‘Dangerous and divisive’: NY Officials slam Gov. Cuomo for singling out Jews in new COVID-19 orders

A group of four New York officials sent a letter Tuesday condemning the State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo for singling out the Orthodox Jewish community in his renewed lockdown orders amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. State Senator Simcha Felder, State Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, City Councilman Kalman Yeger, and City Councilman Chaim Deutsch all signed onto the letter and said they’re “appalled by Governor Cuomo’s words and actions.”

“He [Gov. Cuomo] has chosen to pursue a scientifically and constitutionally questionable shutdown of our communities,” the officials wrote. “His administration’s utter lack of coordination and communication with local officials has been an ongoing issue since the start of the pandemic, and particularly recently as we face this uptick.”

“Though we are representative of ‘hotspot’ neighborhoods, we have been disincluded from conversations with the governor and his leadership team as they made devastating decisions affecting the people we serve.”

Gov. Cuomo spoke with members of the Orthodox Jewish community Tuesday after earlier threatening to shut down synagogues and defends that he’s taken action ‘out of respect and love’ for them. However, the community leaders argue that it’s just a “duplicitous bait-and-switch.” And a number of the members of the community took to the streets Tuesday night to protest Gov. Cuomo’s orders.

“The governor informed Jewish leaders in a conference call that synagogues in ‘red zones’ would be permitted to operate at 50% and he requested community cooperation (which he was assured would happen),” the group said in Tuesday’s letter to Cuomo.

“Outrageously, just hours later, Governor Cuomo announced a draconian return to restrictions that would shutter thousands of New York businesses and limit houses of worship to a maximum capacity of 10 (no matter the maximum capacity of the building.”

The officials also noted that the community is made up of “Holocaust survivors and their descendants for whom his language was reminiscent of past verbal attacks on Jewish communities.”

On Monday, when Gov. Cuomo threatened to shut down synagogues, he used a picture to show the Jewish community gathering that happened to be fourteen years old. He later apologized, saying it was “a staff error” that was corrected “during the last 10 minutes” of his press conference.”

To the lawmakers representing those communities, the mistake was “outrageous” and they said it “left the implication that Orthodox Jews alone are responsible for rising COVID cases in New York State,” adding there’s no data to support such a claim.

The leaders said they have made efforts to encourage mask wearing and social distancing in the communities they represent and that instead of joining in that effort, the governor has chosen to pursue “threats and aggresive enforcement.”

“That said, it is disgraceful that Governor Cuomo would impose these restrictions targeting our community in the midst of our Jewish holidays. Because of his unilateral and irresponsible acts, our community is rightfully shocked, angered, and highly frustrated. Americans are constitutionally permitted to worship freely, and Governor Cuomo may be assured that we intend to exercise that right without the interference. G-d Bless America,” the letter concludes.