Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened Monday to close down religious institutions, specifically Jewish synagogues, if they do not follow his coronavirus restrictions.
“We know religious institutions have been a problem,” Cuomo said at a Monday press conference. “We know mass gatherings are the super spreader events. We know there have been mass gatherings going on in concert with religious institutions in these communities for weeks. For weeks.”
.@NYGovCuomo blames large gatherings in the Hasidic community for spread of COVID-19 — highlights selichot in Satmar-Kiryas Joel and event in Chabad-Crown Heights as examples of social distancing violations pic.twitter.com/qcHDC9bwhJ— Jacob Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) October 5, 2020
“I don’t mean little violations,” he continued. “I’m talking about, you’re only supposed to have 50 outdoors, they had 1,000.”
The governor referred to pictures from “the past couple of weeks,” calling the pictures “emblematic” of the mass religious gatherings occurring during the pandemic.
It appears that the photos that Cuomo referred to are from 2006 and show the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, according to Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a press inquiry regarding the photos.
Cuomo said he understood that closing down religious institutions can lead to “uncomfortable” situations, but that he will tell the Orthodox community on Tuesday: “If you’re not willing to live with these rules, then I’m going to close the synagogues.”
“I have had a 30-year relationship with the Orthodox community,” he added.
“It goes back to my father. I have a very close personal relationship with them. This is the last thing I want to do, forget the politics, I don’t care about that anymore. Personally, I don’t want to have this conversation. It’s a difficult conversation. And you’re right on the line of government intrusion on religion. So it’s hard.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “I have to say to the Orthodox community tomorrow, ‘If you’re not willing to live with these rules, then I’m going to close the synagogues.'” pic.twitter.com/QWOPvZMbFI— The Hill (@thehill) October 5, 2020
The New York governor also described how health department officials can help monitor whether religious institutions are following coronavirus restrictions. He offered the example of a Nassau County Department of Health official who is stationed in front of St. Peter’s Church.
“The capacity is 150,” he said, speaking as a hypothetical state official running the task force. “You stand at the front door. When they go over 75, you close the door and call me. And if you have any problem, the state police officer is down the block, and he will come help you.”
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