 

Thank you very much. And to your point, I know that last week, President Biden spoke during the weekly White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships call to leaders. And I think, you know, it does seem evident that they are really reaching out to the faith communities, which has that facilitated and help the work that you're doing in your communities to have that boost. at a national level?

 

HAUER: 

I think it definitely has, and really the evidence of it is in the news we get on a regular basis of another house of faithful has been given the opportunity by its local government, by its local health department to be a vaccine site. It's happening. Thank God it's happening. And I think that the more that we play that role, the more accessible and reassuring this, this campaign will be to all of our parishioners.

 

SALGUERO: 

I think I want to echo what Rabbi Hauer has said. Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris was on a national call where they launched the community core of founding members to get the information out, and I was actually on that call with Vice President Harris. I think there were over 145 between religious and community organizations. And so there is a great deal of intentionality. The the question that remains to be answered is, when will we get to the tipping point? Because the truth is we are in a race, right? Different strands are continuing to have outbreaks. And so we need to--and so I think that the public private partnerships are essential. We the calls we done with the Surgeon General, and with the CDC are important because you have two important voices, the scientific community and the religious community. Our coalition NALEC has partnered with people like Barbara William Skinner, and the African American clergy network and values partnership, and the Ad Council, because we know that the key here is not just a one message, right? When we did the New York Times interview, when we did other interview, did one with Vice, it has to be repetition, repetition, repetition, because people are being flooded by misinformation more than daily, perhaps on an hourly basis, or second by second in their social media feeds and on the cell phones they carry. And so it's important that we're persistent and that we continue to repeat this message. And the more quite frankly, as the rabbi says, they see interfaith voices, that there's a broad coalition of faith voices who, from our theological and religious perspective, say "No, this is this is a moral challenge, in addition to a scientific and health challenge," to quote from from our Jewish brothers and sisters as part of being the "tikkun olam," right? The healing of the world, this is very critical, because the messages and the bombardment in the Latino community, there are videos of faux-medical experts saying that the vaccines are ineffective that, that they're targeting minority communities. And so we have to be persistent because people are being, as the rabbi has said, we are so connected in the religious community. I did not know how many WhatsApp in the Jewish tradition, but there's certainly a lot in the Hispanic faith communities. And so I think we're very similar in that. So we have to be consistent and persistent in our messaging.

 

FASKIANOS: 

We've seen that a lot of the states are lifting their mask mandates. And obviously, the CDC came out, CDC director, and said, "Please wear your masks." I mean, rolling out vaccines is important. But wearing masks and socially distancing, washing hands, all of that we need to continue. So do you feel both of you feel that it is upon the faith leaders to also carry that message? Because again, is that message stronger coming from religious leaders than from the state and at the national level?

 

HAUER: 

I think we have to lead on all fronts in terms of public health and public safety and trying to encourage wise and practical adherence to guidelines. There's a public health balance, which has been being struggled with on a day to day basis and figuring out how to navigate this, to give people the right amounts of guidance to be careful. And at the same time to give them the horizon, that their efforts are actually producing results to be reassuring. Sometimes we are concerned about the abundance of caution that is there. This is not a concern reserved for religious leaders that has been written about extensively in the press, you know, the abundance of caution that sometimes make people wonder "Well, if I'm still going to have to do all of this, what have I really gained by taking the vaccine?" And, you know, we're trying to responsibly make sure in concert with with government guidelines that we give people a sense of things, opening up for them as a result of the efforts that they are making, but not to declare victory before it is there. And that we should exemplify in our in our communal life, proper responsibility, our responsibility to the best we can it's a tightrope this whole thing has been such a such a complex, complex area to navigate and it's been a responsibility and an opportunity for us to try to lead our communities in these ways.

