It doesn’t happen in a vacuum that a person is shameless enough to go on a three minute inflammatory public rant about Jews and for most people in attendance to take his side in applause or in silence-is-agreement. It’s a result of a toxic environment where agitators spent years weaponizing debates about municipal and social policies with an outsized focus on Orthodox Jews and with commentary on these topics being loaded with flat out lies, innuendo and generalizations. Often, the conversation is framed in a way to suggest that every local problem is the fault of Orthodox Jews and everything about Orthodox Jews is faulty.
This narrative has been pushed by political candidates; elected officials; Facebook group administrators and by some players in media. Just this week, transcripts from the investigation into former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed that the COVID-19 “cluster zones” from last fall were named based on agendas. Many areas with bad COVID—19 numbers got a pass while Cuomo and his enablers kept pushing Orthodox Jewish-focused Red Zones including in neighborhoods that had better COVID-19 rates than whole counties that Mr. Cuomo didn’t name and shame. The focus on Orthodox Jews by Mr. Cuomo was followed by hate attacks in the streets, discrimination in the private sector and targeted enforcement by government. It took hard work in the public arena and in the courts for the craziness to stop but scars were left. The Haverstraw scene is just an illustration of the larger issue at hand.
In many counties such as Ocean in New Jersey, and Rockland, Orange and Sullivan in New York, the inflammatory rhetoric and reporting has thankfully been scaled back in recent years due to responsible steps by press, media and officials who came to understand that words matter. However, more work is needed to assure that when reporting about municipal policy; when campaigning about it and when enforcing rules around it that the focus should not be on one ethnic community and sure not in a negative, inflammatory way.
OJPAC continuously releases data, reports, studies, articles and press releases to help steer the policy conversation in a truthful and productive direction. Candidates, officials and journalists are invited to reach out to request data, facts, comment and perspective that can help shape reporting and policy in an accurate and fair way.