If you don’t like wearing a mask or you are uncomfortable wearing one, that’s just too bad. What if you don’t like stopping at red lights? Do you just plow right through? I don’t think so.

By Larry Gordon

We are indeed at an advanced stage of our national response to COVID-19, and the havoc it has caused in so many communities and families is still difficult to grasp. Still, because it has been so long, I have noticed emails from at least two local shuls stating that they are now featuring a “mask section” and a “no-mask-needed section” in their shuls.

One of the greatest casualties of this period has been the truth. We are determined to follow the directives of our leaders and experts, but there are very few things that they agree about. If there was across-the-board agreement then there wouldn’t be these different sections in our shuls.

Dr. Russell Blaylock, a retired neurosurgeon, recently wrote that there are risks in wearing masks as well. “By wearing a mask the exhaled viruses will not be able to escape and will concentrate in the nasal passages, enter the olfactory nerve, and travel into the brain,” writes Dr. Blaylock.

Dr. Blaylock also promotes “chemtrail” conspiracies alleging cancer-causing nanoparticles have been knowingly released into the atmosphere in a government-corporate scheme.

On the other hand, the majority of doctors, especially infectious-disease specialists, say that wearing a mask is a smart and prudent approach to limiting the spread of the virus, and that seems to be the approach that most people are comfortable adhering to — for now, anyway.

Back in early February, I was flying home from Florida, sitting in the middle seat of one of the rows in front of the plane. My wife was sitting to my left. On the right, in the much-coveted aisle seat, was an Asian man wearing a face mask. I noticed it, obviously, but did not think anything of it other than the fact that it is a good way to make sure you diminish the amount of polluted air you inhale.

This was before any of us were familiar with terms like coronavirus, social distancing, and quarantine, along with other terms that have become part of our daily vernacular.

At the end of the day, you have to make your own intelligent choice. Some shuls have said that everyone should wear a mask when entering the shul. When you are sitting in your seat, socially distanced from others, you are free to remove your mask. Of course, if you are more comfortable keeping the mask on through the services you are welcome to do so.

Over the last few weeks, the 5TJT has come under some criticism for running a series of articles by Dr. Gila Jedwab, a dentist with a practice in Cedarhurst. I’m not going to say that she is a spiritual person, because I think that all of us are essentially people with a spiritual disposition. We believe in and pray to Hashem daily, and in this time of national crisis we wear masks.

Some who were rattled by what she wrote felt she was saying that when it comes to the masks, we should throw caution to the wind and depend solely on Hashem. Almost everyone I spoke with took umbrage at that assertion. One doctor who contacted me said that she knows nothing about the spread of disease and even less about bitachon, faith in G-d.

I told the doctor, and some of the others who wrote and called, that everyone in our office wears masks when we move around, and just because one writer is suggesting that we focus a bit more of our attention to our faith in G-d, it does not mean we are advocating or suggesting something contrary to prudent public health policy or anything that can cause harm to others, chas v’shalom. Such an accusation is a misinterpretation of what Dr. Jedwab was saying.

One rabbi wrote to us, saying that it was the most dangerous article we ever published. Another wrote that he wished censorship was a possibility, because then he would do what he could to censor us. It reminded me about a piece I wrote a few weeks ago after speaking with City Councilman Donovan Richards of Far Rockaway. We spoke about how peaceful the local demonstration was in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. I wrote that the civility of the protest bodes well for the future of local black and Jewish communities working together.

After I made that assertion, I received more than a few letters calling my entire existence into question and questioning if there was any real substance or meaning to my life. I respect that people can disagree, but there is also a wrong and right way to make your opinion known.

As I understand it, Dr. Jedwab was trying to say is that as frum Jews, perhaps we should rely more on Hashem than on surgical masks. No one said that it is better to throw your masks away. I think what she was suggesting is that masks should not become the sum total of our religion at the present time.

I told some of the critics who contacted me that I viewed the piece as more philosophical, hopeful, and poetic than anything else. Dr. Gila Jedwab is fantasizing in print about a world where grandparents can freely hug their eineklach and where one day, hopefully soon, we won’t have to wear these masks anymore.

So let’s be clear. For now, masks are vital and imperative to protect your health and the health of others. At the same time, we should all be davening to Hashem and asking Him to stop the spread of this plague, the sooner the better.

It is also becoming clear as time passes that some of the policies being implemented are politically motivated. That is not news; we’ve written that here in the past. Because President Trump has not been seen wearing a mask (maybe he did once), people act as if wearing a mask means you are anti-Trump and not wearing one means you are standing with the president.

