Mayor De Blasio Calls for a “Positive Re-Set” with the Jewish Community, Expresses His “Regrets”
By Yehudit Garmaise
This morning at his daily press conference Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked whether it was true that in a meeting last night, both he and Jewish community leaders had both expressed regrets about “the approaches they took early on” in this pandemic.
“I did express my regrets,” the mayor said candidly. “Look, at the beginning of this [pandemic] process, I thought we did some good work to communicate with [Jewish] community leaders about how important it was [for us] to all work together, and I thought I saw some really good results from that. We had amazing support from community leaders and institutions, which I saw at the time, doing really tough things, like closing houses of worship voluntarily at the height of the crisis in March and April, but you know, I look back now and see that there was more dialogue that was needed.”
The mayor seemed to be alluding to his infamous and unexpected appearance at the levava of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, zt”l, on April 28 on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg. The mayor referred to his response at the time when he said, “I certainly got very frustrated at times when I saw large groups of people out without masks, but I think more dialogue would have been better, so I certainly express my regret that I didn’t figure out how to do that better.
“And obviously, that one night in Williamsburg, I let my frustration and concern get away with me, and I should have been more careful with my language, and I have expressed my apology for that before."
The apology didn't have much effect, and the mayor’s relationship with New York’s frum community took a turn for the worse after that night, especially since it followed an exciting, beautiful day in the city when thousands of other people in in New York City, Newark, Trenton, and Philadelphia gathered outside to watch the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S Air Force Thunderbirds performed an air show and a “flyover” to honor the city’s COVID-19 frontline health workers.
The mayor had not objected to the air show on April 28, but that later night, at the levaya of Rabbi Mertz, zt”l, who had passed away from the virus, the mayor yelled and screamed and later send out threatening tweets tell that Jewish community that “the time for warnings has passed,” and that he has instructed the NYPD to “summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups.”
The day after the funeral, the mayor expressed remorse over the tone of his tweets, but he stood by his warnings of police action against violators of social distancing protocols, which many felt was hypocritical in light of the air show that had taken place earlier in the day.
The mayor's relationship with the Jewish community was further damaged as he continued to criticize their gathering, but commended and even participated in other political gatherings that protested police brutality.
But, last night in a meeting with Jewish leaders and this morning in his daily press conference, the mayor seems to be finally putting a friendly, more empathic face toward the Orthodox Jewish community.
“I think we [myself and the Jewish community] absolutely need a positive reset,” the mayor told reporters, as he explained that last night's meeting with Jewish community leaders from Brooklyn and Queens was “very moving, productive, and honest."
“[Last night, the Jewish leaders and I] really took our time to talk through everything that happened from the beginning of the pandemic,” Mayor de Blasio said. “I really heard how painful it has been for everyone and how confusing it has been.
“But what I think the meeting really helped me to appreciate is that so many people in the community have suffered, and they need to know that we as a city government understand their suffering."
Some of the suffering that the mayor seemed to now understand are what he called “the difficulties the community has gone through [and] the fears that people have, rightfully, of discrimination.
“We need to hear each other more and understand each other more,” the mayor said. “But I think it was a good, honest, conversation about how hard it is to get people in the community to understand [to trust the government.]
“The main takeaway from the meeting was 'more dialogue.' More communication is the way forward.”
Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.