MAILBAG: Boro Park Protest: Media and Official’s Hypocrisy and the Urgent Need for Peaceful Civil Disobedience

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“Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jews burn masks in violent protests.” So ran a recent Washington Post headline. This stands in stark contrast to the great lengths the media went to cast Black Lives Matter protests as “mostly peaceful ” despite it resulting in more than a billion dollars in damages, making it the costliest riots in history.

While only a handful out of the several hundred protesters got physical in the altercations over the past few nights, it is nevertheless cast as the defining part of the event by malicious media and politicians. When asked during a press conference why no arrests had been made, de Blasio said, “There is something here that needs to be fixed right away. There clearly need to be consequences for the people involved, and I don’t know why that hasn’t happened already.” This sudden zeal and urgency is a dramatic departure for Mr. de Blasio who was incredibly slow to stop the devastating riots in NYC this past summer.

That being said, it is clear that physical violence will only hurt the message the community is trying to send. People who see nonviolent protests are more likely to support the cause and they are more likely to recoil from groups that resort to violence. There are appropriate measures such as social ostracization under Rabbinical guidance that are far more effective ways to deal with individuals who actively work against the interests of the community. All effort should be made to discourage further such incidents so that the community can focus on showing, peacefully, their unwillingness to comply with the unjust heavy-handed approach of the Governor.

Cuomo and DeBlasio must be made to realize that:

1. Their allowance of mass gatherings during BLM protests has made any restrictions they attempt to place on our community nothing but a spectacular display of hypocrisy. Despite any attempts by the Mayor to split hairs, there is no justification for such arbitrary, capricious, preferential behavior.

2. Shutting down an entire community based solely on rates of Covid infections is an excessive and disproportionate response. It is far more important to look at the hospitalization and death rates which are a fraction of what they were in April. Treatment has also gotten better with newer drugs and improved medical tactics.

3. They cannot expect to be able to repeatedly shut down synagogues, schools and local businesses indefinitely. With a Covid vaccine likely to be only 50% effective and no cure in sight, their ludicrous assumption that the best policy every time there is an uptick in the rate of Covid infection is a complete lockdown of local areas effectively means that the city will be in an untenable state of shutting down in perpetuity. Left unchecked, this will result in the destruction of the city. The cure of lockdowns will have become worse than the disease.

4. Repeated use of executive orders by the Governor have effectively made him into a one-man government (i.e. a dictator). As in the case of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, where the state Supreme Court ruled that she had violated her constitutional authority by continuing to issue orders to combat COVID-19 without the approval of state lawmakers, Gov. Cuomo orders must and will be challenged in court.

This is not to say that the community is completely unwilling to adopt reasonable measures to better control the spread of the virus. When the mayor stated that unless mask wearing and social distancing was adopted en masse the community would be placed under lockdown, the populace responded appreciably and with goodwill.

Had the Governor acted with sense, moderation, and tact, the community would likewise have acquiesced and certainty would not have revolted in such a manner. Instead Gov. Cuomo has broken promises to our local elected officials and kept them in the dark. He has introduced heavy-handed, irrational measures that have no basis in reality in addition to using aggressive inciting and insulting rhetoric. After promising our elected officials that synagogues will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, he subsequently and unilaterally retracted and ordered that no synagogue be allowed more than 10 people regardless of capacity. It is completely illogical that 11 people in a large spacious area are more of a risk than 10 people in a smaller confined area. Our community cannot become a means for Andrew Cuomo to redeem himself by overcompensating for his disastrous nursing home policy fiasco that led to thousands of deaths.

