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October 7, 2020 10:09 am

Orthodox Jewish Leaders Decry Cuomo’s ‘Draconian’ Measures to Restrict Worship Amid Virus Rise

avatar by Faygie Holt / JNS.org

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks in front of stacks of medical protective supplies, during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, in New York City, New York, amid the coronavirus outbreak, March 24, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mike Segar / File.

JNS.org – Professing his “respect and love” for the Orthodox Jewish community, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced major restrictions and closures in parts of the state designated as “COVID clusters,” areas that have an overwhelmingly large Orthodox community.

“I understand the imposition this will place on them,” the governor said on Tuesday afternoon after a morning meeting with leaders in the Jewish community. “I said I need their cooperation; I need their assistance. I asked them to work with me to follow these guidelines, and that was positively received. I said that I am doing this for a very simple reason—because I have such respect and love for the Orthodox community. … It’s out of respect and love, and because I want to protect them.

“In Jewish teaching, one of the most precious principles is to save a life,” Cuomo continued, noting that the Torah allows one to violate certain rules in order to do so.

Under the governor’s plan are three color-coded levels of rules. In red zones, the hotspot areas, houses of worship will be limited to just 10 people, mass gatherings are prohibited, and all non-essential businesses will be closed, as will schools. In surrounding areas—so-called orange zones—houses of worship will be limited to 25 people with mass gatherings limited to 10 people. The outer-ringed yellow zone will face some restrictions; houses of worship can have 50 percent capacity, and schools will remain open with additional virus testing.

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