TEL AVIV — World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said his organization should formally censure New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for singling out the Jewish community in a series of tweets over violations of coronavirus restrictions.
“Last night, the Mayor painted the Jewish community as lawbreakers and unconcerned about the city’s public health. I agree with the Mayor that social distancing is vitally important — and last night’s gathering was not appropriate,” Lauder said in a statement.
“But to blame the entire Jewish community is the type of stereotyping that is dangerous and unacceptable at any time, and particularly pernicious while the world is gripped in fear and the worst among us are looking for scapegoats,” he said.
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered Tuesday night in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to pay their respects to the deceased, Rabbi Chaim Mertz.
De Blasio personally supervised police as they broke up the funeral procession, which was not carried out in adherence to social distancing regulations although pictures show many wearing masks.
“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter.
“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,” he said.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” the mayor added. “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.”
De Blasio came under fire for calling out the Jewish community.
Lauder charged de Blasio with feeding into the “dangerous agenda of white supremacists and antisemites” with his tweet.
Lauder added, “Mayor de Blasio needs to realize that while he, like all of us, believes in the importance of social distancing, every time a leader like him stereotypes the ‘Jewish community,’ he feeds into the dangerous agenda of white supremacists and antisemites around the world. It needs to end.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also slammed the mayor.
“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. #ProtectFreeExercise,” he 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. #ProtectFreeExercise https://t.co/dMVcX0bin4
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 29, 2020
Anti-Defamation League head Jonathan Greenblatt similarly denounced de Blasio for calling out the entire Jewish community over an errant minority.
Hey @NYCMayor, there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC. 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 erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever. https://t.co/jcYO9QQred
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) April 29, 2020
The Satmar Headquarters said on Twitter that the funeral had been approved by the mayor. Satmar is the Hassidic sect that comprises most of the ultra-Orthodox population in Williamsburg.
This Funeral was originally approved and actually organized by @NYPDnews 2 hours b4 it started, PD brought trucks with barriers/tower lights to close off Bedford Avenue and the surrounding area. It's the @NYCMayor’s Dept who originally approved it before deciding to take it back. https://t.co/i1EtGvCkKO
— Satmar Headquarters (@HQSatmar) April 29, 2020
Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro blasted de Blasio for his comments.
“I can’t imagine de Blasio saying this about any other community. It’s pretty amazing. And for the record, MANY of the leaders of the Jewish community have taken strong stands on social distancing.”
Twitter user Sofia Bitela wrote: “This is really a tone deaf and disgusting tweet by the mayor. First of all, the [ultra-Orthodox] rarely intermingle outside of their community. How are they a threat to other New Yorkers?”
She added: “Second, they may the community closet to herd immunity in NYC or the US. Leave them alone.”
De Blasio was also criticized for not calling out the hundreds of New Yorkers who gathered, shoulder to shoulder, to watch the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flyover in honor of the city’s healthcare workers.
Why did DeBlasio single out Jews and not general NYC crowds that gathered to watch flyover? https://t.co/R75FNxMVP8
— Aaron Klein (@AaronKleinShow) April 29, 2020
De Blasio on Wednesday told reporters that he was sorry if anyone was hurt by the way he called out the Jewish community over a large funeral in Brooklyn Tuesday, but he had “no regrets.”
I spoke last night out of passion. I could not believe my eyes, Marcia. It was deeply deeply distressing. Again, this is a community I love, this is a community I have spent a lot of time working with closely. And if you saw anger and frustration, you’re right. I spoke out of real distress that people’s lives were in danger before my eyes, and I was not going to tolerate it. So I regret if if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way. That was not my intention. It was said with love, but it was tough love. It was anger and frustration at what I saw — and no, Marcia, it’s not happened other places, let’s be honest. This kind of gathering has happened in only a few places. And it cannot continue. It’s endangering the lives of people in the community. So to all those — and I understand politicians, everyone has said, “Oh, look,” you know, “this is like people gathering the park now.” No, it’s not like people gathering in the park. It was thousands of people. can we just have an honest conversation here? It was not acceptable. We will not tolerate it. I also will not tolerate any antisemitism — ever. And for decades I’ve made it my business to stand up for the Jewish community. and people know that. Won’t tolerate antisemitism, won’t allow it to grow in the city. We’ve fought it back many times. My message was to all communities, and that was written in black and white. But it was also to be clear that what I saw, I had not seen anywhere else. And I was trying to be honest about the fact that it is a problem that people have to come to grips with and deal with. Or else people in the community will die. And that’s not something to get somehow shunted aside. I understand the power of words, obviously. But I’m not going to let that power, that concern about words overcome the value of human life. We’re here to protect human beings and people were put in danger last night. Members of the Jewish community were putting each other in danger. They were putting our police officers in danger. Now, if I see it in any other committee, I’ll call that out equally. So again, if in my passion and in my emotion, I said something that in any way was hurtful, I’m sorry about that. That was not my intention. But I also want to be clear: I have no regrets about calling out this danger and saying we’re going to deal with it very, very aggressively.