Cuomo uses Torah to Justify Targeted Enforcement Against NY Jews [Watch]

On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order to close all schools and most non-essential businesses in several areas of New York City to close Tuesday has drawn calls of foul with claims of anti-Semitism since his order targets heavily Jewish areas. 

Shutdown Targets Jewish Neighborhoods

Under the plan, 100 public and 200 private schools would be closed in nine areas that are home to close to 500,000 people. Those areas represent 7% of the city’s population but have been responsible for about 1,850 new cases in the past four weeks. This represents more than 20% of all new infections in the city during that span.

The measure comes at a time when religious Jewish schools are closed for the holiday of Sukkoth but they are scheduled to resume classes on Monday. Though the restrictions called for by Mayor Bill de Blasio do not include banning public prayer in synagogues, Cuomo said he would move to close synagogues if community leaders did not agree to impose strict safety measures. His threat comes in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth when religious Jews gather in communal prayer.

“Announcing this in the middle of a Jewish holiday shows City Hall’s incompetence and lack of sensitivity towards the Jewish Community,” tweeted Daniel Rosenthal, a state Assembly member from Queens.

In a press conference on Monday, Cuomo blamed many of the state’s new coronavirus hot spots on mass gatherings of Orthodox Jews. “Orthodox Jewish gatherings often are very, very large and we’ve seen what one person can do in a group,” Cuomo said. To illustrate his point, he displayed a photo of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews at a large gathering. The Jewish attendees were not socially distanced and were not wearing masks. 

Cuomo Cites Jewish Law

In his address, Cuomo invoked a Jewish concept, claiming, “In Jewish teaching, one of the most precious principles is saving a life — to save a life. The Torah speaks about how certain religious obligations can be excused if you are going to save a life.”

It should be emphasized that Jewish religious law is a hugely complicated field of study and is established by rabbis. Many Jews were angered by the governor’s dictating Jewish law to the Jewish people.

The mayor and governor have come under fire from Jews who claim that they are being hypocritical and targeting Jews. 

“People in the community have lost a lot of trust in the government because people were told they can’t pray but thousands of people can gather in the streets to protest, or because rules kept changing from minute to minute without rhyme or reason,” Borough Park Community Board leader Barry Spitzer told Armin Rosen of Tablet. It made no sense to community members that in the city’s view, “going to a funeral is bad but protesting is good.”

Conflict arose between De Blasio and the Jewish community in April when police dispersed a large Hasidic funeral in Brooklyn. Deblasio was accused of a double standard while allowing Black Lives Matter protesters to flood the streets.

Stop Antisemitism slammed Deblasio for appearing in a public relations photo without a mask and with no social distancing. 

David Ben Hooren, publisher of the Jewish Voice, felt Jews were being singled out.

“The Jewish community feels they’re being singled out and there’s some element of anti-Semitism,” he said Monday. “Not that I agree with it, but that’s the sentiment in the street. Tensions are running high.”

Fake Photo

It was later revealed that the photo was taken at a funeral procession held by the Satmar sect of Hassidic Judaism in 2006. 

“We’re gonna close the schools in those areas tomorrow. And that’s that,” said Cuomo.

The mayor criticized the mayor for not closing religious institutions which Cuomo blamed for the outbreak.

“The city’s proposal does not close religious institutions,” Cuomo said. “We know religious institutions have been a problem. We know mass gatherings are the superspreader events. We know there have been mass gatherings going on in concert with religious institutions in these communities for weeks—for weeks.” 

Israel in the News