New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was condemned by Jewish leaders on Wednesday after he singled out Jews who violated social distancing regulations at the funeral of a rabbi.
"Hey @NYCMayor, there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC," Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted.
"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."
Late Tuesday, de Blasio took to Twitter to express his outrage over a dense gathering of Jewish mourners at the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The gathering of about 2,500 people occurred at Rutledge Street and Bedford Avenue at 7 p.m. and lasted for about two hours.
"Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic," de Blasio, whose city has had more than 12,500 COVID-19 deaths, said in a series of tweets.
"When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.
"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.
"We have lost so many these last two months + I understand the instinct to gather to mourn. But large gatherings will only lead to more deaths + more families in mourning. We will not allow this. I have instructed the NYPD to have one standard for this whole city: zero tolerance."
De Blasio was quickly slapped for his generalization of the city's Jewish population when only one group broke the rules requiring residents to maintain a distance of six feet from each other.
New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger said on Twitter: "Mr. Mayor, your words are unacceptable. To condemn our entire community over one group of people is something you would not do to any other ethnic group, and I know you long enough to know that you know this."
"This has to be a joke," tweeted City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents a large constituency of Orthodox Jews. "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) being noncompliant??"
The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council said in a statement: "Only bigots have a problem when a few 100 Hasidim do what thousands of people in the same city have done the same day (not social distance)."
Liel Leibovitz, a senior writer for Tablet Magazine, an online journal of Jewish news and opinion, wrote of de Blasio's remarks:
"Ah, so that's the cause of the trouble. It's the nasty Jews! The sweaty hordes threatening their innocent neighbors with their diseased bodies and souls, as they did yesterday for a funeral for which the community coordinated with the NYPD."
Leibovitz said there are routine violations of the social distancing rule throughout New York, including crowds in Central Park and at events like Tuesday's Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flyover tribute to healthcare workers.
"De Blasio might've been capitalizing on the behavior of a few Hasidic Jews when he railed against 'the Jewish community' at large, but anti-Semitism doesn't differentiate between those in long beards and black hats and Jews who are clean shaven and bare headed," Leibovitz continued. "In singling out the Jews for spreading the virus, the mayor was targeting all of us, making us all less safe."
Elad Nehorai, an Orthodox Jew living in Brooklyn said on Twitter:
"'The Jewish community'? Are you kidding me? We are not a monolith, and neither are the specific communities you are calling out. This is disgusting and antisemitic, and especially dangerous considering the recent uptick in antisemitic attacks."
David Harsanyi, a senior writer for National Review, wrote: "Can anyone in their wildest imaginations picture the below tweet being directed at the any other minority in the city of New York — African Americans or the gay community or the Muslims celebrating Ramadan? Can you imagine the blowback if it were?"
"The Blue Angels flyover in NY City today was beautiful, but I didn't see any outrage over the lack of social distancing. That reaction is reserved for Jewish weddings & funerals," tweeted Joel Petlin, superintendent of the Kiryas Joel School District, north of New York City. "Two wrongs don't make a right, but only one wrong makes the news and the condemnation of politicians."
In the past few weeks, police have broken up other funerals because of social distancing rules, including some within the Hasidic Jewish community. Police say there were no arrests at the Tuesday funeral.
The synagogue where Rabbi Mertz was being mourned said in a statement: "We understand Mayor Bill de Blasio's frustration and his speaking out about the gathering. We thought that the procession will be in accordance with the rules, and we apologize that it turned out otherwise. It also hurts that this led to singling out the Jewish community, and for that we apologize to all Jewish people."
Mertz, 73, died from complications of COVID-19, the New York Daily News reported. On April 5, hundreds of mourners skipped social distancing in nearby Borough Park to mourn Rav Yosef Kalish, 63, who also died from the coronavirus.
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