That is not a good or effective conclusion to draw. I know many people who wear masks and support the president. But in this election year, politicians are trying to contort the issue into an equation that figures that pro-Trump means no mask and danger, while wearing a mask means that you are for the Democrats and pro-safety. It is a sad state of affairs if that is what all this has come down to.

It is additionally disappointing that we are drawing conclusions about people based on when and where they wear masks or don’t wear them. I mean, it seems legitimate and reasonable that some of our shuls are designating non-mask-wearing sections of their shuls. They are not doing that because they do not care about people’s health. Perhaps it is because some people feel that they have already had the virus and have antibodies, and most medical doctors will tell you that it is doubtful that such a person can get the virus again or pass it on to others. Those people might want to go to their regular shuls and they are being accommodated.

But the doctors will also tell you that the antibodies might only be effective for anywhere from two months to forever, so continuing to wear a mask cannot do any damage and is a good preventive tool.

All that being said, the bottom line is that if a writer wants to dream about the day when we won’t have to wear masks anymore, that does not make her an enemy of the people. Keep your cool and your mask on. 

Contact Larry Gordon at lg5tjt@gmail.com. Follow 5TJT.com on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Mr. Gordon,
    As the purported editor of the newspaper, do you actually read the articles you publish? It is abundantly clear what “Doctor” Jedwab’s message is. Quotes such as, “My emunahy is my mask” in response to being offered an actual mask is part of her central thesis that in fact, we ought not to wear masks. Apparently you’re the one who misinterpreted her articles and I can only hope due to ignorance and not with intent to deceive your readership. Furthermore, you may want to confer with actual physicians regarding medical issues, and not be taking advice from dentists or known conspiracy theorists who have been ostracized from the medical community. In addition, Divrei Torah, should be just that. Not misreadings of the simple pshat of the parsha coupled with incoherent ramblings, and for that I might add, you may want to ask a Rabbinical figure if whats being published is both a valid interpretation of the Torah and not entirely opposite the Halachik viewpoint as most of Dr. Jedwab’s interpretations have been.
    In short, if you are in fact an editor, please edit what is published in your paper.
    -A very concerned member of the community

  2. In response to a letter to the editor a few weeks ago, Dr. Jedwab responded the following: “I don’t feel death is the saddest outcome. I feel living a life shut down or diminished by fear is the saddest outcome. Someone could have spent his whole life on earth and never really have lived. The heart at the center of my letter addresses something no one is talking about – G-d’s feelings.” Any attempt to defend these words or interpret them in a positive manner is highly irresponsible, as many, many lives are at stake. At no point in any of her articles has Dr. Jedwab stated that she is “fantasizing in print.” Dr. Jedwab unequivocally states that she maintains no requirement to wear a mask in her office waiting room, which I am assuming is an area in which it is difficult to social-distance. She shuns a patient of hers who came to the waiting room only to see many “smiling faces” before immediately walking out. Dr. Jedwab does not state that she has done anything to accommodate patients who wish to wait in a mask-wearing environment, having different office hours for those patients (which is similar to the shuls with separate sections). It is very alarming that this paper and its editor have published these writings and are now defending them.

  3. Very interesting. While i made it very clear that wearing masks is vital somehow the two writers above as well as some others can’t grasp or wrap their heads around that reality.

    The issue here is whether our readers have the cerebral capacity to read a different viewpoint on the matter, digest it and appropriately reject it. It seems that the two writers above along with some community leaders are convinced that we are collectively too dumb to entertain any other directions or suggestions but theirs. You guys are right the ‘purported” editor believes indeed that there is a right way and a wrong way but we also have the ability to read if not consider other ideas.

    In the end if you truly think these articles are trying to get it to not wear masks during this pandemic then those leaders might be right——-you are too dumb.

  4. Both my previous response, as well as the anonymous addition above are solely speaking to the fact that Dr. Jedwab’s thesis is that wearing masks is unnecessary and “hurtful to God’s feelings”, which by any barometer of reason is a position to NOT WEAR MASKS. There was no mention as to Larry Gordon’s personal opinion, nor the position of the 5TJT editorial staff at large regarding this matter. What was made clear in both submissions is that either there exists complete ineptitude on behalf of the editorial staff of the 5TJT elucidated by their inability to comprehend the articles they are supposedly editing, or perhaps the more insidious notion that Larry Gordon is attempting to protect himself and the paper by intentionally deceiving it’s readership and distorting clear passages from Dr. Jedwab’s pieces. Note that Mr. Gordon does not address any of the actual quotations taken from the subject matter under question and instead turns to juvenile ad hominem attacks on those that call into question his judgement. Furthermore, looking past Mr. Gordon’s pawky witticisms maligning my intelligence and questioning my ability to entertain a position differing from my own, as well as the “cerebral capacity” of community leaders, it should be known that an oppositional piece written against Dr. Jedwab’s was sent in for review on June 1, 2020 and then again at a later date. Both admissions were subsequently ignored so it remains unclear if a true consideration of other ideas do exist for Mr. Gordon and his editorial staff.

