“What’s Amish Zoom?” Amishman Chester Kurtz On COVID (Video)

WKYC’s 88 Counties in 88 Days series stopped in Geauga County following an earlier visit to Holmes County. They spoke with Chester Kurtz, an Amishman associated with the Geauga Amish Historical Library, on how his community is handling the pandemic. I find Kurtz an exceptional spokesman for his people, which you can judge in the video below.

Chester Kurtz. Images: WKYC

This video was actually posted about three weeks ago (and observing the foliage, was likely filmed weeks earlier than that), so keep that in mind, as area circumstances may have changed. Kurtz shares some brief but frank thoughts on the effects on the Amish community, and their response to the virus:

“The whole strength of this community is kind of forged at a single interaction at a time, which is tough to do even with masks on,” said Chester Kurtz from the Geauga Amish Historical Library. “We’re internet free. There’s no online services, there’s no social media. What’s Amish Zoom?”

Because of the close and analog nature of the community, Kurtz says, “COVID has proven to be a highly inflamed topic, thus it’s largely avoided.” Kurtz hypothesizes that incidence of the coronavirus among the Amish community has been higher than what’s been reported, because he says, “the Amish are not so prone to rush to the doctor when we’re feeling ill.”

That’s led to a lot of people not wearing masks, Kurtz says, especially at community events.

In The Riddle of Amish Culture, Donald Kraybill describes the Amish as a “high context” culture, one where much communication is transmitted non-verbally. That’s harder to do with half your face covered. Kraybill also calls visiting “the national sport of Amish society”. While non-Amish Americans plop on the couch and turn on the football game on Sundays, Amish people are typically out and about, often dropping in unannounced for face-to-face visits or attending a youth singing in the evening.

Furthermore, while non-Amish Americans have relied on technologies like video calling and texting to keep in touch with loved ones and friends during periods of isolation over the past months, Amish don’t have the same channels.

An Amish woman appears towards the end of the video – with a message that I’m certain sums up more than just Amish feelings: “I’m tired of hearing about COVID. I just want to go back to how it was before this all started.”

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    15 Comments

    1. Clint

      “An Amish woman appears towards the end of the video – with a message that I’m certain sums up more than just Amish feelings: “I’m tired of hearing about COVID. I just want to go back to how it was before this all started.””

      I think most of us are in that same boat.

      1. Right on. Hopefully that will be possible, and there won’t be a COVID-21, 22, or whatever number, coming at us down the line. I hate to say I’m a bit pessimistic.

    2. sylvie

      Je suis Française et je pense aussi la même chose, j’aimerais tant que tout soit comme avant mais je n’y crois pas. Toute cette mascarade pour nous faire vacciner, supprimer les petits commerces et faire la crypto monnaie. Le covid profite à certains et il y a des enjeux énormes d’argent avec des laboratoires, ils ne lâcheront pas l’affaire.
      Les rassemblements communautaires peuvent propager le virus. C’était le cas à Mulhouse en Alsace dans un grand rassemblement religieux.
      Nous sommes en plein dans l’Apocalypse de Saint-Jean.
      Je suis triste de ce que nous vivons.
      Sylvie

      1. Jeff Baker

        English Translation

        Here is the English translation to Sylvie-

        I am French and I also think the same thing, I would like everything to be the same as before but I don’t believe it. All this masquerade to get us vaccinated, eliminate small businesses and make crypto currency. Some people are benefiting from the covid and there are huge money stakes with labs, they will not let go.
        Community gatherings can spread the virus. This was the case in Mulhouse in Alsace in a large religious gathering.
        We are in the midst of the Apocalypse of St. John.
        I am sad about what we are going through.
        Sylvie

    3. Romain S.

      My point of view

      I wanted to respond to this subject and bring my point of view to it, but I realized that my answer was going to be longer than the subject itself. Besides, the covid topic is one of the current subjects that creates the most divergent opinions, and since I don’t like confrontation, I would talk about it with a pebble.

