New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was met with outrage Tuesday in urging communities to abide by social distancing guidelines in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a series of tweets, de Blasio said he'd personally dispersed a crowd of hundreds gathered to mourn a Hasidic rabbi who died of COVID-19, per NBC New York. The funeral gathering in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn was "absolutely unacceptable," de Blasio wrote, warning "the Jewish community, and all communities" that large gatherings would result in "summons or even arrest." "What I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus," he added, per the New York Times, which reports police have broken up "several well-attended religious gatherings" in areas "with large Jewish populations."
But Hasidic leaders are furious. "To speak to an entire ethnic group as though we are all flagrantly violating precautions is offensive, it's stereotyping, and it's inviting anti-Semitism. I'm truly stunned," City Council member Chaim Deutsch says, per NBC. A spokesperson for the Orthodox community claimed police were involved in setting up barriers to accommodate the gathering, while the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council noted "a few hundred" of some 1.1 million Jewish people living in the city had attended. The group also shared photos of crowds gathered Tuesday on the Hudson River waterfront to watch a military flyover in honor of essential workers. De Blasio's press secretary responded to the criticism, saying it was the mayor's "responsibility to all New Yorkers to speak up." (Read more Bill de Blasio stories.)