Philip Jacobs
Philip Jacobs
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My synagogue has no mask mandate. I’m brokenhearted.

After open-heart surgery, my doctors insist I attend Rosh Hashanah services only if all are masked. My longtime shul opted not to make it happen

It’s the High Holidays.

How am I feeling this year?

How about alone.



Every Jewish website columnist writes about renewal and self-inspection and hitting the “reset” button of life.

I want to feel renewed. I want to inspect my inner soul. I want to softly touch the reset button of life.

But my synagogue, the one I’ve loved since the 1980s, won’t make it happen.

With the exception of perhaps two other Orthodox shuls located within the borders of Baltimore City, there is nowhere that is requiring vaccinations and masks.

Oh, the rabbis of these shuls produced a cute little video encouraging vaccinations, but the life-saving shots still are not required. Despite the Mayor of Baltimore City proclaiming a mask mandate for houses of worship within the city limits, Baltimore City’s rabbinate is circumventing the mask mandate.

Walk into most city Orthodox shuls and the vast minority are wearing masks. One synagogue was even shut down temporarily for violating the mask mandate, yet the non-complicity continues.

I have to write the word “city” simply because Baltimore City is one of the few metro areas that is not located within a county. Baltimore County is across the border and there we find that the Orthodox shuls are not under a mask mandate but rightly choose to enforce a mask mandate. Beth Tfiloh, the county’s largest and most vibrant Modern Orthodox kehilla is requiring masks indoors and outdoors.

But not so my shul, Tiferes Yisroel. Last year we had a tent and required masks. This year no.

Yes I’ve spoken to my rabbi. He told me that the rabbinate just didn’t want to go the way of masks this year. You will be missed.


I cannot attend an indoor minyan of any sort that does not have a mask compliance. On June 4, I had open-heart surgery, a quadruple bypass.

I’ve spent the entire summer in recovery from the surgery, including a complete change of diet and a pretty difficult cardiac rehab workout three days a week. My driving, wake up in the morning, go to sleep at night goal was to be ready to return to shul on Rosh Hashanah.

Now the only “thing” that my doctors are asking is that I attend only a masked minyan. But my synagogue won’t comply with the city’s mandate.

I am out of luck.

Instead of a healing heart, mine is broken.

Shana Tova.

About the Author
Executive Editor Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week. Editor of Detroit Jewish News. Multi-time Rockower Award Winner. Best known for investigative pieces covering sexual molestation within Baltimore's Orthodox community and how it was covered up.
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