Angling for support in his run for a congressional seat from influential Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn, Bill de Blasio is now apologizing for singling out a Williamsburg sect in a 2020 tweet for holding large gatherings — including a packed funeral — during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have apologized about the tweet about Williamsburg. I want to apologize again,” the ex-mayor told the Hamodia newspaper following a Sunday meeting with some Orthodox Jewish leaders in Borough Park.
In April 2020, hundreds of Orthodox Jews gathered in the streets near the intersection of Rutledge Street and Bedford Avenue to pay their respects at a funeral for Rabbi Chaim Mertz.
The gathering came at a time of high COVID spread, deaths and hospitalizations. De Blasio was incensed.
“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter.
“When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus,” he said.
De Blasio is seeking to win a seat in the 10th congressional district that runs from lower Manhattan, through much of Park Slope and other portions of brownstone Brooklyn and then takes in a chunk of Borough Park.
“That was in a moment of passion and pain about what was happening in the city,” de Blasio said following Sunday’s meeting with Jewish leaders.
“But it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it.”
The former two-term mayor emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic was “very difficult” and he had to make a “lot of tough decisions” while thousands of New Yorkers died from the killer bug.
“I’m sure every decision was not right,” said de Blasio.
De Blasio’s “tough love” at the time drew tremendous backlash not only from segments of the Orthodox Jewish community but also groups such as the Anti-Defamation League that monitor antisemitism.
But de Blasio, who has deep ties to Brooklyn Jewish community leaders during his 20 years as a councilman, public advocate and two terms as mayor, urged them to “remember that whole history” of his record included actions he took they liked.
The former mayor potentially faces a slew of 14 other candidates in the Democratic primary for the open seat. Aside from de Blasio, other candidates in the Democratic primary for the 10th CD include: Rep. Mondaire Jones, who currently represents the 17th CD in the suburbs north of New York City; Brooklyn Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, Lower East Side Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, Lower Manhattan Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, former Congresswoman and Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman, former House impeachment lawyer Dan Goldman and Army veteran and anti-communist activist Yan Xiong, among others.
The ex-mayor had no immediate comment if there are any other regrets or apologies he will utter as he stumps for votes in the largely progressive district.
The meeting with Borough Park religious leaders was requested by an ally in the Bobov Hasidic movement, Yitzchok Fleischer, according to Jewish Week.
Fleischer said he and the Bobov Hasidic activists “will probably endorse him in the next week.”
Fleischer said de Blasio’s record also includes providing funding child care vouchers for yeshivas in 2015, a decision popular with the ultra-Orthodox community.
Fleischer also said de Blasio’s lefty progressive values came up during the meeting, but that “we want to give him a chance.”
“We told him clearly that we’re not progressive….The Congress is [elected] every two years. If he does something against the community, believe me, in two years, people won’t vote for him again,” he told Jewish Week.