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By Rikki Baker Keusch

When I heard the news this week that New York Governor Kathy Hochul proposed a plan to ban masking in the New York City subway with the absurd claim that this public health measure endangers Jews, I was immediately brought back to the two weeks of isolation I spent with my second COVID-19 infection in November 2023. I contracted the virus at a hospital in New York, where masks haven’t been required since Hochul allowed mask mandates to expire last year. Only one of the three health care workers who treated me wore a mask.

The subsequent two weeks of isolation were the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life. I struggled to obtain at-home treatment. The NYC COVID-19 hotline worker wanted me to come to the hospital for infusions but I couldn’t get out of bed. Another doctor told me I couldn’t risk another hospital-acquired infection. I could hardly talk and struggled to breathe. Until I was finally able to access antiviral medication, I barely slept, worried about what would happen if I stopped breathing in my sleep.

I’m 29 years old, Jewish and disabled, struggling to find a cardiologist who will wear a mask while I seek treatment for a heart condition that gives me the cardiovascular health of someone in their 60s. Antisemitism is too often used as the excuse to condemn and suppress activists or campaigns, allegedly in the name of Jewish safety. And now, antisemitism is being used by the governor of New York as the excuse to ban masks.

It’s important we take real antisemitism seriously when we encounter it. It is equally important that we speak out against people in power who use false or bad-faith accusations for their own political gain.

Hochul’s argument is that banning masks will reduce instances of antisemitic harassment, because people will be less able to hide their faces. However, the incident that precipitated this announcement, in which an unmasked protester shouted that Zionists should get off the train, makes clear how flimsy the governor’s logic is. This proposed ban is not about combating antisemitism, but about the appearance of taking action against antisemitism. It’s nothing more than a political ploy.

Click here to read the full article from the Forward