In a report published on Friday, ABC News published an article on a forecast by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report was dire but even more shocking was the illustrative image which prominently featured Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews, implying that Jews, more than any other group, are responsible for the continuing pandemic.
ABC Article: Photo of Jews Based on New York Regulations Unfairly Targeting Jews
The article reports on recent nationwide statistics making the feature image even more incongruous.
The CDC predicts that by the end of October, there will be between 224,000 and 233,000 cumulative deaths from coronavirus in the United States this year.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 11, 2020
No studies have linked the spread of the coronavirus to Jewish communities nor have there been any studies showing that Jews, secular or religious, are especially hard-hit by the pandemic. Nonetheless, the Haredi Jewish community is in conflict with New York City Mayor de Blasio and New York Governor Cuomo over regulations they feel target Jews. In a confluence of interests, an Orthodox Jewish group and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn brought several lawsuits against the governor and mayor over restrictions. The complainants claim that the restrictions violate their religious freedoms protected by the constitution. The restrictions, announced during the Jewish high-holidays, prohibited communal prayer.
In the lawsuits, the complainants emphasized that the regulations did not limit businesses that were open nor did they apply to the ongoing protests.
In the press conference announcing the restrictions, Cuomo blamed many of the state’s new coronavirus hot spots on mass gatherings of Orthodox Jews. “Orthodox Jewish gatherings often are very, very large and we’ve seen what one person can do in a group,” Cuomo said. To illustrate his point, he displayed a photo of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews at a large gathering. The Jewish attendees were not socially distanced and were not wearing masks.
Cuomo’s Jew-specific ire was illustrated In a recent press conference when he said that it was a “politically uncomfortable situation” to restrict prayer in “your church, or your mosques, or your temple,” but he saved his most serious ire for the Orthodox, threatening, “I have to say to the Orthodox community tomorrow, ‘If you’re not willing to live with these rules, then I’m going to close the synagogues,” a threat he did not express towards any other religious group.
Blaming Jews for Pandemic: Ancient Anti-Semitism; Modern Incarnation
There are many historical precedents for blaming Jews for pandemics but the worst cases took place during the global Black Death pandemic in the 14th Century. During the Black Death in Europe from 1348 to 1351, Jews were blamed for the pandemic that killed over 100 million people, nearly half the population of Europe. This led to countless pogroms and at least 510 Jewish communities were destroyed in this period. In many cities, the civil authorities either did little to protect the Jewish communities or actually abetted the rioters. The pogroms motivated by the plague continued until 20 years after the plague disappeared.
These accusations were revived at the outbreak of the current pandemic by private citizens as well as governments. Anti-Semitic Pastor Rick Wiles posted a video claiming the source of the pandemic was Jews’ refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Iranian and Turkish officials and scientists blamed Israel, calling the coronavirus a“Zionist biological terrorist attack.”
In a disturbing twist, the FBI reported that racist extremist groups, including neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, are encouraging members who contract novel coronavirus to spread the contagion to cops and Jews “through bodily fluids and personal interactions.”