The Governor and Mayor must return to the negotiating table with our elected officials, so that sane, reasonable measures can be put into place that balance both control of the virus and the needs of the community.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. If by this afternoon the court does not do away with Shul lockdowns which is scheduled for 130 pm, there will be massive altercations in Boro park and other frum areas. It would mean only ten people allowed into Hakofas in big shuls like bobov,satmar,lubavitch,mukatch,Tosh,belt,skver,chaim Berlin,etc etc. ain’t happening. You will have 150 thousand plus yidden confronting Deblasio 1200 inspectors. Maybe that’s what the governor and mayor want. They warned 15 thousand dollar fine for open shuls and 1 thousand for no mask. Let them try it in Harlem,The Bronx,east New York,bush wick,Jamaica and all those areas where the people are dying every day. But No. only areas that are pro Trump are being hit. They added Brighton beach which is mostly Russian non Jews but strongly support Trump. This is politics. No one carried ID on Yom Tov anyway. When they approach you if your mask is not a hundred per cent on the open street covering your mouth and nose,just tell them no ID it’s Yom Tov. Also my friend was approached by one of these city agents,so he got up close and the inspector ran away. We must be ready this Yom Tov. Hopefully the court will rule against this evil local anti semitic government. We will see at 130. Say Tehillim.

  2. “This is not to say that the community is completely unwilling to adopt reasonable measures to better control the spread of the virus. When the mayor stated that unless mask wearing and social distancing was adopted en masse the community would be placed under lockdown, the populace responded appreciably and with goodwill.”
    If only this statement were true. I was in one of the bigger supermarkets and plenty of adults were walking around without a mask. When I entered the store there was a teenager who was giving the worker at the door a hard time when he told him he needed a mask. Such arrogance will not get us any browny points just animosity which leads to the situation we’re currently in.

  3. I saw some make a good point. The protests on 13th Ave are ineffective. If they really wanted to bring the city and state to the negotiating table by protesting the way to do it is to bring the city and state to its knees by having cars drive at a crawl in all of the major arteries- the Thruway, the tunnels, the I95 each day the lockdown continues. This will completely paralyze the region and make far more of a statement than a few hundred people on 13th Ave.

  4. Your article was very well written. I will make two points as far as masks, I went maskless until Erev Yom Kipper. That’s when Deblasio threatened to close us down. I didn’t want it to be on my conscious that a shul or yeshiva should have to close or a store should lose parnasa or worse the non jews should say we made them lose their business BUT even this morning MOst people are still not wearing masks. As far as the violence. I wrote this yesterday already. The Fake news will pick one isolated incident in a 4 hour “Protest” and make that the entire story. Why no was arrested? because there was nothing to arrest anyone for (except for that isolated incident which anyways was a personal fight.)

  5. Every thing written above is 100% correct. He is acting like a dictator and totally irrational
    There must be organized civil disobedience but nothing that can create any Chili’s Hashem. It must be organized by community leaders and Rabbonim
    In the meantime we must daven as it doesn’t look or smell good
    Gut Yom Tov

  6. Yups. The “Malicious Media”. They pounce on protests as such. It’s nothing new. They love to make Yiddn look like BLM and the likes and they almost succeeded! As long as Tishler isnt thrown out from our communities, we unfortunately will be associated with the mobs. He needs to be ostracized and return to his “Heshy Tishler show” and leave us alone!!
    This downright chilul H shldnt come back to haunt us. We can still right the wrong if the BP Rabbis shld do the right move and denounce it all. Wake up Yidden! This is GEFERLICH! Closing our schools is absolutely targeted and despicable but THIS ISNT THE WAY FOR GALUS YIDDEN TO BEHAVE!!
    A git kvitl to all.

  7. “hat’s when Deblasio threatened to close us down. I didn’t want it to be on my conscious that a shul or yeshiva should have to close or a store should lose parnasa or worse the non jews should say we made them lose their business BUT even this morning MOst people are still not wearing masks”
    I was in BP quite often the past few weeks, and majority of yidden were wearing masks.
    secondly their was a testing center in the outskirts of BP but still within the zip code, and their was a massive line of NON-Jews ONLY getting tested a few people each minute…so whichever rise in cases we have seen in BP has zero to do with yidden and everything to do with whichever anti semite decided to put these testing centers there.

