The below article appeared on YWN:
The disastrous press conference we all saw on Friday in Boro Park, is indicative of the entire fiasco that is Mayor DeBlasio and the NYC Health Department.
The Mayor’s office continued lack of real and meaningful engagement with community leaders, and the glaring absence of those recognized leaders at Friday’s disastrous press conference, allows disgruntled self-anointed malcontents to misrepresent themselves as the voice of the community. Make no mistake, Friday’s embarrassing actions – which turned into headline stories on every single NYC news outlet (see videos below) – are the direct result of the Mayors office pretending to work with community leaders — but actually ignoring them!
YWN reached out to NUMEROUS activists and community leaders in Boro Park & Midwood to inquire on whether they had been invited to or informed about the press conference. Unsurprisingly, not one was even aware of it until the mass media picked it up for all the wrong reasons.
One highly respected leader told YWN “had anyone of substance been informed or invited, the entire fiasco & embarrassment we all witnessed could have been avoided. Instead the media was fed by a carnival clown who represents himself only. The continued lack of communication and engagement is why the broader community simply doesn’t trust anything the Government says.”
Why the press conference was not held in front of a local hospital, a Hatzolah garage, with the health officials joined by every single prominent community leader, Orthodox Jewish elected official, and representatives from every single major Jewish organization, are questions we will never have the answers to.
Meanwhile, a leaked email from Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel, addressed to the NYC Health Commissioner respectfully BLASTS the City Health Department, and we encourage our vast readership to read it:
Drs. Chokshi and Katz,
We appreciate your commitment at yesterday’s meeting to work with community and nonpublic school leaders to slow the spread of this virus in a joint and cooperative fashion.
As a follow up to that commitment, we have compiled the below, concrete steps the city and community leaders can take in that direction.
What we need from the city – generally:
- Real collaboration and transparency.
- Communication – why was an email of specific steps the city plans to take sent to reporters and not the community leaders it is supposedly collaborating with, and had on the phone just hours earlier? This surprised and angered many members on the call and in the community.
- Rebuilding trust. When the city shuts down a school that cooperated as much as one could ask for, on account of relatively few cases out of 2600 students, this destroys trust, disincentives testing, and sends a message that erodes hope of future cooperation in other schools and communities.
- Stop singling out Jewish schools and areas.
In other words, the city must decide if it wishes to work with us or not.
What we need from the city – specifically:
- The current written policy of “2 cases linked together, different classroom = close entire school” must end. So must related policies described here: https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-year-20-21/return-to-school-2020/health-and-safety
- School closure must be based on transparent, reasonable, pre-agreed upon percentages of students testing positive. It is irrational to use absolute numbers in a one-size-fits-all approach. We will not accept some “secret sauce” of “we will investigate and use our judgment” to close down our private schools and cause havoc in our religious and personal lives. We must be allowed to collaborate by bringing in our own infectious disease doctors.
- The contact tracers we have worked with have often been unprofessional and, to be blunt, ignorant of our community. They are in dire need of cultural sensitivity training if there is any hope of them being effective. We will avail ourselves to provide that.
- Where necessary, individual, cohorted classrooms should be closed, not entire schools.
- Closing shuls should be a last resort measure.
From our end, we will do our best to encourage cooperation and best practices within the community. We just got off the phone with 200 rabbis and a panel of medical experts to discuss the situation and how it pertains to upcoming holidays. There are other, more concrete and pervasive steps we would like to take, after (figuratively) sitting down with you to make real progress on the above issues.
Our goals are the same. Please choose to work with us to achieve them.
We write on behalf of Agudah Israel of America, as a broad coalition of communities across the city. Given the comments heard on the call, we are confident that the other invitees would agree with these sentiments.
Looking forward to speaking with you.
Rabbi David Zwiebel
Executive Vice President
Avrohom Weinstock, Esq.Chief of Staff and Associate Director of Education
Agudath Israel of America