  5. Oy, Larry…. It’s cute how you’re calling into question your readers’ cerebral capacity or reading comprehension in a comment to this, your second article in which you bring up readers’ angry reactions to the column you wrote addressing the protests following George Floyd’s murder.

    Except I’m pretty sure the angry emails you got were not in response to YOUR article! You see, the same week, the cover article in “Jewish Times” which is a publication of mesora.org, was entitled “The Black Problem and a Solution”. It was an offensive, tin-eared, poorly timed article that enraged a lot of people who read it and led to the editor briefly shutting down his website, removing the issue, and issuing a profuse apology. I noticed at the time, in some of the social media outrage, people noted the name “Jewish Times” and incorrectly assumed it was your publication. I’m willing to bet those angry emails you received were reactions to the other article, and were misdirected to you. What is extra laughable is how, as a “journalist” in frum circles, you are still unaware of this fact — a month later.

    There are screenshots of the article available if you google it or search for it on twitter. Read it and maybe you’ll understand the anger in the responses to that article, not yours.

  6. “Furthermore, you may want to confer with actual physicians regarding medical issues“

    You’re an anti-dentite!!!!

  7. Larry,
    Regarding your defense of Dr Gila Jedwabs comments;  I actually read your article first and only then went back to hers, then I looked back at yours. Dr Jedwab, an excellent dentist and someone I personally know to be quite spiritual is fully entitled to her opinion. I, or others may fully disagree-that is our choice to decide. She wrote an opinion piece and I fully understand the argument  (for lack of  a better word). At the same time I see clearly why many are offended by it. However in no way do you have any editorial right to defend her against her critics. She knew that her words would cause some to become angry-why are you defending her? She is a bright and strong woman fully capable of fighting her own battles without you.
    You surmise that she was simply “fantasizing in print…” Did she tell you that privately? Has she asked you to come to her rescue so that no one will take “umbrage” (your word) at her remarks?
    Sadly, let her words stand-this opinion piece serves that purpose but for crying out let your writers’ opinions be their own.
    Mark W Kessman

    • The 5TJT is not an appropriate forum for opinions that directly relate to the health and well-being of individuals, even if such opinions are clearly labeled as such. Dr. Jedwab is a DOCTOR, and although LG likes to think that the 5TJT readers have the “cerebral capacity to read a different viewpoint on the matter, digest it and appropriately reject it,” it only takes one person to NOT reject it that would make Dr. Jedwab’s “opinion” pieces very dangerous. Her articles spin mask-wearing into something spiritual, and one of her more recent articles suggests that one who wears a mask lacks appropriate/sufficient emunah in G-d, tantamount to the transgression of the Meraglim! LG acknowledges that the 5TJT readership is comprised of “essentially people with a spiritual disposition,” and many of these readers may construe this information as an acceptable medical opinion that aligns with Torah values – values that G-d expects of us. These articles, which directly contradict the guidance of local Rabbis (one of which specializes in infectious diseases), the relevant medical experts at large and state/local governments, have generated a lot of discussion on this website, as I am sure it has on social media and most likely in countless everyday conversations. But at the very least, the well-being of people (in the short-term or long-term) and at worst, the lives of people, is quite a price to pay for simply 3,700+ views and 40+ comments on a website. The 5TJT made a mistake – that’s okay, nobody is perfect. But to simply write a follow-up article with a wishy-washy pro-mask viewpoint is very far from a sufficient rectification of the matter. It needs to be made abundantly clear that the 5TJT does not condone the anti-mask opinions of Dr. Jedwab, and everyone should heed the guidance of their Rabbis, local governments and medical experts when it comes to wearing masks. And lastly – just stop publishing these articles.

  8. “I mean, it seems legitimate and reasonable that some of our shuls are designating non-mask-wearing sections of their shuls. They are not doing that because they do not care about people’s health. Perhaps it is because some people feel that they have already had the virus and have antibodies, and most medical doctors will tell you that it is doubtful that such a person can get the virus again or pass it on to others. Those people might want to go to their regular shuls and they are being accommodated.”

    I had to read that three times because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Ludicrous – those shuls should be shut down. Feel free not to wear masks if that is legal and suits you. But to be so stubborn as to make others uncomfortable because you can’t be bothered to put on a mask, is just selfish and ridiculous. Definitely not a holy prayer.


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