NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There has been a war of words in New York’s efforts to contain the coronavirus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made it clear the cluster zones are focused on ultra Orthodox Jewish communities.
But as CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported, some say it has gone too far.
As enforcement ramps up in the city’s COVID-19 cluster zones, the governor again made it clear on a telephone conference call on Thursday who he felt the problem was.
“Some of the complexity in the enforcement here, especially with members of the ultra Orthodox community. They have never complied with the rules,” Cuomo said.
The governor’s words came a day after he announced he would withhold funding from local governments that do not enforce the rules at schools, including yeshivas.
“If the local government does not effectively enforce the law, we will withhold funds from the local government… If they don’t, we will withhold funding from the government. I don’t like to do that. Budgets are tough all across the board. I don’t know how else to get them to do the enforcement they need to do. So, hopefully that will motivate them because nothing else I have done has motivated them – not my rapier wit, not my sense of humor, not my guilt, not my blame, not my admonition, and not my pleas. Maybe money works,” Cuomo said.
He later pointed out that yeshivas receive a significant amount of funding.
“I guarantee if a yeshiva gets closed down, and they’re not going to get state funding, you will see compliance,” Cuomo said.
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Some Jewish leaders, including the group Americans Against Antisemitism, felt the rhetoric spoke to an anti-Semitic myth that dates back to medieval times, depicting Jews as money hungry.
“You’re talking about Jews and you want to talk about money? That’s a nasty way of talking,” said Yossi Gestetner of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council.
“He was proud of saying that money talks to them and that’s how he’s going to treat them. If he takes away their money and funding they’ll have no choice to comply. And we aren’t living in Nazi Germany,” Midwood resident Leah Forster said.
Forster was raised Hasidic, but no longer practices Judaism that way. However, she is Jewish and said the governor’s words hurt.
“When you’re stereotyping one type of Jew, you stereotype us all,” Forster said.
When asked to respond to the fact that some Jews felt they were unfairly targeted, Cuomo said that is a perception and not a fact.
As for his comments about money, Cuomo spokesperson Caitlin Girouard told CBS2:
“This is willfully twisting the governor’s words and ignoring a long history of friendship with the community that dates back to his father. Last year he was the first public official to visit Monsey after the anti-Semitic attack and in response he proposed and enacted a nation-leading domestic terrorism hate crimes law. This is Trump partisanship by political operatives ignoring science and trying to use the pandemic and the division caused by the election to score political points in a campaign. They should be ashamed of themselves and so should anyone who falls for it,” Girouard said.
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