Bill De Blasio’s ‘Jewish Community’ Tweet Was Intemperate, but He Wasn’t Wrong
The greatest Jewish city on earth is in an uproar over its mayor’s rather intemperate tweet about "the Jewish community."
Early Tuesday morning, in response to the scenes from a funeral in Williamsburg that got out of hand when hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men failed to observe the minimal regulations of coronavirus-era "social distancing," Bill de Blasio tweeted: "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."
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.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2020
There’s no need for me to add to the wealth of commentary already piling up over whether the mayor’s tweet was anti-Semitic or not, and if so, what it says about him. But there’s something about de Blasio’s wording which is of significance to Jews living everywhere, not just in NYC.
The honest truth is that when a non-Jewish politician says good things about "the Jewish community," our Jewish hearts swell with pride, even though the proposition of one unified "Jewish community" is a false concept and we all know it. We want to bask in any admiration for "our" Jewish community and not to be held responsible for the misdeeds of that "other" Jewish community.
Anywhere greater than a few dozen Jews live, there isn’t one Jewish community. There are numerous Jewish communities, both separate and overlapping, and many individual Jews with their own conflicted, tenuous and sometimes non-existent ties to these communities.
De Blasio was of course wrong to call the members of one tiny ultra-Orthodox sect “the Jewish community.” But neither should the vast majority of Jews who are not part of the Tolaat Yaakov community accept that conflation – that a peripheral Hasidic group constitutes “the Jewish community” – either.
If we don’t want “the Jewish community” to be singled out for collective shaming, we have to make it clear to ourselves and to others that there isn’t just one Jewish community. We most certainly still do have a duty of care and a level of responsibility for members of other Jewish communities, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying that not every Jew living in the same neighborhood or town or country is a member of the same Jewish community.