Bill de Blasio
AP Photo/Richard Drew
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is catching heat for singling out the Jewish community in a tweet about people who are not following the city’s social distancing rules.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” he wrote on Tuesday evening. “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.”
The tweet was one of three sent Tuesday night, but they were not threaded together.
Earlier, de Blasio vented his frustrations about a large funeral gathering in Williamsburg that occurred on Tuesday night — that he personally went to help break up.
“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” he tweeted. “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.”
Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, has a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known as Hasidic Jews, numbering about 57,000. The insular Jewish community has seen large numbers of coronavirus cases and some members have openly flouted social distancing rules by holding large prayer services or funerals.
Still, de Blasio’s tweet was criticized for singling out “the Jewish community,” despite the fact that that New York state is home to an estimated 1.7 million Jews who have largely followed the social distancing rules in place.
“Hey @NYCMayor, there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on Twitter in response to de Blasio’s tweet. “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 has to be a joke,” New York City Council member Chaim Deutsch wrote on Twitter. “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?”
A spokesperson for de Blasio said in a statement that the mayor “has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Jewish community.”
“There were thousands of people gathered today, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk,” his press office said. “It is his responsibility to all New Yorkers to speak up. There is no double standard.”
The coronavirus pandemic is fueling anti-Semitism around the world, particularly in New York, where Jews comprise approximately 13% of the city’s population. The Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University said in a report released earlier this month that in the first few months of 2020, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic expressions and “Jew-hatred,” mainly from activists on the extreme right.
One of New York’s first coronavirus cases occurred in New Rochelle, a city of around 80,000 in Westchester County, which has a large Jewish population. The community has recently been the target of “zoom-bombing,” where religious services streamed on Zoom were interrupted by anti-Semitic acts.
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