Orthodox Jewish Leaders Decry Apparent Double Standard in NYC Lockdown Enforcement

June 17, 2020 Updated: June 17, 2020

Leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community are outraged by the apparent double standard exhibited by New York City authorities in the enforcement of lockdown measures.

They say Mayor Bill de Blasio has singled out the Jewish community as part of his effort to stop the spread of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus.

The double standard came into full focus on June 13, when de Blasio allowed thousands of people to attend a densely packed rally for “trans black lives” in Brooklyn. Days earlier, videos posted on social media showed city authorities welding shut the gates of a popular playground in one of the largest Jewish communities in the same borough.

“Unfortunately, it’s very sadly familiar—the fact that Bill de Blasio called out the Jewish community in a way that he wouldn’t call out any other community,” Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director for the Coalition for Jewish Values, told The Epoch Times.

Menken says pandemic data shows the spread of the virus in the Jewish community is no different from any of the others in New York City.

“The statistics say one thing, and the narrative coming out of the government says something else. And there’s complete tolerance—good tolerance—for peaceful protesters who are violating social distancing rules as they march together,” Menken said. “Yet, Jewish kids playing on a playground, who are at extremely low risk from this virus, are at the same time being singled out.”

The “trans black lives” rally in Brooklyn was the latest in a series of protests and riots that swept the country in the wake of the police-custody death in Minneapolis of George Floyd. De Blasio spoke at one of the protests, facing a crowd not practicing the social distancing guidelines and not wearing a mask himself.

“I think the problem starts out when government officials make rules, and then decide to make an exception to their own rules and join in on this exception,” Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, told The Epoch Times.

“If you set policy and then you make an exception to the rules, on your own choice, you’re a dictator. And that’s not how freedom and liberties work in the United States.”

Gestetner noted that African Americans are statistically more vulnerable to adverse outcomes from the CCP virus. Yet the city’s leaders allowed a mass protest without the familiar reminders about social distancing and wearing masks.

“Why are you subjecting a minority community to an outbreak in the name of helping the same community? It’s diabolical,” Gestetner said.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, told The Epoch Times that his organization is actively consulting with several prominent epidemiologists about the precautions needed to reopen houses of worship. The scientists the board spoke to all concur that New York’s limitations on congregations are reasonable and necessary.

“You don’t have any disagreement amongst the health professionals, that we shouldn’t be lenient when it comes to opening these houses of worship,” Posatnik said. “I understand the stringency, I just don’t understand why we’re not enforcing that kind of standard on protesters.”

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