Three Monsey Shuls Sue Governor Cuomo

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Rabbi Rottenberg

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Three Rockland County Shuls are suing New York state and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying he engaged in a “streak of anti-Semitic discrimination” with a recent crackdown on religious gatherings to reduce the state’s coronavirus infection rate.

The Manhattan federal court lawsuit filed late Wednesday accused the Democrat of making negative, false, and discriminatory statements about the Jewish Orthodox community as he imposed new coronavirus measures to counter the state’s rising infection rate in so-called “red zone” areas.

Cuomo’s statements and actions were painful for residents in an area north of New York City where a man invaded a Chanukah celebration in December and stabbed or slashed five people, the lawsuit said. Grafton Thomas awaits trial after pleading not guilty.

The attack occurred in Monsey where two Shuls in the new lawsuit are based.

The state said six coronavirus clusters in areas comprising 2.8% of the state’s population have appeared in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Broome, Orange and Rockland counties, necessitating the closing of schools and nonessential businesses and limits on gatherings.

The new measures announced Oct. 6 have resulted in temporarily limiting the size of religious gatherings in the COVID-19 hot spots to 25% capacity, or a maximum of 10 people.

The limits prompted several federal lawsuits, including two in Brooklyn and one in Albany.

The latest lawsuit said Cuomo’s order was “blatantly anti-Semitic, creating religious-observance based color coded ‘hot-spot’ zones directed towards particular Jewish communities.”

The lawsuit said his action “not only flagrantly flies directly in the face of scientific evidence” and a court order limiting what measures the state can take. It also “specifically singles out the Orthodox Jewish community in what has proven to be the latest extension of Governor Cuomo’s streak of anti-Semitic discrimination,” the lawsuit added.

Cuomo, who has said he has “respect and love” for the Orthodox community, told reporters Thursday that he was not targeting Orthodox Jewish communities. He said red zones are based on addresses of residences where more individuals are testing positive for COVID-19.

He blamed a lack of local government enforcement for some in the Orthodox Jewish community failing to follow COVID-19 gathering restrictions since the spring. He noted houses of worship can at least open in red zones, where non-essential businesses cannot.

“The majority of Ultra Orthodox groups I’ve spoken with have been cooperative,” he said. “There’s a relatively small number that’s uncooperative, and just believe they should be exempt from these government operations.”

Cuomo also said it seems the spread of new infections in clusters where he imposed restrictions has leveled off somewhat, though it remains higher than in the rest of the state. And the number of New Yorkers hospitalized with the virus has dipped slightly, to 897 patients on Wednesday.

The lawsuit comes nearly a week after an Albany federal judge cited the state’s interest in protecting public safety in ruling in the governor’s favor in a lawsuit by rabbis and synagogues that argued the restrictions were unconstitutional.

In that lawsuit, brought by the Agudath Israel, lawyers for Cuomo argued in court papers that “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community … to communicable disease.”

Those sentiments were echoed Thursday when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, defended the governor’s moves hours before a hearing in a lawsuit in which the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn fought restrictions.

He said the state was trying to stop a “full-blown second wave” like those occurring worldwide.

“We cannot let that happen here. So if for a few weeks, we’re asking people to do something exceptional to help stop a problem from growing and stop it from spreading, I think that’s fair. And I think the court will understand,” he said.

(AP)



5 COMMENTS

  1. Is a Rebbe’s shtecken also “religious liberty “or that be  Second Amendment
    Kichel? Shmek tabak?
    First we abandon  the public sphere and classic commonweal rights and stabbed it in the back in the process 
    Then we choose to  uphold every last  convenience for us as “religious liberty “

  2. The lawsuits are because all these restrictions are purely arbitrary with no basis in science. We see now that DeBlasio is so happy that the rate of cases in the Brooklyn hotspots are “plateauing” but anyone (including myself) living in those hotspots knows the fact that there was absolutely close to zero compliance. Any mask wearing that you saw was only in the streets so the media or city officials will think we are complying! Almost all schools and shuls are functioning as usual! In spite of all this non compliance the cases are “plateauing” and rest assured in the following days and weeks they will be coming down. The Mayor and Governor will pat themselves on their respective backs and claim the numbers went down because of their strict measures but we will all know the truth: They know absolutely nothing about this virus, nothing they do or decree is based on facts. that’s why we see this deep mistrust in our community. Instead of putting in place common sense restrictions such as protecting the most vulnerable. they put these nonsense measures in place that have absolutely no basis in science. On what data is the 6 foot distance based? perhaps 5 feet or 3 feet would be enough? or perhaps we need 26 feet? on what data is the 10 person maximum in a gathering based? It is all purely arbitrary and it is a government power grab infringing on our rights. There is no public safety issue because these measures do not promote public safety. These measures are primarily driven by politics so that the city and state officials can show they are doing something. and when the numbers eventually come down they can claim credit. So that’s why there are these lawsuits because everyone feels that their liberties are being trampled on by the few elected officials.