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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: I regret how I handled that Orthodox funeral in April

Mayor sorry for singling out Jewish community for coronavirus violations at start of pandemic, says more communication needed

Hundreds of mourners gather in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, to observe a funeral for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, a Hasidic Orthodox leader whose death was reportedly tied to the coronavirus. The stress of the coronavirus' toll on New York City's Orthodox Jews was brought to the fore on Wednesday after Mayor Bill de Blasio chastised "the Jewish community" following the breakup of the large funeral that flouted public health orders.(Peter Gerber via AP)
Hundreds of mourners gather in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, to observe a funeral for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, a Hasidic Orthodox leader whose death was reportedly tied to the coronavirus. The stress of the coronavirus' toll on New York City's Orthodox Jews was brought to the fore on Wednesday after Mayor Bill de Blasio chastised "the Jewish community" following the breakup of the large funeral that flouted public health orders.(Peter Gerber via AP)

JTA — With tensions high between Orthodox Jews and New York officials, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed regret Tuesday for how he handled a large Hasidic funeral in the pandemic’s early days.

Back in April, after a large funeral for a local rabbi in Brooklyn drew thousands of Orthodox Jews into the streets of Williamsburg, de Blasio visited the scene himself and called out “the Jewish community.” His tweet was widely criticized and damaged what had been a relatively close relationship between the mayor and the city’s Orthodox community.

Now, with Orthodox neighborhoods again among the city’s virus hotspots and residents chafing at restrictions imposed to curb the disease’s spread, de Blasio says he regrets what he said — and how he said it.

“I look back now and understand there was just more dialogue that was needed,” de Blasio said during a press conference Tuesday. “I certainly got very frustrated at times when I saw large groups of people still out without masks but I think more dialogue would have been better so I certainly want to express my regret that I didn’t figure out how to do that better.”

The comments came in response to a question about a call he held with Orthodox leaders from Brooklyn and Queens Monday night, which he said was meant as a “reset” in the relationship between city government and Orthodox communities.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to reporters after visiting New Bridges Elementary School in the Brooklyn borough of New York to observe pandemic-related safety procedures, August 19, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

De Blasio noted that he had previously expressed remorse over his reaction to the gathering, but he said he would seek to improve communication going forward.

“That one night in Williamsburg I let my frustration and concern get away with me and I should have been more careful in my language and I’ve expressed my apology for that before,” de Blasio said Tuesday. He added, “The No. 1 takeaway from the meeting is more dialogue. More communication is the way forward.”

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