 

SALGUERO: 

I think that's precisely it. This is a initiative that has to be fought on all fronts, faith communities, medical experts, educators, mental health experts, press, government, both local, state, national and federal government, I think all hands on deck for this global pandemic. I do think the rabbi is quite right in that I was on a call earlier today, where one of the questions is how do we tell people to stay vigilant but also talk about the advances, right? So if you've been vaccinated, fully vaccinated, and you and you've waited, the timespan that the CDC has had, now maybe you can at least meet with other fully vaccinated people. So there has been some advances, but at the same time, we have to remain vigilant. And I think that is the kind of delicate balance and message that we have to bring, I should also say their messages have to be culturally and religiously contextualized. And I think that sometimes, when we miss the contextualization, we miss the opportunity to be able to communicate in persuasive ways to communities who really need the message most urgently. And so that is why these kinds of partnerships are, are critically important because the contextualization of the message contributes to the efficaciousness of the message.

 

FASKIANOS: 

Right. I will stop now. And I'm going to go to everybody on the webinar, you can either raise your hand or type of question in the Q&A box. There are already a couple there. And I'm just going to ask you to ask the question yourself, I know you all well enough, Paul De Vries, if you're in a position to unmute yourself and ask your question, that would be fantastic. And also identify who you are your affiliation, please.

 

DE VRIES: 

Paul De Vries in New York City, and New York City has not been the same since you left Gabriel. Gabriel and I worked together a few years, way back. I was watching as the vaccines were made available, just kind of getting the big picture. And also personally, I live near the Bronx and noted that the other four boroughs had places receiving vaccine long before the Bronx had any place. And then, when it was set up at Yankee Stadium, which I think was the first place in the Bronx, the promotion was, especially the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is not nearly as effective as the other two. I have a hard time seeing all this without feeling there's a huge bias. Yeah, ignoring the Bronx in the first place, which is for everyone else on the call, primarily Black and brown communities, and then pushing for Johnson and Johnson, which is only 65% effective. So I think it stinks to high heaven. Is there something we can do about it? Or am I wrong?

 

SALGUERO: 

Well, Dr. De Vries, thank you for your question. And your commitment to highlighting what is not a new phenomenon, which is health care inequities, or access to health care inequities and access to health care. Historically, communities of color have disproportionately had less access to quality health care. And so the COVID-19 has not presented a new reality, but has exacerbated existing realities, I think, is what we're seeing right? In our community, now I'm speaking about Latino communities, the high rates of diabetes, hypertension, what what are underlying conditions further complicate this, and historical distrust, right? So think about, in the African American communities, and I was talking to Dr. Barbara William Skinner, who is an African American clergy leader, and others who remember Tuskegee, and those experiments, and in the Latino community, there were challenges with sterilization of Latina women in the '60s and the '70s. And so that memory, for some may be a long distance away, but for some of us is quite recent. And so what we have to do is continue to work to level out and to provide equity in the entire healthcare system. But in this case, now, we're talking about this global pandemic, which is really urgent, maybe double and triple our efforts to ensure that everyone is getting not just equal access but correct information. I think that, as we know, the efficaciousness of all three vaccines, whether it's Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson and Johnson, are not just commendable at the speed at which they are been delivered, I think and now with the intentionality of the present administration. I think we've come a long way. But you're quite right that we still have a lot of work to do. But this is a larger problem of health care access inequity in these communities.

 

FASKIANOS: 

Thank you. Let's go to Katherine Marshall. And Katherine, if you want to just ask your question, it would be great.

 

MARSHALL: 

All right. I'm Katherine Marshall. I'm at Georgetown University at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Clearly, there's an enormous amount of energy and activity on focusing on religious communities in the US. But Reverend Salguero, I'd be very interested in how you see this beyond the United States and evangelical communities in other parts of the world, and particularly in the Northern Triangle countries, which are so much focus these days and where there are so many communities.

 

SALGUERO: 

Well, professor Marshall, thank you for that question. Look, I think that when these these twin crises, both the kind of the migration from the Northern Triangle countries because of hurricanes that have occurred in the last year, natural disasters, continued violence, you know? Well, Dr. Marshall, many of the realities are now also being further exacerbated by the coronavirus, or the COVID-19 global pandemic, you could imagine how the Latin American evangelical there is a Latin American Evangelical Alliance, I'm on the actual on the executive committee response representing North America. And there is-I got a call from the president of the Evangelical Alliance of Paraguay, where there's real concern about how some of the the countries who have not had the same amount of distribution or access are going to respond to this. We live in an increasingly globalized world, and what happens in Latin America is certainly going to impact North America. What happens in the Caribbean is impacting Africans in Asia, and Africa. and Europe is impacting us. And so there is a real concern. And I want to say that the myths that are happening in the Latino evangelical community are also happening in Latin America There is a WhatsApp chat of the 22 evangelical alliances of Latin America, where there's intentional efforts, press releases, there was actually a virtual press conference by I think, at least twenty of those presidents to talk about the necessity of being vaccinated. But equally as important to making sure that those countries that have great access to vaccines as part of their diplomacy, and as part of their kind of global citizenship, are sharing that with those countries who have less access and that that is a real crisis and concern as you could imagine.

