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Megan Spivak

Recently, the neighborhood of Borough Park in Brooklyn was deemed a “red zone,” as there has been a spike of  COVID-19 cases in this area. According to city data for  Borough Park, 18 percent of people who have gotten a coronavirus test since October 1st have tested positive, compared with a rate of about 3.9 percent citywide. This outbreak has caused Governor Andrew Cuomo to set up new coronavirus-related restrictions in Borough Park, which have affected schools, businesses, and shuls. 

Borough Park is home to a sizable Orthodox Jewish community, where many people have been infuriated by the restrictions. They believe that Cuomo has been targeting Jews and is being antisemitic; they feel he is also interfering with their right to practice their religion. Jewish councilman Kalman Yeger stated, “We are not going to be deprived of the right that we have in America, like everybody else in America, the right to observe our religion, the right to do it freely, the right to do it without government interference.” 

As a result of these intense feelings, Orthodox Jews, many of whom were not wearing masks, began to violently protest in the streets of Borough Park. They have set fires, burned masks, and even assaulted a Jewish political reporter, Jacob Kornbluh. Kornbluh describes his experience at the protest, saying, “ I was brutally assaulted, hit in the head, and kicked at by an angry crowd of hundreds of community members of the Borough Park protest while yelling at me ‘nazi’ and ‘Hitler.’” He says that after Heshey Tischler recognized him, Tischler ordered the crowd to chase him down. Tischler, a District 48 City Council candidate,  has been a leading figure in protests against the new COVID-19 restrictions. It has been reported that Tischler’s followers have stood outside Kornbluh’s home to threaten him. Due to his significant involvement with the protests and connection to the assault of Kornbluh, cops arrested Tischler and charged him with inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment, since he (as someone who doesn't have legal authority or justification) intentionally restrained Kornbluh’s ability to move freely.

Finally, Governor Cuomo responded to the protests. He warned that those who violate the rules on large gatherings would be fined up to $15,000 and fined  $1,000 for not wearing masks or social distancing. Congressman Jerry Nadler stated, “While this may be a small minority within a small community, it is disgusting, and those responsible must be held to account for such violence.” 

Protests in Borough Park: Academics
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