On the eve of Yom Kippur, New York City Considers “Extraordinary Lockdown” of Orthodox Jewish Communities

Let’s pretend that there was never a COVID-19 pandemic. Could you ever fathom a headline in the New York Times that read “New York Threatens Orthodox Jewish Areas With Lockdown.” Pause and reflect for a moment.

Now, let’s return to 2020. This evening, the New York Times published a headline that read, “New York Threatens Orthodox Jewish Areas With Lockdown Over Virus.”

Facing a worrying spike in coronavirus cases in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, New York City health officials began carrying out emergency inspections at private religious schools on Friday and threatened to impose an extraordinary lockdown in those communities that would be the first major retreat by the city on reopening since the pandemic began.

This headline arrived moments before the Sabbath began, and about forty-eight hours before Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. During this period, observant Jews will not check any electronic devices. They are not going to learn of these edicts. Indeed, the people are devoutly preparing for atonement. Instead, they will have to learn about a “crackdown” the hard way.

The crackdown is occurring shortly before Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, which begins on Sunday night, and it was not immediately clear the impact that the measures might have on the ability of people to gather in synagogues. The Health Department said that if significant progress toward following guidelines did not occur by Monday, officials could issue fines, limit gatherings or force closings of businesses or schools.

Will NYPD barge into Yom Kippur services and warn people to put on their masks? It happened in Italy. I hope security cameras record these intrusions for a future 1983 suit, because people of faith will not have their phones handy.

This weekend, Jewish lawyers will be out of commission. My hope is that others can pick up the slack, and prepare the TRO applications.

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