The New York Jewish Agenda, the central address for liberal Jewish leaders who draw on shared values to advance social justice at the state and local levels, together with the African American Clergy and Elected Officials Coalition, which works to strengthen and empower parishioners and constituents in Brooklyn in pursuit of social and economic justice, Monday, May 4, released the following joint statement:
“We were profoundly disturbed to see the news reports and video of an NYPD officer using physical force against African-American men to enforce social distancing rules on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on Saturday. On the very same afternoon, New York’s parks were filled with individuals, mostly white, who disregarded social distancing rules without police intervention.
“Last week, the Mayor used Twitter to threaten the Jewish community broadly with arrest for violating social distancing rules at the funeral of a Hasidic Rabbi in Williamsburg. On the very same evening, crowds gathered to watch the Blue Angels fly over New York City — again, without a rebuke by the Mayor on Twitter or police intervention.
“Suspending the officer who appeared to punch, slap, and tase an African-American man on Saturday is necessary, but it is not enough. We call on the Mayor and the NYPD to address the serious inequalities in enforcement of social distancing rules that are affecting both our communities and other minority communities in the city. We understand that some level of policing as part of a coordinated effort to enforce social distancing is necessary, but demand the city enact methods of enforcement that are nonviolent and non-discriminatory to achieve better compliance. The enforcement must always be carried out in accordance with the following requirements:
“First, the enforcement must be nonviolent. You can’t work on further public health by inflicting physical harm and public humiliation.
“Second, all communities in our diverse city MUST be treated with the same courtesy, respect, and equality before the law as every other community, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, neighborhood, or economic status. In the past week, social distancing in the parks was ignored, the Jewish community received a warning, and African-Americans were physically assaulted and arrested.
Nonviolent and non-discriminatory enforcement is what the law requires, and it is also what Scripture commands. On the very same day that we saw NYPD officers use physical force to enforce social distancing, the Jewish people read from the Book of Leviticus on the Sabbath the very passage that states the Golden Rule: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This command reflects the fundamental respect and dignity that are due to every human being. Christians, Muslims, Jews, and those of every faith share this foundational tenet. This respect and dignity for our fellow New Yorkers are at the heart of our commitment to maintain social distancing; they must also be at the core of New York City’s efforts to enforce it.”