 

FASKIANOS: 

I'm going to go next to Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta, who has raised her hand.

 

ADENEY-RISAKOTTA: 

Hello, good. afternoon, everybody. Thank you, Dr. Salguero, and Rabbi Moshe. I like to now little bit about how do you contextualize your method, because you mentioned about very important to content, contextualize the message in the in the situation where all messages are not set up as true, especially in the post-truth era. Thank you.

 

FASKIANOS: 

Who wants to take that?

 

HAUER: 

I could start or have the very capable Reverend continue. I think that to a great degree, each of us has to come at it with an effort to understand without, starting with an effort to understand the context of those who are listening to our messages, the context of our own faith community, what works, what are what are the concerns that they themselves face or may harbor. We have to be aware of the rumor mill, of the kinds of messages which are going out to them and around them. And in that framework, see that as the context within which we have to respond with understanding, as the Reverend said before, dismissiveness is not what, you know, what will do the trick, trying to speak with with with the authority of thoughtful, thoughtful science, thoughtful research, of understanding of the issues and trying to dispel them with the right voices, finding the right voices, that will be able to address our particular community. in our framework, we have, like I think every faith community, certain, perhaps more recognized and appreciated voices, they didn't come together as one. I mean, organizationally, we made a statement early on trying to address the concerns which people had, remember that there are, there's a general issue of vaccine hesitancy in the world, and in the United States, that the corona vaccine had its own layer, even people who are doing the MMR and doing all of those vaccines that have been out there for, for decades, when it came to a vaccine, which was brought out to market that is absolutely not just record-breaking, but record-smashing pace, and using an entirely new technology, which starts to speak about genetics, it raised entirely new concerns amongst people who hadn't been concerned before. And trying to understand that, and trying to address the fair concerns that people have, but at the same time being able to dispel the really the imagined consequences of these changes, by speaking with authority, by making clear that we're not just reflexively saying "Okay, you should do it, everybody go out there and do it." But we had our own questions. And we asked them, and we explored it with the scientific community, and we came to understand and to appreciate, and this is why we are encouraging it. And this is why we are doing it ourselves for ourselves and our families. Again, every community has its trusted voices, and every community has its language. And we have to find that in all the work that we do, and certainly as well, and addressing vaccine hesitancy.

 

SALGUERO: 

That was extremely well said, and I want to affirm that, I think there are three plumb lines that I think we are learning as faith leaders, or at least I have learned, number one, informed clergy are better messengers. So we have to be informed and ask the questions on behalf of the people we serve. The second thing, empathy is a great tool for getting in a hearing people need to feel that that their questions are being heard with empathy. And then, of course, the third thing that I keep saying is repetition, repetition, repetition. The questions that are being asked about the vaccines, its speed, and all of that those are legitimate questions, and there are scientific responses that I think can help people wrestle with that in honest ways, but also in ways that lower anxiety. And so if we use those tools, finally, I should say we all drink deeply from our own wells, in all of our traditions, or sacred texts, or however it is that that our moral worldview is being formed a religious worldview, there are stories about healing, and more responsibility that can lay ethical frameworks on how to respond from our tradition to this global and shared crisis.

