Thursday, May 19th | 18 Iyyar 5782

April 29, 2020 9:38 am

New York Mayor de Blasio Blasted for Singling Out City’s Jews Over Alleged Violations of Coronavirus Restrictions

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio helps distribute personal protective equipment and bags of food at Marcy Houses in the borough of Brooklyn, April 28, 2020. Photo: Anthony Behar / Sipa USA.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is facing heavy criticism after he attacked his city’s Jewish community for allegedly violating coronavirus-related restrictions on public gatherings.

In a tweet issued on Tuesday night, de Blasio said, “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups.”

“This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period,” he added.

De Blasio’s tweet stemmed from an event earlier on Tuesday — a gathering of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood for a public funeral honoring the late Rabbi Chaim Mertz. According to Satmar Headquarters, the funeral was approved by municipal authorities and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). No one was arrested at the event.

De Blasio reportedly went to the scene personally in an attempt to get the mourners to disperse.

He later tweeted, “Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic. When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed.”

“What I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus,” he added.

His initial tweet was quickly followed by the one singling out “the Jewish community” in general.

The response was immediate, with widespread outrage over what critics saw as an unfair and dangerous attack on all New York City Jews.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “Hey @NYCMayor, there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC. The few who don’t social distance should be called out — but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are scapegoating Jews.”

“This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever,” he asserted.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) noted the extensive role Jews have played in fighting the coronavirus, tweeting, “Mr. Mayor, the vast majority of the Jewish community is following the guidelines.”

“You can find us donating blood, raising money to support our neighbors, and in emergency rooms providing critical care,” they said. “We deserve better from our leaders than generalizations and fingerpointing.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder told Jewish Insider, “To blame the entire Jewish community is the type of stereotyping that is dangerous and unacceptable at any time, and particularly pernicious while the world is gripped in fear and the worst among us are looking for scapegoats.”

New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch expressed anger at de Blasio, pointing out that the mayor himself had violated social-distancing rules by going out in public areas with large crowds.

“What??? This has to be a joke. Did the Mayor of NYC really just single out one specific ethnic community (a community that has been the target of increasing hate crimes in HIS city) as being noncompliant??” he tweeted.

“Has he been to a park lately? (What am I saying — of course he has!)” Deutsch added.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC), which fights discrimination against the Orthodox community, also noted that de Blasio had broken social-distancing rules, and had said nothing when thousands of New Yorkers took to public places on Tuesday to enjoy the warm weather and watch a military flyover.

“You failed to social distance tonight and you failed to call out the packed crowds that were out today to watch the flyover,” they said.

“Also, there are plenty of photos of people in ethnic groups violating the rules but how often do you mention them by name as done tonight to Jews?” they asked.

David Greenfield — CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty — offered a more nuanced analysis, in a series of 13 tweets that began with, “Thread that will likely annoy everyone. What happened yesterday in Williamsburg is a case study: ‘whatever can go wrong, will go wrong’ – pandemic version.”

The progressive pro-Israel group Zioness said de Blasio’s tweet was “a perfect example of what *not* to do as a leader: stereotype, generalize, and target.”

“These are the classic signs of bigotry, and his tweet checked all the boxes,” it added.

“There is no question that certain members of all ultra-religious communities have disregarded critical rules intended to protect us all, and we can empathize with any frustration relating to this challenge — but leaders find ways to address bad behavior by the few without making an entire vulnerable group even more vulnerable,” Zioness continued. “In these difficult times, leadership is tested, and words have the potential to do grave harm. We do not believe Mayor de Blasio would be so irresponsible toward any other community — and we’re grateful for that — and it’s unacceptable and dangerous for him to be so cavalier toward Jews of any denomination, let alone the entire ‘Jewish community.’ We pray his words don’t have consequences far worse than the ones he intended to prevent in the first place.”

Prominent non-Jewish politicians also weighed in, with Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeting, “Would DeBlasio have sent this identical tweet with the word ‘Jewish’ replaced by any other religious minority? If not, why not? Laws should be enforced neutrally w/o targeting religious faith.”

Former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted at de Blasio, “This is an unbelievable tweet. To call out a religious group in this way about funerals is disturbing.”

In a statement, de Blasio’s press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, pushed back against the criticism, saying, “The mayor has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Jewish community since his earliest days in public service. There were thousands of people gathered today, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. It is his responsibility to all New Yorkers to speak up.”

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