Far Rockaway: Cuomo Caves To Jewish Schoolgirls, Loosens Targeted Lockdown Order

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Just hours after being ordered by a federal judge to explain his shutdown of Jewish schools in court, Governor Andrew Cuomo held a press conference in which he reversed course and agreed to allow the schools to open in Far Rockaway. The announcement came on the heels of the lawsuit filed by Yitzchok and Chana Lebovits, who send their daughters to Bais Yaakov Ateres Miriam (BYAM) – an Orthodox Jewish school for girls. The lawsuit alleged that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio had illegally discriminated against the school, even though there had been no cases of COVID and both officials had previously admitted that schools have not been spreading the virus.

“We are grateful the lockdown order has been loosened and our children can get back to praying and learning together with their classmates,” said Chana Lebovits, mother of two Bais Yaakov students. “The Governor should never have targeted the Jewish community with his lockdown or his statements.”

“It’s unfortunate it took a lawsuit to bring us to this point, but we are grateful the Governor has heard our plea and taken action to loosen the restrictions on Far Rockaway,” said Rabbi Nosson Neuman, menahel of Bais Yakkov. “At the end of the day, this is about the children, and getting our children and those of the entire community back into the classroom in a safe and legal way is the only goal.”

In Lebovits v. Cuomo, with help from Becket and the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, Yitzchok and Chana asked the court to punish Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio for their unscientific and discriminatory targeting of the Orthodox Jewish community that has caused immense suffering and pain for their neighbors and for their children who will never get back the weeks of instruction stripped from them at BYAM. Among other things, the lawsuit emphasized a recording of a conversation Governor Cuomo had with a group of rabbis in which he acknowledged that the policy was not tailored, was cut by a “hatchet,” and was driven by fear.

The Governor’s policy—announced October 6—was set to continue until at least November 5. Yet hours after being ordered to justify his actions in this lawsuit, Governor Cuomo reversed course. He announced today that he is loosening a lockdown order on Jewish communities in Far Rockaway imposed earlier this month after several groups within the targeted lockdown zones took him to court. In early October following rates of COVID cases that Governor Cuomo admitted “would be a safe zone” in many other states, the State imposed new indefinite lockdowns on a select number of zip codes in New York that target the Orthodox Jewish community. The new restrictions completely banned in-person instruction at BYAM and other schools in Jewish neighborhoods in New York City—stripping parents of their right to direct the religious education and upbringing of their children.

“The Governor shouldn’t have needed a lawsuit to tell him that shutting down Jewish schools was wrong. This was the worst kind of unscientific and harmful scapegoating, as the Governor himself knew that schools weren’t a problem,” said Mark Rienzi, President of Becket and counsel to the plaintiffs. “If Governor Cuomo wants respect, he has to give respect. Reopening the schools in Far Rockaway is a start, but elected officials have a lot of work to do to repair the pain and division they have caused.”

Beginning in March, BYAM voluntarily transitioned to remote learning to protect its neighbors and in compliance with the law. In the months that followed, the school spent thousands of dollars equipping teachers with the resources they needed to effectively teach over Zoom. Nevertheless, remote learning proved to be a poor substitute for in-person instruction. Students have suffered academically. Teachers have reported alarming regression in reading skills, had to reteach prayers, and are requesting last year’s math textbooks. Since reopening, BYAM has followed rigorous health and safety protocol, including masking, social distancing, and daily temperature checks—the result of which has been zero COVID cases in the school.

Since its founding in 2012 BYAM has worked to instill the value and tradition of Orthodox Judaism in the next generation of women. Religious education is a centuries-old tradition that is indispensable to practicing the Jewish faith and passing it on to the next generation. Communal prayer, participating in bible studies and engaging in group projects designed to instill ethical values are all just some of the vital activities BYAM provides for its girls. The selective lockdown has cost the girls weeks of instruction they won’t be able to get back.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)



12 COMMENTS

  1. Horrible title. Couldn’t you think of a better way to get the message across. All you need is for it to be picked up by the media and used as proof that Jews control government and other anti-Semitic screeds.

  2. The action of this school and these parents should be copied, many, many times. The evil Cuomo and De Blasio have earned severe punishment. While I would be happy to watch both of them and their ilk jettisoned from public office, I would additionally rejoice at their supporters who have encouraged, enabled, and supported these gezairos and their anti-Semitic enforcement similarly punished.

  3. to be fair the lawsuit doesnt have much to do with the decision , far rockaway / darchei was the first to get closed although they did everything by the book
    for 2 weeks now those schools have been trying to get a message to the governor that WE are NOT THEM
    and the gov knows that so he moved on the perimeter.
    THE PROBLEM with all this is that THE DATA IS MISSING

  4. BS”D
    Way to go Yitzcak and Chana Lebovitz.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you Becket.
    The governor did not hear our pleas or cave to Jewish school girls.
    Apparently he sensed that the judge was not going to take any nonsense.
    G-d bless the judge.

  5. Thank you Rabbi Bender. דרכי נועםis the way of כלל ישראל. I agree with because…., don’t write such nasty titles please.

  6. Cuomo and deblassio are terrified of a civil rights lawsuit, where all their internal communication will be exposed. It’s blatantly obvious these regulations are carved out to hurt a specific community. They can afterwards be personally liable for millions in a lawsuit, if properly exposed.

  7. I would say that Governor Cuomo made a mistake.
    To call that action “evil”, that is even a bigger mistake. Even President Trump
    would call your comment “fake news”.

  8. The restrictions in Far Rockaway were eased for all boys and girls schools.
    Nothing to do with BYAM.
    Everything to do with compliance and the rates going down.
    Sounds like a PR move by RNN and his new fledgling school sending in this article not to mention the nasty title.
    Here in FR we take a “Menchlich” approach as a community and credit goes to ALL of the Mosdos here

  9. This headline is grossly misleading and, to boot, smacks of anti-Semitism.
    The Governor did not “cave”, and it was also not due to Jewish Schoolgirls.

    He rescinded (in part) an arbitrary, evil and discriminatory policy that he had made up. He did so due to a lawsuit brought by attorneys representing parents who send their kid(s) to a Jewish Girls’ school.

  10. I am glad Mr. & Mrs. Lebovits pursued their legal rights and did not listen to many commentators on YWN who keep on insisting that we should just “listen to the govt. and obey the rules.” Especially the ones who ARE eager to snitch (read: Moser) and work along with the govt. enacting these senseless and racist rules.