- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is under fire for singling out the “Jewish community” with threats of arrest after breaking up a crowded funeral gathering for a prominent rabbi who died of the novel coronavirus.

Police descended Tuesday night on a funeral procession for Rabbi Chaim Mertz in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, which saw the sidewalks lined with hundreds of Hasidic mourners, many of whom wore face masks, in violation of the city’s social distancing rules.

In a series of tweets, Mr. de Blasio called the gathering “absolutely unacceptable,” adding that he went to Williamsburg himself “to ensure the crowd dispersed,” and warned “the Jewish community” that he had instructed police to issue citations and make arrests.

“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,” Mr. de Blasio tweeted.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council responded by retweeting photos taken earlier Tuesday showing large crowds gathering in the city to watch the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flyover, with no apparent efforts by police to disperse the onlookers.

The council said Mr. de Blasio “was wrong to rush to Williamsburg for a thing (lack of social distancing) that has gone on all day across the city, and then he was wrong for his tweet.”

The mayor’s reference to “the Jewish community” also drew rebukes from the Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

“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,” Mr. Cruz tweeted.

Mr. Greenblatt noted that there are more than 1 million Jewish people in New York City and that 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.”

The council said that 72,000 Jews live in Williamsburg and that a “few hundred (mostly teens) attended a funeral.” The rabbi died at age 73.

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

Mr. de Blasio said that there was “one standard for this whole city: zero tolerance.” No U.S. city has been hit harder by COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, than New York City, which with a population of 8.4 million has recorded more than 162,000 cases and 12,500 deaths.

“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,” the mayor tweeted.

Mr. de Blasio has been criticized for being slow to respond to the pandemic by continuing to encourage people to dine out at restaurants as recently as March 11, as reported by Eater, and then for going to the gym after declaring a state of emergency.

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