NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio singled out “the Jewish community” for not practicing social distancing, claiming they endangered others’ lives. He followed up his smears by ordering the New York Police Department to step up patrols in Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, home to Hasidic communities, to physically break up funerals and religious services and arrest those involved.
De Blasio’s comments came after more than 2,000 Orthodox Jews gathered in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn to take part in the funeral for a prominent rabbi April 28. The mayor has since admitted that his office and the NYPD took part in planning the event in advance.
Under an agreement with the city, Orthodox synagogue leaders had organized for the family to gather at the synagogue while others gathered nearby to listen to the service over loudspeakers. As the funeral neared, cops breached the agreement and told the crowd no loudspeakers would be permitted, so people moved in toward the synagogue to hear the ceremony.
“When I heard I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed,” de Blasio boasted. Video footage shows cops moving in and police sirens blasting, as cops broke up the peaceful gathering.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” de Blasio threatened. “I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups.”
Earlier that day thousands in the city’s parks watched a flyover by military Thunderbirds and Blue Angels aircraft. Pictures in the press show many attending the event without observing much social distancing or being forced to do so by authorities.
Meets storm of criticism
De Blasio’s singling out New York’s 1-million-plus “Jewish community” for spreading coronavirus met widespread criticism for encouraging anti-Semitism among those who scapegoat Jews for today’s social crisis.
“This type of horrible stereotyping is dangerous and completely unacceptable at any time,” Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said in an April 29 statement. The group said it would formally censure de Blasio for his remarks that “painted the Jewish community as lawbreakers and unconcerned about the city’s public health.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said de Blasio’s comments were “outrageous.”
Others, like New York Times writer Bari Weiss, claimed de Blasio was right to be angered by those attending the funeral, but criticized his comments for sending “an inadvertent message to anti-Semites that Jews were to blame.”
De Blasio hasn’t backed off. On April 29 he said his blaming of Jews was merely “love, but it was tough love.”
The following day he ordered cops to break up another Jewish funeral service in Brooklyn. They also raided two Brooklyn synagogues, driving worshippers out and issuing summonses. Cop cars from the Strategic Response Group, a rapid-deployment force used for civil unrest and crowd control, lined the main streets of Williamsburg’s Hasidic areas.
Since the pandemic began, New York cops have repeatedly broken up prayers and family gatherings in Jewish neighborhoods.
De Blasio’s “words and actions must be denounced for what they are: anti-Semitism,” said Seth Galinsky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in New York’s 10th District, in a May 5 statement. Anti-Semitism, the socialist candidate explained, “invents a mythical scapegoat — the ‘evil Jewish capitalists’ — to take eyes off the real enemy: the capitalist system and its dog-eat-dog morality.”
Working people must condemn Jew-hatred “in all its ugly manifestations,” Galinsky urged. “Without this we will not be able to unite to defend our interests along the road to taking power out of the hands of the capitalist class.”
The targeting of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews for allegedly spreading a deadly virus comes in the midst of rising numbers of Jew-hating attacks in Brooklyn, the New York-New Jersey region and elsewhere.
In December three people were shot dead in an assault that targeted Jews shopping at the New Jersey Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City. Later in December a man broke into a rabbi’s home in Monsey, Rockland County, 25 miles north of New York City, where he used a machete to stab five Hasidic Jews. Anti-Semitic attacks here reached record numbers in 2019.