On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference with Jewish news agencies to address social distancing guidelines, his response to the crowds that gathered for the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz in Williamsburg the previous Tuesday, and his subsequent tweet.
The Jewish Press noted that the Mayor’s tweet was still up and that “the language of the tweet in of itself is believed by many to be dangerous”. The Jewish Press also noted that the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt responded to the tweet the following day.
The Mayor said that it is not his instinct to take something down, because that itself leads to controversy. Rather, de Blasiosaid he prefers to clarify things.
In any event, the Mayor committed to talk with his team to discuss whether or not taking down the tweet is the right thing to do. Sometimes, said the Mayor, “I…have to part company with people, because I know when a message is meant to be divisive and hurtful and when it is not.” According to de Blasio, his tweet was intended to warn the general public about the dangers of large crowds gathering during this pandemic. “I am not going to relitigate,” said the Mayor. Instead, de Blasio said that he would work on what needs to be done going forward.
In response to the questions being raised about his tweet, de Blasio stated that he appreciates that they are being raised “out of an honest concern about a backdrop of anti-Semitism that is way too strong in this country and in this world and must be fought every single day.” The Mayor said that he understood that anything which might be inadvertently anti-Semitic is a problem and must be addressed. This is why “I have gone out of my way to apologize for the mistake,” said de Blasio. The main focus should be battling COVID-19, urged the Mayor. As meritorious as the conversation about his tweet may be, “we need to have even more energy” directed toward saving lives. If one person dies because the public did not adhere to social distancing, we would all regret that, noted the Mayor. This includes breaking up a large gathering such as the one that took place for Rabbi Mertz’s funeral, asserted the Mayor.