Police in New York interrupt Jewish funeral amid coronavirus concerns

Tensions between police and members of New York City’s Hasidic Jewish community have flared up again after a crowded funeral procession was interrupted by officers.

Video posted on social media showed officers in protective masks chasing a minivan through Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighbourhood as it carried the body of a deceased rabbi.

The officers can be heard shouting at dozens of people marching behind the van to get out of the street and onto the pavement.

A 17-year-old boy was taken into custody and issued a summons for disorderly conduct after he was accused of pushing a police official, according to a police spokeswoman.

The confrontation came two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio stoked divisions with a series of tweets after he went to Brooklyn to oversee the dispersal of thousands of people who crowded the streets of Williamsburg for the funeral of another rabbi.

New York has banned any gatherings, of any size, for any purpose as the coronavirus has been linked to at least 18,000 deaths in the city in just a few weeks.

Mr De Blasio called the large gathering “absolutely unacceptable” in one tweet.

In another, he said: “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed.”

Republican senator Ted Cruz has sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr urging the Justice Department “to closely monitor New York City” for potential religious discrimination in the wake of Mr de Blasio’s tweets.

State Senator Simcha Felder, who represents Borough Park, posted a tweet after Thursday’s confrontation saying “terrorising people by sending in armies of cops during such stressful times is not helpful at all. @NYCMayor – we need real leadership. Stop the chaos now.”

Dov Hikind, a former state assembly member who is the founder of a group fighting anti-Semitism, said people violating social distancing rules in Brooklyn are relatively small in number and are behaving in ways that goes against Judaism’s central tenant of preserving life.

He said: “I’ve begged and pleaded with the minority that exists within our community that don’t give a darn – don’t give a damn – about themselves, their families or the community.

“You can’t have funerals with hundreds of people. You can’t have people praying in synagogues. You can’t do those things when people’s lives are on the line. It violates everything in Judaism.”

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Categories: COVID, De Blasio, Jewish Community, Jewish funeral, New York, News, Police