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February 15, 2021 7:47 pm

Outcry After Author and COVID-19 Skeptic Ties Cuomo Actions on Nursing Homes to Orthodox Jews

avatar by Yoni Wilkenfeld

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.

Members of the New York Jewish community pushed back against comments made on Twitter by Alex Berenson, an author and former New York Times reporter who has become a popular skeptic of government responses to the pandemic, for linking New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s controversial decisions on nursing homes to lobbying by Orthodox Jews in the industry.

“1/ From a reader, about everyone’s favorite Emmy winner, @NYGovCuomo. I don’t know if the source is right on the numbers but he is certainly right directionally, Orthodox Jews have aggressively expanded into nursing homes and they are crucial in NY state politics…,” Berenson tweeted, while sharing a screenshot of an email alleging that Governor Cuomo had sent patients infected with COVID-19 to nursing homes in the state in order to “repay” electoral support from Hasidim.

The reader email shared by Berenson claimed that Cuomo was “repaying favors to a religious sect that brings him almost 100% of their groups votes. Forcing these patients into the nursing homes means more profit for the homes. The Hasidic community in NYS delivers almost 100% of their 1.1 million votes to Cuomo every election in return for political favors.”

Berenson also shared several other screenshots of articles on Jewish-owned nursing homes, including one about a 2016 investigation by state prosecutors.

Cuomo has been criticized for a March 2020 decision to bar nursing homes in the state from refusing patients with COVID-19, and more recently has faced accusations over understating coronavirus death tolls in the facilities.

The author’s Saturday tweets were met with criticism for tying these decisions to Jewish-owned of nursing homes.

“According to @AlexBerenson all Orthodox Jews are at fault for Nursing Home deaths in NY because a dozen or two Orthodox Jews own such homes. A level of bigotry that no blue check would drop on any other ethnic group,” tweeted the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC).

A novelist and former Times investigative reporter, Berenson has gained a massive Twitter following during the pandemic crisis for his controversial criticism of government responses, public health forecasts, and — most recently — of COVID-19 vaccines.

Asked to explain the significance of Orthodox Jews in the nursing home industry, Berenson told The Algemeiner Monday that, “As a Jew, I am naturally concerned about antisemitism. That’s why I don’t think Jews, Orthodox or otherwise, should reflexively use allegations of it to try to brush off serious questions. Doing so debases the term and makes it easier for real antisemites to spread their venom.”

Other critics of the author’s comments noted that Cuomo has drawn fire from Orthodox Jewish organizations for the administration’s approach to the community during the pandemic.

“Man, it takes a special kind of crazy to look at what has been going on in NY & to come away with ‘AndrEw CUOmO mUst bE cOvErIng sOmEthIng Up fOr thE HAsIdIc JEws,'” tweeted Eli Steinberg, a communications consultant who also writes for Newsweek and The Forward.

“It’s sad that it’s not surprising anymore when someone ‘slips’ and reveals their antisemitic side,” Steinberg told The Algemeiner on Monday.

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