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Orthodox mom-and-pop shop owners join movement to let them reopen in New York

Orthodox Jewish business owners have joined in calls for New York to allow small businesses to operate, pushing back against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has repeatedly said he will not risks lives in order to reopen the economy.

Orthodox business owners are sharing their personal stories through videos on social media, using the hashtag #ReopenNY.

“It’s not because we’re naive. It’s not because we don’t understand the horrific toll this virus has taken,” Chaim Homnick, a resident of the heavily Jewish Five Towns area of Long Island, and who runs an Orthodox girls summer camp and a tutoring business, said in one video. Homnick said that both of his grandparents died in April. (He does not specify if it was due to Covid-19.)

“If you can shop at Target for pants, or Walmart for toys, why a can’t small business owner safely and cautiously reopen here in New York, like has already begun in other states?” Homnick said, blaming Cuomo for making reopening a political issue.

— ReOpen NY (@ReOpenNewYork) May 17, 2020 -->
Politicians that represent neighborhoods with large Orthodox constituencies have also taken up the issue, pushing back at rules instituted at the city level by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In a feature story about the videos, the Orthodox media outlet the Yeshiva World News included a note that Jewish tradition considers it imperative to give someone charity when they are at the risk of losing their home or business.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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