New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was on the defense Wednesday after he attacked the Jewish community on Twitter.
By Joseph Wolkin
“It was said with love, but it was tough love,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during his daily press conference on Wednesday, referring to a coronavirus tweet earlier in the day in which he singled out the Jewish community.
“Members of the Jewish community were putting each other in danger and putting our police officers in danger. I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people the feeling that they were being treated the wrong way,” he added.
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.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2020
Following the tweet, the mayor has been met with demands for his resignation, calling him anti-Semitic after essentially blaming the entire Jewish community for a large Hasidic funeral in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The mayor said he ordered the NYPD to “summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups” in his tweet, specifically targeting the “Jewish community.”
“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonight: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” de Blasio wrote. “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.”
But hours before de Blasio’s comments, thousands of New Yorkers broke social distancing laws to watch the U.S. Air Force’s flyover across the area.
“I spoke last night out of passion,” de Blasio said. “I could not believe my eyes. It was deeply deeply distressing.”
Pictures from the scene in Brooklyn flooded social media and local news outlets as thousands gathered to honor the life of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, a leader in the Tola’as Yaakov sect of Hasidim. The rabbi reportedly died due to complications from the coronavirus at the age of 73.
Attendees were wearing facemasks at the outdoor gathering, but many were clearly disobeying social distancing rules that were put in place by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“I have instructed the NYPD to have one standard for this whole city: zero tolerance,” de Blasio said.
“There are over a million Jewish people in NYC. The few who don’t social distance should be called out, but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said on Twitter.
Greenblatt wasn’t the only one to speak out against the mayor, who recently campaigned to be the Democratic nominee for the presidential election.
“Today, I am convening the leadership of the World Jewish Congress to formally censure New York Mayor Bill de Blasio,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said. “Last night, the, mayor painted the Jewish community as lawbreakers and unconcerned about the city’s public health. This type of horrible stereotyping is dangerous and completely unacceptable at any time, but particularly while the world is gripped in fear and the worst among us are looking for scapegoats.
“Since December, Jews have been the target of terrorist attacks and have sustained much bloodshed throughout the New York region and beyond. Mayor de Blasio should know better than to throw gasoline on a smoldering fire. I will withdraw this censure if Mayor de Blasio immediately apologizes for his comments, but sadly I do not expect him to. The hate and rhetoric we’re seeing today mirrors the same vicious targeting of Jews during the Bubonic Plague.”