(JTA) — Dozens of Jewish organizations and Jewish leaders are unhappy with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and they let him know about it in an open letter.
The letter released Wednesday accused de Blasio of “scapegoating” the Jewish community in response to a large Hasidic funeral in Brooklyn on Tuesday night for a rabbi who had died of the coronavirus. Jewish Insider posted the letter, which included signers from across the denominational spectrum as well as some city and state lawmakers.
De Blasio in a tweet early Wednesday condemned “the Jewish community” in a trio of Twitter posts announcing that he had instructed his Police Department to fine or even arrest social distancing violators.
The letter pointed out that the funeral for Rabbi Chaim Mertz had received a street permit from the Police Department, calling the action “a mistake.” Similarly, the letter said, “it is also a mistake to single out an entire community and then threaten incarceration.”
The signatories requested a meeting with the mayor “to discuss constructive approaches to respond to the pandemic.”
“In the midst of an historic wave of anti-Semitic hate violence in New York City, our community — like the Asian community — has been feeling the pain of being singled out and blamed for the spread of this deadly disease,” read the letter organized by the New York Jewish Agenda group. “This singling out is especially potent because it aligns with longstanding anti-Semitic tropes that have, for millennia, blamed Jews for societal ills. Laying blame upon Hasidic communities — among the most visible members of our Jewish family — will not stop the spread of COVID-19, and referring to these particular communities as ‘the Jewish community’ both flattens a diverse group of New Yorkers into a single bloc and fuels the anti-Semitic hatreds that bubble beneath the surface of our society.”
On Wednesday, de Blasio stood by his warnings of police action against social distancing violators but apologized for the tone of his tweets.
“I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people the feeling of being treated the wrong way,” he said.