New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is under fire after police broke up a funeral where thousands of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn mourned a prominent rabbi who died from COVID-19. "My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed," de Blasio tweeted. "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."
Community leaders say de Blasio singled out Jews in his tweets, but did not criticize the crowds gathered to watch the fly-by of military jets to honor workers on the front lines.
Despite social distancing rules banning large crowds, a group of Hasidic mourners estimated at “several thousand people” gathered in the streets of Williamsburg on Tuesday to mourn the death of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, who died of COVID-19, according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.
De Blasio's comments sparked immediate backlash with some saying he appeared to single out the entire Jewish community based on the actions of a small minority.
"Hey @NYCMayor there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC," said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a tweet. "The few who don’t social distance should be called out — but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are scapegoating Jews. This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever."
On Wednesday, de Blasio responded to the criticism, calling the decision to break up the funeral an act of "tough love," the New York Daily News reported.
"I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way, that was not my intention," de Blasio said. "It was said with love, but it was tough love.
“The amount of danger from that gathering is inestimable,” he said, according to the Daily News. “People will die because of it, unfortunately."