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NYC mayor regrets outburst over Hasidic funeral With tension high between Orthodox Jews and New York officials, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed regret on Tuesday for how he had handled a large Hasidic funeral in the pandemic’s early days.
by JTA | Oct 22, 2020

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 criticised, and damaged what had been a relatively close relationship between the mayor and the city’s Orthodox community.

Now, with Orthodox neighbourhoods 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 at a press conference on Tuesday. “I certainly got very frustrated at times when I saw large groups of people still out without masks. 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 on Monday night, which he said was meant to “reset” the relationship between city government and Orthodox communities.

Union leader apologises for ‘count your gold’ comment

A prominent trade-union leader and ally of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for telling a Jewish former Labour parliamentarian to go “count his gold”.

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite the Union, made the remark about Peter Mandelson in an interview aired on BBC on Monday.

“I stopped listening to anything Peter Mandelson said years ago,” said McCluskey, whose union has more than a million members. “I would suggest Peter goes into a room and counts his gold and not worry about the Labour Party. Leave that to those of us who are interested in ordinary working people.”

McCluskey was responding to criticism Mandelson had levelled at Keir Starmer, a centrist who replaced Corbyn as Labour leader and reversed several of his policies.

Mandelson is a former cabinet secretary who later worked as a senior investor for an investment banking firm. Following protests on social media and by British-Jewish groups, McCluskey said he was referencing Mandelson’s stint in banking rather than his ethnicity.

“Let me say that language is important, and I apologise to Peter Mandelson and anyone else if mine has caused hurt,” he said.

Huge Hasidic wedding ‘fake news’

Reports of a large wedding planned for Monday in the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, were met with fury over the weekend. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even issued a special order blocking the event at which 10 000 guests were expected, which was later curtailed to include family only.

So when a Twitter account with the handle @SatmarStrong posted a video of a large wedding with thousands of people not wearing masks, it quickly racked up thousands of views and dozens of retweets. Except, it wasn’t real.

The video was taken at the wedding of Satmar Grand Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum’s grandson in 2006, according to Abby Stein, a transgender activist, and Meyer Labin, a writer and translator. Both were at the wedding, they said, and criticised the tweet for spreading disinformation.

The @SatmarStrong Twitter account was created this month, and had only 19 followers as of Tuesday. Multiple users said they would report the tweet for containing lies, and it was later deleted. The account has no other tweets.

Two cemeteries and a monument vandalised

Two Jewish cemeteries and a Holocaust memorial were vandalised in Greece.

The most serious incident, which involved the smashing of several headstones, occurred at the Jewish cemetery on the island of Rhodes on 11 October, the Politismika news site reported on Monday.

In a separate incident in the northern city of Thessaloniki on 16 October, “With Jews you lose” was painted on a monument for 50 000 of the city’s Jews killed during the Holocaust, according to a report on Monday on the Parallaxi news site.

The third incident occurred at the Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki on 10 October. The perpetrators of that incident wrote “death to Israel” on the entrance gate to the cemetery.

“It’s clear that in spite of the steps that have been taken in recent years, there is still much to be done to combat racism and intolerance,” the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki said.

Earlier this month, antisemitic slogans and a Nazi symbol were scrawled on the stone fence of the Jewish cemetery in Nikaia, a southwestern suburb of Athens. The graffiti included the phrase “Juden raus”, German for “Jews get out”, and the symbol of the elite SS Nazi force.

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