Hundreds of members of the Borough Park Orthodox community took to the streets Tuesday night in protest of new state-mandated restrictions imposed on area synagogues, schools and non-essential businesses over a COVID-19 surge, the NY Post reported.
The rules are divided into zones and include in one area Houses of worship – 25% capacity, 10 people maximum, Mass gatherings prohibited, Nonessential businesses closed, Takeout dining only and Schools closed.
In another zone, Houses of worship are only allowed 33% capacity, 25 people maximum and Mass gatherings at 10 people maximum, indoor and outdoor.
The order came down following days of public back-and-forth between Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, who announced the shutdown in nine ZIP codes in New York where there has been an uptick of COVID cases.
Much of Borough Park is subject to those measures — the most restrictive — which also shutter non-essential businesses. The level of restrictions, broken down into three color-coded categories, is guided by coronavirus diagnosis data.
One large crowd huddled closely together at the corner of 50th Street and 15th Avenue at about 9 p.m. as community activist Heshy Tischler ripped Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the order that shuts down schools completely and limits houses of worship to 10 people in certain COVID-19 hot spots.
“It’s called civil disobedience, we can fight back,” Tischler told the crowd after tearing up his face mask. “Do not allow them to torture you or scare you,” he said, referring to the elected officials, the NY Post reported..
Councilman Kalman Yeger later showed up at another protest on 13th Avenue, according to Boro Park News.
There, the lawmaker told the crowd: “We are not going to be deprived of the right that we have in America, like everybody else in America, the right to observe our religion.”
The protests continued into the night, with hundreds gathering around a rubbish fire lit in protest. Police later shut down 13th Avenue to traffic.
NEW YORK: Huge crowds of Orthodox Jews gather in Brooklyn burning piles of face masks to protest synagogue closures by Governor Cuomo. pic.twitter.com/tlYqunik7U
— SV News 🚨 (@SVNewsAlerts) October 7, 2020
Earlier in the night, 4 Jewish lawmakers released a statement criticizing the Governor’s edict.
Senator Simcha Felder, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, Councilman Chaim Deutsch and Councilman Kalman Yeger wrote:
“We are appalled by Governor Cuomo’s words and actions today. He has chosen to pursue a scientifically and constitutionally questionable shutdown of our communities. 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 the representatives 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.
“What occurred today can only be described as a duplicitous bait-and-switch. The governor informed Jewish community 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). 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).
“Even worse, his rhetoric in recent days has been irresponsible and pejorative, particularly to a community of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, for whom his language was reminiscent of past verbal attacks on Jewish communities. Governor Cuomo’s choice to single out a particular religious group, complete with a slideshow of photos to highlight his point, was outrageous. His language was dangerous and divisive, and left the implication that Orthodox Jews alone are responsible for rising COVID cases in New York State. This implication is not born out by the state’s own data.
“We will continue to encourage total compliance with mask-wearing and social distance guidelines in our communities. In recent weeks, we have seen a vast increase in compliance throughout our communities. We have personally organized massive mask distributions in areas that have seen an uptick in positive cases – distributing hundreds of thousands of masks to our constituents. Sadly, instead of working alongside our community to build on our work, the governor has instead chosen to respond with threats and aggressive enforcement — a tactic which has historically failed in all communities throughout New York.
“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 his interference. G-d Bless America.”