 

FASKIANOS: 

Great. Just a couple of points of clarification. You know, obviously, we have been seeing this incredible rollout of the vaccines, but they were based on a lot of the research and the testing that they were drinking the SARS virus so the scientific community was able to deploy that research, or turn it, to address COVID-19. Laura Alexander put in the chat, and I think it is worth mentioning, about just talking about the efficacy of the J and J vaccine, and since we really want to have good information, the stats are it's 100%, seems to be 100% effective, at preventing harmful hospitalizations and deaths. It's 85% effective in preventing severe disease, and about 65%, which was was stated before, in preventing mild to moderate disease. So it is quite effective. And I think that in terms of which vaccine you should take, any vaccine is better than no vaccine. And then Chloe Aldridge also put in the chat from about is there some benefit in promoting the J and J vaccine in certain communities, if that makes a difference between people getting vaccinated or not? That it's traditional, familiar technology to most who get vaccines. And again, this idea of it's only one injection than two, so it might be easier to organize, as well as the whole refrigeration. The J and J vaccine does not need to be stored in the the refrigeration temperatures that a lot of places do not have, especially in rural communities. So if you could maybe talk about those challenges that might be useful for the group?

 

HAUER: 

Yeah, I would echo that. I mean, I think it's very important that we have we have a good perspective on that vaccine offering as well. The issues of access, ease of access that J and J presents because of the lack of refrigeration, you know, the normal refrigeration needs, not the exceptional refrigeration needs, which was one of the main issues which was presented us early on, how are you going to be able to, to have have your synagogue or your church function as a vaccine site without the ability to store according to the requirements?  And there are many, in our experience, who were disappointed when they drive by the mass vaccine sites, and they say "Today we're offering Pfizer," and they say that means today, they're offering Pfizer and has to come back in three weeks for another offering of Pfizer, and the J and J, which is a single dose, and is essentially completely effective against death, and almost completely with with severe disease, and with the single dose. I think that many people would view it as an opportunity, as an opportunity, not as being as being deprived of it. I'm sure there are different perspectives. But part of our of our building confidence will be will be to recognize the that it's a really good alternative. It's a really, really, really good alternative.

 

FASKIANOS: 

Gabriel, anything to offer on that front?

 

SALGUERO: 

I think that we have to look at this from the real lives of people who may be having to go to work. And it may be a challenge. I mean, this is a very sometimes it's a day to day thing that we don't take note of, they may need childcare to get to the vaccine. So some of them may see the one dose as an option because of their particular reality. The reality is that whether it's Moderna or Pfizer, or J and J, these vaccines are saving lives. And that is the message that we as faith leaders are saying, whether you take two shots from Moderna, two shots from Pfizer, or you take the one shot from J and J, the goal here is to get as many people vaccinated as possible so that we can save lives. And I think that healthcare is a very personal decision. And some people may and we have to respect the kind of, that's why there are so many HIPAA laws and things like that, because it's a very, you know, personal health is so, for so many people, such a private thing, although it has very public implications. And so we have to, as pastors, we can't mandate people what to do, but we can journey with them, and tell them the implications of making wise and responsible health decisions for them, their families, and their communities. And it's not just their religious community, but the larger community of every faith of people who have who don't claim any faith. All these people are of value and have human dignity, and the vaccinations are a way to save lives.

 

FASKIANOS: 

Wonderful. Tom Walsh has written a question Tom, do you had that this is on my mind too. Do you want to ask it yourself? If you want to unmute?

 

WALSH: 

Sure. Can you hear me okay?

 

FASKIANOS: 

We can.

 

WALSH: 

Yeah. So anyway, thank you for very fine program and a lot of great insights, very helpful for me. But I'm wondering, you know, the pandemic has changed our lives and kind of put us into this virtual world increasingly, and social network platforms, and that has opened up many opportunities we've had to adapt or become irrelevant. I'm just wondering, how do you see how this leads, in other words, we're not necessarily going back to the old days when we're through this beyond let's say, the vaccine is successful, and we begin to create a new normal, what's that going to look like? And has this pandemic and the consequences that pushed us into these areas? Are they creating lasting effects, some of them very positive and hopeful, and others that are very disruptive of the way we understand faith communities and the way faith communities build their community and solidarity together?

 

HAUER: 

Reverend, I don't know who wants to go first. But that's a subject for a really, really healthy discussion and separate and significant discussion. I'm happy to speak out for a couple of minutes. But I think I would like to defer let you go first, please.