  8. So let’s say Tishler was not around and there would be no protest at all. Do you think the mayor and governor would suddenly say it’s ok for more than ten people to daven on shabbos. Of course not. In fact all the machers in Agudah and other leaders met with the officials and were promised not such harsh lockdowns. I just heard that the severer rebbe said that they tried to conform and yet someone in the government is looking to hurt the Orthodox Jews. I suspect the Dr Mitch Katz who is head of city health dept. And is nebech a feigala living with another one who is from a frum home off the derech. He is telling everyone to test for Covid in heimisha communities with public set ups in parks. The only ones mostly going there is illegal immigrants and because they test positive and it’s in our zip codes we are getting blamed. This is a Covid libel. The truth is that what Tishler organized was good. On Thursday inspectors went around flatbush closing stores but dared not enter Boro park. The only ones condemning Tishler is a group of reform,conservative and open orthodox clergy Known as Ny board of rabbis. Reb Moshe Feinstein ztl and Lubavitcher rebbe ztl both came out against this gang of so called rabbis. Also Rabbi Reisman came out not to talk bad about the Boro park protesters.

  9. WELL WRITTEN! NO VIOLENCE! YES CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE when needed, even though the media will probably call that violence too. And @cowdoc, right that an unnecessary death is murder, but only a death. The COVID rates are not as high as the media will want you to believe, (8% in BP means that out of 100 people with COVID symtoms,8 of them are positive, because they don’t get tested without symptoms around there generally speaking). Also I live in BP and I’ve been all over, and literally every single person who I heard had just recently caught the virus had been someone who was very particular about always wearing a mask, and I’m hearing the same from others as well. Not to say it’s the rule here, but it definately raises some questions.

  10. nyny, Miriam, others: Yidden outside of NY wish those in NY would grow up. Stop crabbing that “they don’t bother others for …only us”. That is a true statement and a LAW of NATURE. Yidden are judged differently, and it works both ways. DEAL with it, please. GROW UP! Comply! Everyone agrees masks help, and it’s the law, so wear them!! Separate your minyanim in at least a few smaller ones, and offer that as a compromise to Cuomo. I think it would go a lot further than burning masks??! Which is vaguely reminiscent of BLM? And yes the media will have a good time with it! So….don’t give it to them.
    If Goyim don’t mask, and no one says /dose anything, get over it! That’s how it is, and it is nothing new.
    Everyone should have a Gutten Kvittel. Shalom Al Yisroel.

  11. cowdoc If you truly believe that why have you not called for lockdown’s and mask wearing every year during flue season?
    manishma True it was not perfect ,but there were definitely far more people with masks then before . If the city would have continued to apply pressure and reach out they probably could have gotten a large part of the community to wear masks. Let’s not forget that even in the non Jewish population many are lax or even heedless when it comes to wearing masks and (it seems to me at least that) this appears to be increasing .

  12. HopeforGeula:
    I guess you haven’t seen the email from one large shul in NY that, in their understanding, the gezeiras shmad allows for only one minyan per premises, not even an additional one outdoors.

  13. The fact that the orthodox community is managing to totally disgrace the name of Hashem – by rioting, by jeopardizing public health, and by failing to hold ourselves accountable for these disgraces is ironically, nebech, a great zechus in shamayim for all of the Jews who don’t observe the Torah. How could Hashem blame any Jew or other person who watches this scandalous behavior for not recognizing that the Torah is Emes! The only people who could be blamed for not upholding the Torah are those among us who do nothing to stem the chilul Hashem and the reckless endangerment of community health. Our first true priority should be to clean up our own act, rather than whining about the government’s response to our chillul Hashem! Focusing exclusively on the latter is a transparent copout!

  14. HopeforGeula:
    “Everyone agrees masks help”
    Not quite. There is as of yet no real consensus as to whether or not masks help, and the anecdotal evidence coming in doesn’t seem to indicate that they are. Communities and groups who are extremely makpid on masks have corona all over the place. So while it might be the law, it is far from clear that they are effective.