Ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets to protest new coronavirus-related restrictions in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, one day after video showed police clashing with a large group at a holiday celebration.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that demonstrators in the Borough Heights neighborhood set a pile of masks on fire, while a photojournalist for the New York Post captured a large crowd of onlookers gathering around a flaming pile of cardboard boxes and other assorted garbage. Reporters at the scene also posted footage of demonstrators blocking a city bus.

The chaos underscored the tensions over rising coronavirus infections in New York, where the surge has been particularly pronounced in several Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods home to large Orthodox populations. This week, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) ordered schools to close and shut down nonessential businesses in a handful of neighborhoods with especially high positivity rates, while also imposing strict capacity limits on religious gatherings.

Many protesters said Tuesday that they felt the crackdown on schools was unreasonable and that ultra-Orthodox Jews were being targeted as scapegoats, local media outlets including the Boro Park News and NBC New York reported.

Another standoff unfolded on Monday night when multiple police officers tried to break up a Sukkot event in the Crown Heights neighborhood. The video, which was published by Gothamist, showed that the ultra-Orthodox participants were not practicing social distancing and at least some did not appear to be wearing masks, in violation of city health guidelines.

After years of growing skepticism and defiance of city health authorities by the local Hasidic population, the pandemic has not made things any better. Many said Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) unfairly singled out their community in April — the peak of the pandemic in New York — when he pointed out social distancing violations at the funeral for an influential Hasidic rabbi.

The scene in New York reflects similar tensions playing out in Israel, where violations of lockdown rules by the ultra-Orthodox population has incensed other Israelis and left officials increasingly frustrated about how to best encourage — or enforce — social distancing measures.

The Washington Post

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