Close to 2,500 crowd Brooklyn streets for funeral of rabbi who died of coronavirus
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Thousands of Orthodox Jewish mourners crowded a Brooklyn street Tuesday night, flouting the city’s social distancing rules to mourn a rabbi who died of coronavirus.
The mourners packed the road at Rutledge St. and Bedford Ave., surrounding NYPD vehicles trying to break up the throng. At its peak, about 2,500 attended the funeral, which started at 7 p.m. and lasted until 9 p.m., an NYPD spokeswoman said.
Videos and photos posted to social media showed the crowd stretching across several city blocks. Though several in attendance wore blue surgical masks, photos showed others with uncovered faces.
An angry Mayor de Blasio said on Twitter he was so disturbed by the scene that he showed up in person to try and disperse the crowd.
“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” de Blasio tweeted. “When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”
As of Tuesday night, no one was arrested or issued summonses for violating social distancing rules, the spokeswoman said.
DeBlasio added, “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”
That drew a sharp rebuke from Councilman Chaim Deutsch.
“What??? This has to be a joke. Did the Mayor of NYC really just single out one specific ethnic community (a community that has been the target of increasing hate crimes in HIS city) as being noncompliant??” he tweeted. “Has he been to a park lately? (What am I saying – of course he has!)”
Deutsch added, “To speak to an entire ethnic group as though we are all flagrantly violating precautions is offensive, it’s stereotyping, and it’s inviting antisemitism. I’m truly stunned.”
The funeral, which was for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, 73, who died of COVID-19, according to a police source and a report from The Yeshiva World.
On April 5, police broke up hundreds of mourners who ignored social distancing rules in Borough Park to mourn Rav Yosef Kalish, 63, who also died of coronavirus.