“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
By Aaron Sull, World Israel News
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter on Tuesday night to condemn a large funeral gathering in Brooklyn for a prominent Hasidic rabbi who passed away from the coronavirus.
“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.”
“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,” he added.
According to local reports, hundreds of Hasidic Jews gathered in the streets on Tuesday to pay respects for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, the leading rabbi of the Tola’as Yaakov Hasidic sect, who died of coronavirus at age 73.
Although the participants were wearing facemasks at the time, their actions violated NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s social distancing orders of keeping 6-feet distance between one another and gatherings of no more than 50 people.
The NYC mayor’s decision to generalize all the city’s Jewish communities for the actions of a few sparked outrage amongst many leading public and political officials.
“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 head Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted.
NYC Councilman Chaim Deutsch tweeted: “What??? This has to be a joke. 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) as being noncompliant??”
Senator Ted Cruz tweeted: “Would DeBlasio have sent this identical tweet with the word ‘Jewish’ replaced by any other religious minority? If not, why not? Laws should be enforced neutrally w/o targeting religious faith.”
Surprisingly, the Tola’as Yaakov community defended de Blasio’s “well-intentioned” response on Wednesday and issued an apology to the Jewish people for violating the order.
“We understand Mayor Bill de Blasio’s frustration and his speaking out against the procession,” a joint statement by prominent Tola’as Yaakov rabbis said.
“It also hurts that this led to singling out the Jewish community, and for that, we apologize to all Jewish people. We know that the mayor’s reaction came from his concern for the health and safety of our community and the entire city, and it wasn’t ill-intended.”
“Health and life take precedence to anything else, and we shall all follow those rules,” the statement concluded.
New York City has been hit hard by the coronavirus with more than 300,000 testing positive and 23,100 deaths to date.