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Jewish leaders slam NYC council member for comparing vaccine mandate to Nazism

Update: New York City Council Member Vicki Paladino apologized Tuesday saying that she regretted the comparison as soon as she said it and had and asked the television reporter interviewing her “to strike it from the record.” The apology came a day after the interview aired. She said: “It is never okay to compare anything to the evil of Nazi Germany” and that she “will be meeting with local Jewish leaders and my friends in the Jewish community in the coming days to discuss this matter.”

New York Jewish lawmakers and community leaders strongly are condemning a newly-elected Republican city council member for comparing New York’s vaccine mandate to Nazism.

“This is not Nazi Germany,” Vickie Paladino, who represents parts of Queens, said Monday in an interview with NY1, a local tv station, after she was barred for the council chambers for refusing to disclose whether she was vaccinated against COVID-19.

Paladino, who recently flipped a district that includes Bayside and Whitestone to the GOP column, is one of five Republicans in the 51-member legislative body. Last week, she cast her vote for speaker remotely, several feet away from the chamber.

Councilman Eric Dinowitz, who is chair of the New York City Jewish Caucus, called the comparing vaccination efforts to the Nazi regime “appalling and disgusting.”

“We cannot accept these ignorant, misguided, and painful comparisons that minimize the horror and trauma of the Holocaust,” he said. “Vaccines save lives, Nazis ended lives.”

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Joe Borelli, the council’s minority leader, also called Paladino out. “It is a totally inappropriate comparison,” he tweeted. “It is easy to point out the flaws and failures of the mandates without equating them to the Holocaust”

Gideon Taylor, chief executive of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, called Paladino’s remarks “deeply disturbing” to Holocaust survivors and “a distortion of the terrible history of the destruction of the Jews and other minorities by the Nazis.” He said he will extend an invitation to Paladino to meet with Holocaust survivors, who can share their experiences of surviving the Nazi genocide.

“There are plenty of people in my neighborhood and throughout New York who can still recount what it was like to be asked for ‘papers’ under Nazi occupation,” said Councilmember Kalman Yeger, who represents the Borough Park and Midwood neighborhoods in Brooklyn. “This is not that. People should find better ways to make their point.”

New York City Hall

City Hall, New York City

Abe Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Paladino showed a concerning ignorance of the Nazi era, when the U.S. lost hundred of thousands of its people defending freedom. “One would hope for better from elected officials,” he said.

Paladino is not new to controversy. In 2017, she made headlines for confronting then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and blasting him for leaving town to participate in a protest rally in Hamburg, Germany, a day after a police officer was killed in the Bronx.

The Jews For Racial & Economic Justice progressive group suggested Paladino deliberately chose her words knowing the meaning of the comparison. “But she’s correct about one thing: New York City is not Nazi Germany,” said Sophie Ellman-Golan, a spokesowoman for the group. “And we are going to keep it that way.”

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