    4. sylvie SCHUBNEL

      Bonjour Romain,

      Je voulais vous demander si vous avez aussi un encart à droite avec des mises à jours par e-mail, cela m’empêche de lire correctement les articles et je n’arrive pas à le supprimer. Normalement au bout d’un laps de temps les encarts disparaissent mais ici non…
      Je vous comprend pour le Covid, moi j’en ai plus que marre de sujet…je dois assister à une réunion pendant deux heures sur le sujet ou un guguss vient nous dire comment il faut se laver les mains et combien de fois, on nous infantilise, je crois que je vais mettre des boules Quiess.

      A bientôt
      Sylvie

      1. Romain S.

        Bonjour Sylvie,
        Non, je n’ai pas cet encart qui apparait. Je ne peux malheureusement pas vous aider sur ce sujet.
        Faites comme je fais depuis des années, je ne regarde plus les JT qui ont besoin d’audience pour vivre et qui passent des sujets anxiogènes car il savent que c’est plus vendeur qu’une histoire heureuse. Je me tiens au courant des sujets d’actualité juste avec les DNA et je lis juste ce que j’ai envie de lire.
        Comme pour tout ce qu’on me dit ou qu’on veut me faire faire, je prend juste ce qui me semble utile et correcte et après de ma propre expérience j’en garde juste ce qui fonctionne.

    5. English; Amish Rural / Urban divide

      I enjoyed reading the translation of your previous comment. Although some of my ancestors did live in Alsace, they spoke Alsatian German. Most of us who read this website speak English or Pennsylvania German. Could someone please transmit again for us? Thank you very much!

      I have spoken with an Amish bishop here in Ohio, and he is extremely sceptical of the whole thing. He told me I did not need to be wearing a mask for his benefit, unless I was feeling sick. I kept my mask on anyway, explaining it can be spread even before a person has symptoms. He made it clear that he didn’t agree. Amish are sceptical of testing (for example, he mentioned that our Ohio governor tested positive then tested negative with a different COVID-19 test) as well as sceptical of even the pro-life vaccines such as Pfizer’s. Yes, many of us do refuse to use all vaccines developed using aborted baby cell lines, or using aborted babies in testing. I’ve done enough research to know that’s not a hoax. There are several pro-life ministries, some Catholic, that include detailed research data on their websites, re which vaccines are morally developed and pro-life. Sadly, many of the Plain People (yes, I am a plain person) have swallowed whatever Trump is spouting along with other rural folks, about COVID-19 being a hoax. I know some who don’t even believe in germs or bacteria, because they are invisible- but this is not all Amish.

      It is very sad how much this is dividing our society, especially rural people from urban people!!! We all need to be praying for wisdom, and basing our actions in love. To me, that means treating others as I would like to be treated, and loving my neighbor as myself. Therefore I wear a mask and keep physical distance.

      1. Romain S.

        The translation is of little interest, it’s more off-topic between Sylvie and me.

        I am also amazed by the fact that here in Alsace, our Mennonites (who are former Amish families but who did not migrate to the new continent) also have this reasoning like their Amish cousins in the new world.
        I go to several Mennonite families quite regularly because they are good friends. They all live as if the virus does not exist. Three weeks ago, I visited an Elder (88 years old, therefore at risk) from the community of Bourg-Bruche with my mask on my nose, he told me that I could remove it even in his house. I think that for them, the passage on earth is only a passage and they are therefore less afraid of death, since real life will begin in heaven. So this virus, don’t scare them any more than that even if it were to be potentially deadly.

        1. Alsace

          OK, well thank you for translating the earlier comment. I did not realize that you live in Alsace! My Grandpa, whose family immigrated from there, sometimes insisted that should have been / remained part of Germany, being in the Rhine valley and mostly ethnically German. I wonder, what percentage of your population still uses a Germanic dialect in their every day life? I used to have a friend who lived in Strasbourg, & I believe she said her family still spoke mostly German. However the general population speaks, I wonder if it is different, more German among the Mennonites there? I’m very curious about this, as if I went back far enough I may be related to some of them.

