New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Accused of Inflaming Antisemitism With 'Jewish Community' Message

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has been accused of singling out the "Jewish community" for not adhering to social distancing following a Rabbi's funeral in the city which was attended by hundreds.

De Blasio was venting his frustrations when a large crowd attended the funeral in the Williamsburg area of New York on Tuesday, resulting in the mayor going down to break up the service along with police.

In a series of tweets, the mayor said that the "Jewish community" as well as other communities will face arrest if they continue to gather in large groups amid the coronavirus.

According to Yeshiva World, the funeral which was attended by hundreds was that of Rabbi Chaim Mertz's, who died from COVID-19 at the age of 73.

"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.

"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: "We have lost so many these last two months + I understand the instinct to gather to mourn. But large gatherings will only lead to more deaths + more families in mourning.

"We will not allow this. I have instructed the NYPD to have one standard for this whole city: zero tolerance."

Tipster says this is the Williamsburg funeral today of Rabbi Chaim Mertz who died from COVID-19 pic.twitter.com/wsTvCrlzpb

— Reuven Blau (@ReuvenBlau) April 29, 2020

The remarks and subsequent warning were criticized for making sweeping statements against the city's large Jewish population based on a tiny percentage of those who failed to socially distance themselves.

Chaim Deutsch, a New York City Council member, was one of those who condemned de Blasio's comments as "a joke."

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?? Has he been to a park lately? (What am I saying—of course he has!)

"But singling out one community is ridiculous," Deutsch wrote. "Every neighborhood has people who are being non-compliant. To speak to an entire ethnic group as though we are all flagrantly violating precautions is offensive, it's stereotyping, and it's inviting antisemitism. I'm truly stunned."

Dear failed mayor,

“The Jewish community” is not a monolith.

This message puts a target on the back of all Jews. After the uptick in antisemitic attacks, it is downright dangerous.

There are ways to call out problems without falling into antisemitism. You’ve failed miserably. https://t.co/wbcFntZZO5

— Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) April 29, 2020

“The Jewish Community”? Which one? The Modern Orthodox on the UWS? The Reform alter cockers on the UES? The Syrian Jews of Midwood? The Bukharians of Queens? Oh, wait, you mean the Satmars of W’burg. Why don’t you say so instead of inflaming antisemtism, you imbecile.

— Lawrence Lewitinn (@lvlewitinn) April 29, 2020

let me help you. I went to central park today. I saw such crowds as it would he after the marathon. I was wondering who will enforce any rules but then I remembered that it wasn't a Jewish Funeral so...

— Yoely Lebovits (@Badchen) April 29, 2020

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, also lashed out at de Blasio for "scapegoating" Jewish people in the wake of record levels of anti-Semitic attacks in the city.

"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," Greenblatt wrote on Twitter. "This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever."

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council also noted de Blasio did not condemn those who gathered in New York to watch the military flyover which occurred over the city on the same day.

"Williamsburg has more than 12K Hasidic families with an average family size of almost six. This is almost 72K people. To pin the few 100 attendees (mostly teens) on NYC's Jewish Community at large is wrong," the organization wrote on Twitter.

8.5 million people live in NYC.

1.1 mill of those are Jews.

72,000 Jews live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

A few hundred (mostly teens) attended a funeral.

The mayor of this big city rushed to the “scene” and also sent tweets singling out all 1.1 million Jews.

Also today: pic.twitter.com/jMMlWSYtjg

— OJPAC (@OJPAC) April 29, 2020

Freddi Goldstein, de Blasio's press secretary, denied accusations that the mayor was trying to target the Jewish community with his remarks.

"The mayor has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Jewish community since his earliest days in public service," Goldstein told The New York Times.

"There were thousands of people gathered today, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. It is his responsibility to all New Yorkers to speak up."

 Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wears a bandana over his face while speaking at a food shelf organized by The Campaign Against Hunger in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn on April 14, 2020 in New York City Scott Heins/Getty

De Blasio's office has been contacted for further comment.

There are more than 287,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York, with nearly 17,000 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 115,936 people have managed to recover from the virus across the U.S.

This infographic, provided by Statista, shows the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of April 28.

Statista
Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.