Don’t Be Complicit
It seems that dentist Gila Jedwab still can’t let go of her obsession against masks. After weeks of anti-mask articles, each one more intellectually tenuous than before, and in the very same paper in which community physicians warn us to wear them, she continues her vendetta against one of the oldest and most effective hygienic safeguards known to public health: the mask.
It’s great that Jedwab wears masks with patients in her work as a dentist. She knows full well that if she didn’t, OSHA and the state boards of health and dentistry would shut her down and yank her license, and that would affect her bottom line. Since she presumably did not skip microbiology and pathophysiology classes in dental school, it begs the question why she thinks that the scientific principles of masks that keep her oral and respiratory flora and germs from traveling into the mouths and infecting the bleeding gums of her patients suddenly cease to apply outside her office doors.
I’ll take a moment for a thorough “fisking” of some of the points Jedwab found during her “research.”
- “The filtration abilities of masks decline with moisture after about 20 minutes. Disposable masks are recommended to be single-use only. (Australian Dental Association)” O.K., so change them daily.
- “Wearing a mask for a long period of time is not recommended.” Unqualified statement. Not recommended by whom? What’s a “long period of time”? I’m sure Jedwab is aware that surgeons and OR personnel wear masks for hours at a time.
- “Diminishing your oxygen intake, even slightly, can contribute to anxiety, feelings of nervousness, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.” Masks do not diminish your oxygen intake. Go put on a mask and clip a pulse oximeter to your finger, and I guarantee your saturation levels will not drop. Room air only contains 21% oxygen, and breaths given during CPR (exhaled air) contain 16%. You’re getting plenty of O2 with a mask on.
She then goes on a long discourse on guilt, disease-shaming, being bullied, stories of rabbis who didn’t believe in doctors (but she is sure to point out that everyone needs a dentist), and Moabite gods. She cherry-picks Dr. Fauci’s words out of context, talks about “hurting G-d’s feelings,” implies that believing that masks, not Hashem, can help you is idolatry, and invokes the Rambam as proof of this concept. I’m sure she is aware that the Rambam was a physician and a rationalist. I’m pretty sure Rambam would have worn a mask. I’m also sure the Rambam was pretty clear that G-d has no “feelings” to hurt.
There’s a lot more rambling, and at one point Jedwab wonders what the late Charles Krauthammer would have said about all this: “A man who understood from his neck down what it meant to surrender to G-d the things he could not control. He once said, ‘You are betraying your whole life if you don’t say what you think, and you don’t say it honestly and bluntly.’” I’ll say it honestly and bluntly: Dr. Charles Krauthammer, who was an MD, would have told you to take your head out of the clouds and put on your mask.
It’s enough. It is far past time, with cases surging again in the southern U.S., Israel, and elsewhere, to be questioning masks with pseudoscience and pseudo-spirituality. You have given this fringe opinion a far larger platform than appropriate. Finally putting an editorial disclaimer after the column, as a “baruch she’petrani” is inadequate. Enough is enough.
Dr. Simon Joseph
Keep Calm and Talk To Him
I’m amused by the passionate letters written in response to Dr. Gila Jedwab’s series of articles regarding our community’s response to these unprecedented times. Many accuse her of espousing unsafe practices such as ignoring social distancing and the wearing of masks. They wonder how one could ignore our responsibility of hishtadlus and follow the guidelines set by our rabbanim and health experts.
I will keep it simple as I am pretty sure I got the gist and tone of every one of her articles.
Gila’s passionate plea is not to sit there and do nothing in the face of a pandemic. She is merely reminding everyone to calmly follow the rules with the understanding that terror and panic will not only be a hindrance, but also shows a lack of emunah in the ultimate Healer. We don’t believe in doctors, healthcare experts, or the like. We believe in G-d. And spending so much time worshiping the constant news flow and blindly following every article and text we get regarding COVID-19 sure doesn’t leave us a lot of time for talking to the Aibishter.
Is Gila (and basically everyone) heartbroken about the losses we encountered? Of course. Would she, as a medical professional and frankly a sane woman, ever encourage unsafe practices? Never. Why would she recommend that? She has no agenda other than to beg people to take inventory of our emotions and wonder why we don’t feel safe knowing we are in Hashem’s loving hands.
All she’s saying is: do what you have to do, keep calm, and talk to Him.
Masked Men of Faith
I realize that you have already received numerous comments about Gila Jedwab’s polemics in your paper. I also notice that in the latest issue, you have added a footnote to her article.
I still have a few critical comments/questions: It is only “probably” better to follow halachic guidelines and expert medical advice? If you feel that your footnote comments have any importance, they should appear at the front of her article to be sure that everyone who reads the article sees them — and you might want to put it in a font size that can be read by everyone, just as you do with your articles.
In any event, continuing to publish her articles is not in the public interest, and is actually irresponsible. She is espousing points of view that are antithetical to accepted medical and halachic rulings.
For example, in her latest article, she equates the wearing of masks with avodah zarah (idol worship.)
I can cite noted rabbinic authorities who strongly disagree with her, but here, for example, is what Rabbi Asher Weiss has to say on the subject, “I beseech everyone: Adhere to all the rules! We are men of Torah and men of faith.” It is clear that Rabbi Weiss, as so many other gedolei haTorah, does not believe that following the guidelines is in conflict with having faith.
Her latest article also suggests that we “should open our mouths to kindness…” rather than wear masks. Here is what Shmuel Sackett, in an article on the cover page of your newspaper said on the subject. “I am pro-mask because I know how important it is to my neighbors.” That is informed chesed.
I understand that in this country we admire freedom of the press, but I also know what Supreme Court Justice Douglas said on the subject. There are positions that are not entitled to such freedom. In any case, I do not understand why someone with no halachic credentials, no training or experience in epidemiology, and no journalistic background is allowed to espouse opinions that are in the minority and potentially dangerous.
If her articles inspire one person to shed their mask, and as a result they are contaminated and/or infect someone else and one or more people die as a result, their blood will be on your head.