The Mt. Sinai Jewish Center – a shul in Washington Heights frequented almost exclusively by Modern Orthodox Jews in their 20s and 30s – is now barring all unvaccinated individuals from its premises during the week.
“If you are over age 12 and are not fully vaccinated, you may not attend weekday davening at MSJC even if you are wearing a mask,” states an e-mail sent by shul officials on Sunday, December 12. Individuals must show proof of vaccination.
The new rule comes in wake of New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s recently-announced decree that masks must “be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.”
In the e-mail, prospective Mt. Sinai attendees are also informed that:
1. Children ages 5-12 must have received at least one vaccine shot in order to attend weekday davening. They must continue to mask until 2 weeks have passed since their second vaccine shot.
2. Children ages 5-12 who have not received at least one vaccine shot may not attend weekday davening even if they are masked.
3. Children ages 2-4 may attend weekday davening if they are able to properly mask. Children under 2 are not required to mask.
Asked for his reaction to these new requirements, Rabbi Chananya Weissman, a prolific author and host of the weekly Medical War Crimes podcast, said, “This shul – and all shuls that enact such policies – should no longer be considered Orthodox. Whoever supports such policies is violating dozens of mitzvos, as outlined in my article Wholesale Sinners, and should be banished from the community. Every Jew must protest these atrocities.”
Disturbed by the harsh rules, JNews e-mailed Rabbi Yaakov Taubes, spiritual leader of Mt. Sinai, the following questions:
1) Since a vaccinated person can spread Covid-19 just as much as a non-vaccinated person, why is Mt. Sinai barring non-vaccinated individuals from davening in its shul?
2) Mt. Sinai’s new rules implicitly encourage people to get vaccinated. Since 15,000 Americans are estimated to have died from the vaccine, are you concerned that your new rules may kill someone?
3) What is the logic of pressuring children and young adults to vaccinate and/or wear masks when the chances of them dying from Covid-19 is almost non-existent?
4) Barring someone from davening in a shul is a draconian measure. Is there any other act besides failing to put on a mask or vaccinate for Covid-19 for which Mt. Sinai bars people from davening in its building?
5) Are you concerned that your new rules will cause pirud levavos among Jews?
Rabbi Taubes declined to respond.