Contact: Sophie Ellman-Golan | 

New York, NY – Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) joins COVID Advocacy NY, Mask Bloc NYC, Long COVID Justice, Act Up NY, and signatories of the Jews for Mask Rights open letter in speaking out against the proposed legislative effort to ban masks in New York State. JFREJ Executive Director Audrey Sasson issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:

As a Jewish organization committed to disability justice, civil liberties and the right to protest, we are appalled by the New York State mask ban proposed today.

New York already falls short on accessibility. Reminiscent of “ugly laws,” the proposed ban on masking puts additional limits on disabled and immunocompromised people’s ability to participate in public life by forcing vulnerable individuals – and anyone who wishes to minimize exposure to infections and pollution – to choose between taking public political action or risking our health. Low-income New Yorkers, people of color, and older adults are all at highest risk for COVID. 

The claim that health and religious exemptions will be available is a fig leaf. We have every reason to believe the proposed mask ban will mean Black and brown New Yorkers are disproportionately stopped by police and made targets of yet another enforcement measure. In addition to offering the NYPD another reason to stop and harass people, a mask ban gives the NYPD further excuse to claim arrests made at whim are justified.

Moreover, legislators’ comparison of New Yorkers who mask while protesting against police violence and for a permanent ceasefire with the KKK is offensive, ahistorical, and willfully ignorant of the current McCarthyite political conditions in which everyday people face blacklisting and job loss for speaking out in solidarity with Palestinians. This proposed law is not about safety but about controlling the bodily autonomy of and further marginalizing those who hold currently unpopular political views.

Finally, we are appalled by the claim that banning masks is in service of Jewish safety. As JFREJ member Rikki Baker-Keusch recently wrote in The Forward after Gov. Hochul first floated the idea of a mask ban, “The incident that precipitated this announcement, in which an unmasked protestor 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…Despite her claim that this reckless measure is in service of Jewish New Yorkers, Gov. Hochul’s mask ban endangers us alongside our neighbors, and puts a target on our backs.” 

Regardless of legislators’ motivations for proposing a mask ban, the impact will be: a blow to public health in our state; discrimination against immunocompromised people; and to advance a broader anti-democratic effort to suppress and criminalize protest. We urge all New York State legislators to oppose this bill.


Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) is a 6,000-member grassroots organization and the home of New York’s Jewish Left. For over 30 years, JFREJ members have organized alongside our neighbors to transform New York from a playground for the wealthy few into a real democracy, free from all forms of racist violence.