By any measure, the De Blasio administration’s response to the onset of the pandemic in March – which alienated many in our community and instilled a lack of confidence in what officials were saying – was disastrous.
So one would have thought a major part of New York City’s response to the current spike in cases would be to work with our community’s leadership to rebuild trust and bringing as many people as possible into compliance with prevention protocols.
Sadly, though, to listen to some of our leadership, the mayor’s promises to work with them turned out to be mere lip service. Apparently, there was very little outreach to speak of and the little that there was only involved interactions with what appear to be relatively marginal personalities.
True, the mayor and his administration have pulled back substantially from the April comments singling out parts of the Jewish community which began to put a Jewish face on the pandemic. They now speak mostly of “hot zones” of enhanced numbers of cases.
But those areas just happen to be predominantly Orthodox Jewish and the notion of something Jewish about the spread of the coronavirus has seeped through as the media eagerly does the math at every opportunity. In this connection, a video made by a Boro Park resident the other day of a news crew filming only passersby without facial masks went viral. And news crews have been reportedly saturating Jewish communities seeking out maskless Jews.
To put things into some perspective, recall some of the comments the mayor and his police commissioner made about Jews in April in response to a large gathering at a Jewish funeral in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Despite similar violations of crowd limitations by many different kinds of people throughout New York City, the mayor said,
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.
And Police Commissioner Dermot Shea bluntly warned the Jewish community, “You are putting my cops at risk and that is unacceptable.”
This is heavy stuff and very dangerous, as well. Indeed, we recall reports of chassidic Jews in Boro Park and Williamsburg being attacked by individuals claiming they were spreading the coronavirus. It is small wonder that so many people came to believe that they were being scapegoated by public officials who were looking for a way to shift attention away from their inability to deal with the health catastrophe.
To be clear, we are not suggesting that members of our community should be above the law. But community relations are now appreciated as being an essential component of modern law enforcement, even of the criminal kind. So surely some may have good reason to believe that they have been betrayed, and the betrayers are not to be trusted.
As a footnote, we also note that some comments just the other day by Governor Cuomo were not helpful in clearing the air. Commenting on the spike in cases in Jewish areas, he said, “This is a concern for their community. It’s also a public health concern for surrounding communities. As I’ve said from day one, these public health rules apply to every religion. Atheists. It just applies to every citizen in the state of New York. Period.”
But, governor, no one is really suggesting otherwise.