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March 5, 2020 2:16 pm

As Coronavirus Spreads in New York Jewish Community, Fears Rise of Antisemitic Backlash

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A man in a face mask rides the subway in Manhattan, after further cases of coronavirus were confirmed in New York, March 5, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Andrew Kelly.

As the coronavirus spreads through the Jewish community in Westchester County, New York, concerns are being raised about a possible rise in antisemitism as a result.

Local news site reported that the virus arrived in the area through a single patient and was concentrated in the city of New Rochelle, with the man’s family and friends diagnosed with the virus and 1,000 members of his synagogue being quarantined.

The Washington Heights campus of Yeshiva University and a Jewish school in Riverdale attended by the patient’s children have been closed, along with other Jewish schools in Westchester County.

Now, there is growing evidence that an antisemitic backlash is occurring as a result of the spread of the virus in the community.

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A major concern is that racist attitudes toward Asian Americans due to the virus’ origins in China could now extend to the Jewish community.

Evan Bernstein, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Northeast Division, warned, “We’re seeing stuff online. We’re getting more and more reports of those comments.”

“People want to put the blame on certain minority groups,” Bernstein said. “This is a time we should be seeing solidarity.”

Westchester Jewish Council CEO Elliot Forchheimer made an appearance with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and said, “This is not a Jewish issue. This is an international health issue.”

He added that Cuomo and other top officials had been “incredibly supportive to the Jewish community.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer declared that both anti-Asian and antisemitic sentiments in response to the virus are “just flat-out racist.”

“It’s a prejudice they already held,” he said. “This just becomes an avenue for it.”

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