 

SALGUERO: 

Thank you, Rabbi. Mr. Walsh, your question is one that is reverberating across many religious communities. Even before the vaccines, when we had to reorganize when we had to, to limit shut our actual in person places of worship, many of us went to Zoom or Facebook Live, and so the law of double factors, Aristotle once said is that nothing prevents an action from having two consequences. At the same time, one good and one bad. And so there is a sense by many religious leaders, a sense of how do we how do we recreate or create new venues for people who are sheltered for people who cannot come over during the shutdown? And so there's been a lot of ingenuity, the truth is that many young people have helped in my community to lead that right, because they're their digital natives, as the Barner report would say, but at the same time, there's a real sense of isolation. And there's a real sense of despair, I have a son who's a sophomore in high school and a middle school. And I never thought I would hear the day when my sons would say "I really want to go back to school." And so even, they're Gen Z's, right, even that cry of kind of isolation, of not being connected in person, even though they've been connecting virtually, I think that's a real concern that faith leaders have had to address. And then it's further exacerbated by the digital divide that is often generational. What about people who can't connect to the synagogue, the mosque or the church via Zoom or Facebook Live, or they don't have those digital platforms, they too need a space and a place to worship. And so I think that there are we've had to do it, we've done it with varying degrees of success and failure, we've connected with some people, it is not the same, but we're trying to at least provide pastoral care, liturgical spaces, worship spaces, but it is been, quite frankly, a challenge. And the truth is that I have found that there have been people left because of the digital divide from the worship community. And then this is a theological question that as the rabbis it would take weeks and days for for our best scholars to talk about, what does it mean to be worshiping community in a time of isolation? And what are the instruments of technology? How do they hinder or how do they contribute? And those are those are conversations that are being had even now, and I imagine that many a theological dissertation is going to be written about that in the days and weeks to come.

 

HAUER: 

I agree with everything the Reverend has said. I think that, I find it illustrative, there are a couple of four that are not worrying about being able to get everybody to come back. I don't think football stadiums are worrying about getting people to come back, you were always able to watch a football game more clearly and more comfortably in your living room It would be easier to get some food to eat, you know, than, you know, tailgating in a parking lot before the game. But people want to be, they want to be in a place with others, they want to feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves. They are present in in real life, people are waiting to get back, they're not worried about it, there was always the virtual substitute, and it was never going to be good enough. And our houses of faith need to have that feeling as well, of people coming to be part of something bigger than themselves. And the more elementarily really, I don't think grandmothers are like overly worried that their grandkids won't want to come back at the first chance that they have, you know, the hugs, the tastes of home, the sense of caring and belonging. Virtual community is a nice thing. It does a lot for people when there isn't an alternative. But there's something about the in person that we can't allow ourselves, I would daresay maybe perhaps a little bit more assertively. We need to layer on additional value which we've had from all of this access, incredible access that people have had through technology, to opportunities, whether in the faith community or just educationally and socially, that they haven't had before. But they're not going to be replacement. A caring community comes from seeing each other, being there for each other. The virtual community is a distant second, to a pastor, afaith leader, a faith community, the community of kindness, which we're supposed to be creating amongst neighbors and friends, that being there, being there, there is no substitute. I will tell you that in our network, [Orthodox] Union network of synagogues because of the particulars of Orthodox Jewish faith, both laws of the Sabbath which preclude the use of technology on the Sabbath, and because of the quorum requirements for full communal prayer, for us, we have a requirement of a minion where ten people come together in order to say certain of the prayers, we can't do it unless we have ten people in one place, the virtual doesn't do it. So we have come back, hundreds and hundreds of synagogues, thousands across the world, in a safe way. Some yeah, of course, some have done it without sufficient regard for safety. But we've done it with what we have, thousands that have done it with safety, with social distancing, with masking. And thank God we have no, people just aren't getting sick in those contexts, when the synagogues do it right, they're not getting sick. And they have such a good feeling of getting back to community. And we must be courageous and lead in that way, and that not simply accept the very, very second best world of the virtual world where human beings are supposed to be capable of in person care, connection, and community and it's not something we're willing to give up on.

