Authorities at the local and state levels have been singling out synagogues and other Jewish institutions, many of which were forced to shut their doors just in time for the Jewish high holidays.
Local activists say they’re being discriminated against, and a press conference earlier this month in which Governor Andrew Cuomo singled out the Orthodox Jewish community only added fuel to the fire. They say that other communities are noting even higher infection rates, and even more upsettingly, elected officials seem to have no problem with mass gatherings for Black Lives Matters protests.
At least five synagogues have recently been hit with $15,000 fines for having more than 10 people inside, which is considered a violation of pandemic-related health code restrictions. Protests have been held in places like Borough Park, Brooklyn, where thousands gathered to protest restrictions that they believe are targeting their freedom of religion.
Some people living in these communities are complaining about the high volume of journalists that have descended upon their streets with cameras, many of them hoping to catch someone walking around without a mask.
Yeshivah World News said it had “reached a level of disgust” before asking: “Where was this crowd of reporters when a massive mask-less crowd gathered in Manhattan on Saturday to celebrate the memory of Breonna Taylor?”
Human rights attorney Brooke Goldstein tweeted: “I’m waiting for @NYGovCuomo to issue a statement saying Black Lives Matter gatherings are violating COVID regulations and he’s sending the police in…wait no, that type of language is reserved for Jews only.”
Fed up with the reporters’ behavior, some have taken to disrupting media broadcasts by honking car horns repeatedly.
Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio apologized to ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders in Queens and Brooklyn for not clearly explaining the regulations surrounding coronavirus to the community, which is now under a second lockdown on account of climbing infections.
At the city hall press briefing, de Blasio said: “I certainly got very frustrated at times when I saw large groups of people still out without masks, but I think more dialogue would have been better so I certainly want to express my regret that I didn’t figure out how to do that better.”
He met with community leaders this week to try to repair the relationship, and the parties agreed that better communication and more dialogue are needed moving forward. He also apologized for a controversial tweet in April in which he criticized a big funeral in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood for a rabbi who had succumbed to coronavirus despite the fact that organizers got his approval for the gathering.
However, de Blasio hasn’t been in touch with all the leaders who want to discuss current issues with him. Brooklyn Democratic Councilman Chaim Deutsch told the New York Post that he can’t get the mayor to call him back. Deutsch represents three of the zip codes that are part of the current lockdown.
De Blasio also admitted during the briefing that some residents are skeptical of testing procedures, either because they don’t trust the government will record the results accurately or they do not believe the science behind it.
There may be spikes in coronavirus cases in many of their communities, but how could Orthodox Jews not feel singled out when mass gatherings in Central Park and Black Lives Matter events are not considered “super spreader events,” but their synagogue services on Jewish holidays are? Having the media there following them around with cameras is only making matters worse.
Sources for this article include: