I read the front-page opinion article by Dr. Gila Jedwab (“Fighting the Fog,” May 15) with a mixture of disappointment and concern. I was disappointed that your newspaper would provide a forum to the conspiracy-minded claims that “death tolls have been manipulated,” that “hospitals have been incentivized,” and that there “are no credible or accountable experts.” I am concerned that her attitude will lead directly to people doubting solid and grounded medical advice, and ultimately to getting sick or dying.
Dr. Jedwab’s goal is unclear to me, beyond the not-so-subtle questioning of wearing masks and undermining of public trust in experts. She seems to want to revert to a naïve form of emunah peshutah while giving up on any hishtadlut whatsoever, a position largely eschewed by mainstream halachic thought. But what does she really want? Is it to open up society? That is not an unreasonable goal, despite her questionable methodology. Is it to have things magically go back to the way they were in January 2020? That seems more unlikely, dangerous, even.
She makes the flawed comparison between the idea that social distancing and masks save lives (largely borne out by high quality data) and the suggestion that “sunlight and oxygen” do (supported by theories from the dark reaches of the alt-web). She questions whether “hiding from a virus” (as though this were some sort of child’s game) makes any sense when it is clear that less exposure means less opportunity for those to contract the virus, particularly the older and immunosuppressed.
In the last eight weeks I have lost numerous patients, and friends have lost parents and relatives. I have in some cases seen the truth of this virus horrifyingly close-up. I have been directly involved in a large-scale patient registry of over 3,000 coronavirus patients at my hospital network and, having looked at numerous cases and the data, can be absolutely certain that each data point is a real patient, many of whom died because this “thing” is as deadly as we originally thought. I can assure you that hospitals getting a lump sum for coronavirus patients (who require extensive and high level care) is not more unreasonable than their receiving such a payment for a critically ill stroke patient.
I do not disagree that the job of rabbis is to provide boosts in emunah, but it is also to make responsible and medically guided communal decisions. My rabbi has been doing both. Ultimately, I see Dr. Jedwab’s opinion as reflective of a broader recent trend in American and Orthodox society that doubts expertise and privileges the extreme and the untested over the reasonable and rational. The consequences of this thinking will negatively affect our loved ones, our first responder Hatzalah members, our doctors, and in some cases, ourselves.
She is entitled to her opinion, but I am surprised that your newspaper has given her the opportunity to shout “no fire” in a crowded, burning theater.
Sam Singer, M.D.
The writer is a neuro-oncologist at the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack-Meridian Health. He trained at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York Hospital Weill-Cornell, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Dear Dr. Singer,
I respect your point of view and honor your immense training and undying dedication to caring for people in need.
However, I feel the chasm between our perspectives is too deep to cross and arguing back and forth wouldn’t get us any closer to the middle.
This is where we differ: 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. Does G-d have feelings? And if so, did we hurt them? Was G-d offended that, when something invisible and airborne threatened us, we chose to shut down life and implement drastic protocols instead of trust him? That’s the one question I have.
We can debate a million other things. But this is the only thing I’m after. Can someone out there tell me?
Dr. Gila Jedwab
Dr. Jedwab has been practicing dentistry for nearly two decades years.
Her dental practice is in Cedarhurst.
Addressing The Subject
I hope you’re doing well. I read your cover article (From the Editor, “Changing the Subject,” May 15) this past week and I had a few concerns. First, as a Democrat, I’m thankful that I’m not 18 yet and don’t have to vote for Joe Biden in this year’s election. While I agree that there’s been a lack of media attention regarding sexual assault allegations against him, I find it offensive how you only acknowledged these claims to further your own agenda. This woman deserves justice for the pain and trauma she’s been through, not to be a pawn for you to defend Trump’s presidency. Second, I noticed you chose to omit Ahmaud Arbery’s name and claimed that the reason for his murder has not yet been determined. We know the reason — it’s white supremacy and commonplace acceptance for racism and violence against minorities in this country. The least you could do is give this innocent man some respect and say his name.