          I also agree that among all the plain people in my friends and family who refuse to wear a mask, they are mostly fatalistic about it. They believe oh well, if I’m going to die that’s no big deal. Whereas I personally believe life is a precious gift, and that we were sent here to earth for a purpose, Not just to die and go to heaven. I believe God has things he wants us to accomplish here on earth, and that life is worth protecting.

          1. Romain S.

            Alsace

            The subject of Alsace is very complex, I will still try to keep it short, but enough to give you an idea.
            Alsace was a group of lordships, principalities, counties and independent republics under the Holy Germanic Empire. All this puzzle was taken by France between 1648 and 1790. Our culture and our dialect are indeed Germanic. If we look in southern Germany, German-speaking Switzerland and part of Austria, we will find the same surnames, the same style of popular furniture and a person speaking Alsatian will understand, being careful, the other dialects of this area.
            For Alsatian dialects, because pronunciation and accents are not the same from north to south, it is estimated today that 43% of the inhabitants still practice it every day and about 60% understand it. We remain in France the best preserved regional language. Article 2 of the French constitution stipulates that the language of the republic is French. For a long time, regional languages ​​were banned and marginalized. Although nowadays there are classes in Alsace where dialect and German are taught, those under 45 hardly speak it any more and not at all among themselves.

            Our local Mennonites kept their Bernese dialect for quite a long time until the 1950s in some families and the worship in German continued in some assemblies until the 1970s. Since then, they too have been affected by the standardization of the French centralizing power such as the rest of the Alsatians.
            I still knew well the generation of Alsatians born until the 1910s, who did not speak a word of French, spoke only Alsatian and used German to write. But hey, they’re all now more than memories. It would seem that if there had been a referendum in Alsace in 1919 to find out if the Alsatians wanted to remain German, the yes would have won by more than 80%. Until recently, the Rhine river (towards Germany) was not a cultural and linguistic border, while the Vosges mountain range (towards France) yes. However, even nowadays being Alsatian, the fact of crossing the slope of the Vosges, gives you the impression of passing in another country. Another style of house, other names of villages and family names with a French sound and not Germanic, other accents, another culture, another way of cooking, … In short, as if it was not the same country whereas a native Alsatian who goes to Germany has more or less the impression of being in the world he knows.

            For your vision of our passage on earth, I agree with you.

    6. sylvie SCHUBNEL

      Merci beaucoup Romain pour toutes ces explications. Vous êtes un érudit et j’apprend beaucoup de choses en vous lisant et j’en suis vraiment contente.

      Mes ancêtres viennent de Forêt Noire et il est vrai que je les comprend un petit peu, il y a des similitudes avec mon patois.

      Au plaisir de vous lire
      Sylvie

    7. Wonderful explanation!

      Thank you so much Romain, I really appreciate your detailed explanation! I agree with Sylvie, as I can understand much of the last note she posted. I learned a lot from the explanation you wrote. My ancestors also came from the Black Forest, Alsace, Switzerland, as well as a few from Bavaria, England & Ireland. I enjoyed reading about this very much, and I think I will do more research on my own to learn more. I want to better understand and understand and appreciate Alsatian history and culture, and Black Forest too.

      We studied German (Hoch Deutsch) in school, but I am very rusty now. I always hoped that someday I would make it to Europe and do some research enough to find relatives, but now I doubt that I will be able to do that. So it is very nice to encounter Europeans with some of the same interests, here on Amish America! Stay Safe!

    8. Romain S.

      Thanks

      Merci, thanks to you Sylvie and sister Su

    9. sylvie

      Merci Soeur Su et Romain, prenez bien soin de vous…