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Dear New York, here’s how not to seem anti-Semitic during COVID

11 1 5

JTA — For so many American Jews, the recent clashes between Governor Cuomo and the New York ultra-Orthodox Jewish community over new COVID-19 restrictions (and protests of them) are nothing short of a dangerous embarrassment.

It is thus unsurprising that the broader Jewish public largely viewed the raging and rioting against new restrictions as undermining collective Jewish values and credibility in deeply corrosive ways. But the disparate impact of these new restrictions on ultra-Orthodox communities — combined with Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio’s repeated references to noncompliance within those communities — has provoked both growing distrust of the state and, in turn, legal challenge to its new regulations. The impacted communities see these new public health orders as unfairly targeting Jews and thereby suppressing their religious freedom.

The strategy to address both the growing trust deficit and the ongoing legal challenges is the same. The state must be far more transparent and clear in how it uses numbers and not politics to identify which neighborhoods are being subjected to increased regulation.

Round one of legal challenges to the new restrictions began last week, when the Agudath Israel filed a federal lawsuit, attempting to stave off synagogue closures in advance of the impending Jewish holidays. The lawsuit, thus far, has not garnered much sympathy. Indeed, Judge Matsumoto, in rejecting the claims of religious discrimination alleged by Agudath Israel, concluded unequivocally that the “balance of equities and the public interest weigh strongly in favor of New York’s mission to protect its citizens from this global pandemic which continues to be of great concern.” The stakes, according to the judge, were simply too great to afford any leeway to houses of worship.

Although the case is still ongoing, the fanfare has largely subsided. Maybe this is as it should be: In........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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