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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: I regret how I handled that Orthodox funeral in April

(JTA) — With tensions high between Orthodox Jews and New York officials, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed regret Tuesday for how he handled a large Hasidic funeral in the pandemic’s early days.

Back in April, after a large funeral for a local rabbi in Brooklyn drew thousands of Orthodox Jews into the streets of Williamsburg, de Blasio visited the scene himself and called out “the Jewish community.” His tweet was widely criticized and damaged what had been a relatively close relationship between the mayor and the city’s Orthodox community.

Now, with Orthodox neighborhoods again among the city’s virus hotspots and residents chafing at restrictions imposed to curb the disease’s spread, de Blasio says he regrets what he said — and how he said it.

“I look back now and understand there was just more dialogue that was needed,” de Blasio said during a press conference Tuesday. “I certainly got very frustrated at times when I saw large groups of people still out without masks but I think more dialogue would have been better so I certainly want to express my regret that I didn’t figure out how to do that better.”

The comments came in response to a question about a call he held with Orthodox leaders from Brooklyn and Queens Monday night, which he said was meant as a “reset” in the relationship between city government and Orthodox communities.

De Blasio noted that he had previously expressed remorse over his reaction to the gathering, but he said he would seek to improve communication going forward.

“That one night in Williamsburg I let my frustration and concern get away with me and I should have been more careful in my language and I’ve expressed my apology for that before,” de Blasio said Tuesday. He added, “The No. 1 takeaway from the meeting is more dialogue. More communication is the way forward.”

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