 

FASKIANOS: 

We have about four minutes left, so I'm going to just ask them together. The first is about the hostility developing against religious sects that refused mass vaccines, social distancing. How do we handle this? That was from Bruce Knotts, and then second, and we can end on this one is Bob Reynolds question. Reverend Salguero, you described responses to the current COVID-19 moment being services such thing as public service announcements, pastoral dialogue, etc. As the crisis of the current COVID reality passes, what commitments can be made to minimize health systems retreating to traditional inequitable access to general health care resources?

 

SALGUERO: 

Go ahead Rabbi,

 

HAUER: 

No, no, you please, please.

 

SALGUERO: 

Okay well, the challenge of the inequitable distribution, right, when there were other global health crisis, the HIV/AIDS, right, there was a response by Black doctors, blackdoctors.org, who's talked about there needs to be a restructuring and reforming of healthcare system so that all of God's children and all people feel that they have equitable access, that is a long term commitment. And it may also need the creation of alternative venues of access, public-private partnerships, healthcare partnerships with communities of faith, with pharmacies with clinics with and so we really need to think we are dealing with 21st century health crises with 20th century health care modalities. And so we need to have a 21st century healthcare access reformation, so that all people-Dr. Marshall talked about the Global South. And so, if we expand this to globally, the health care access inequity, we're really talking about something that really needs attention, whether it's from the UN, whether it's from the global, the World Health Organization, or the global private partnerships, pharmacies, to rethink healthcare access. And so that is a long term challenge, in terms of responding to the second question, I want to yield to Rabbi so he can talk about that.

 

HAUER: 

Thank you. Thank you. And I do want to express it's been a privilege to be on the call with everybody and to partner with Reverend Salguero in discussing these issues, a true privilege and honor, thank you for including us. The coronavirus pandemic has, besides, as we know for the health issues, has been a source of tremendous division in our country on so many fronts. People have strongly held views, and sometimes also there just seems to be unfortunately a little bit of a tendency towards division. And we find the views to create those divisions. We caricature communities or ethnic communities or political communities as doing certain things or following certain approaches that endanger the rest. And I think that this is one of the battles that all of us, as faith leaders have to be really, really taking on and that's the battle for a more peaceful country. A battle for less caricatures, a battle for seeing that people have different views. And it's okay for them to do that. And just to be always conscious of one another and, and to do no harm to one another. We have to be preachers of peace, brotherhood, sisterhood, and caring for everyone you know, even as we all strive towards equity and caring for each other, and making sure that everyone, every one of God's children, every member of humanity is given the proper and fair treatment. We're going to struggle for that in a way which which builds peace and which builds harmony and which builds that sense of care, instead of it being one which builds anger within our nation. We have far too much of that. And we hope that, God willing, our joint voices, as as a faith community will will have us all looking at each other more fairly, with more love more concern and to try to make our nation and our world more whole.

 

FASKIANOS: 

Thank you both. With that, we need to end, it is 2:00, and really appreciate your being with us today and sharing your insights, as well as the work that you're doing. Thank you for all that you are doing in your communities and at the national level, we really appreciate it, to all of you for your comments. You can follow Reverend Salguero's work on twitter @PastorsSalguero or @NalecNews, did I get your Twitter handles right? Yes. And to learn more about Rabbi Hauer's work, please go to the rabbihauer.org or follow him @OrthodoxUnion, which is also on Twitter. So we hope you will find their work there. And obviously, they're doing a lot of interviews, getting the word out about how to be a resource in their communities. You can follow us on Twitter @CFR_Religion. And please go to cfr.org for information and analysis on COVID-19 and other topics in the international arena, and email us at [email protected] with ideas and suggestions of future webinars that we can host for all of you. So thank you again for today's really wonderful conversation.  For more event audio, subscribe on iTunes or visit us cfr.org.

Top Stories on CFR

Climate Change

President Biden hopes to show that the United States is ready to be a leader again in combating climate change.

United States

Recent killings by U.S. officers have sparked widespread calls for police reform and an end to systemic racism. Here’s how U.S. policing compares with other countries’ approaches.

China

China-India tensions remain high. To reduce the threat of conflict, Daniel S. Markey recommends the U.S. boost aid to India and begin working with like-minded partners to develop a coordinated response strategy.