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October 31, 2021 6:19 pm

Kansas State Rep. Likens COVID-19 Mask Mandates to Persecution of Jews

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People wear protective face masks outside at a shopping plaza, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Edgewater, New Jersey, July 8, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mike Segar.

A Kansas state representative has faced strong criticism after she compared COVID-19 mask mandates to the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

The Kansas City Star reported Saturday that Rep. Brenda Landwehr told a hearing on the issue that mandating masks for unvaccinated individuals was “racism against the modern-day Jew, which is anyone who disagrees.”

She also said a state senator’s use of the phrase “go down a path” reminded her of a documentary she had seen on Nazi Germany.

Her comment about “the modern-day Jew” echoed a phrase used earlier in the hearing by Cornell Beard, the president of the Wichita Machinist and Aerospace Workers union.

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Gavi Gellar, executive director of the American Jewish Committee of Greater Kansas City, said it was “incumbent upon all Kansas state leadership to be speaking out forcefully against this type of language.”

“This kind of language is a false and slanderous attack on Jews, on Jewish memory and Jewish identity,” he added.

Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action, also condemned Landwehr and Beard’s statements.

“There actually are modern Jews,” he said. “It’s using us as an example of something pretty terrible but doesn’t seem to know that there are actually Jews. It’s absurd to even say it.”

“Anything that happens to someone because they disobey a mask mandate is something they’re choosing to do, and the worst thing that can happen is that they’ll lose their job,” he added. “In the Holocaust people didn’t have any choice. They were stripped of their citizenship. They were sent to die.”

Landwehr refused to backtrack on her statement, and said, “If you want to read something into it and make it into a bigger story, that’s on you guys, that’s not on me.”

Beard’s union, however, apologized in a statement that said, “Regardless of one’s views on divisive political issues, there is never a place for this type of hurtful rhetoric.”

“We recognize the right of our members in a free society to voice their opinions, but it must always be based on the spirit of goodwill toward everyone,” the union added.

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