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The NYPD is policing Jewish mothers while the city burns

As New York City burned and was gutted for a second night in a row, one couldn’t help but wonder, where are the NYPD?

As the iconic Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square was broken into and looted, video from nearby journalists showed the police standing by, waiting for the curfew set to kick in at 11, as if some magic switch would empower them to uphold the law and defend New York businesses.

Across Midtown Manhattan, the picture looked the same: Roving groups of teenagers and young 20-somethings broke storefront windows and grabbed everything they could in such a casual manner you’d think they were shopping in Before Times. There was no sense of urgency in their “shopping,” emboldened by the fact that the police department wasn’t doing anything to stop the mayhem.

But it’s not that the police were doing nothing exactly. For the second day in a row, as looters and rioters burned the city, the NYPD came out strong against… the Jewish community. That’s right: the menace, according to the police department, weren’t those breaking windows, but those trying to open their businesses and bring their kids to the park.

Two days ago, the NYPD drove in a caravan through the neighborhood of Boro Park, shutting down any businesses who dared open in an attempt to save their livelihoods.

And yesterday, just a few hours before the chaos of Midtown erupted, the New York Police Department was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn rounding up Jewish mothers and their children who had the audacity to gather to play in city parks.

One has to wonder, if social distancing is in fact still a thing we’re doing, what makes Jewish mothers and children more dangerous than much larger groups of individuals, coming together, yelling and, eventually, coughing out tear gas?

The answer is obvious: Social distancing isn’t a thing “we” are doing anymore; it’s just a cudgel to yield against Jews daring to gather at a funeral or learn Torah.

That’s the only police presence the Jewish community can count on as we watch the total breakdown of law and order in New York City. The only way to get the NYPD to respond in a Jewish neighborhood is for its members to gather to mourn, to pray, to learn, or to buy some stockings.

Remember when we were told that the NYPD didn’t have the manpower to police Jewish neighborhoods in higher numbers as Jews were assaulted night after night, day after day in the streets of Brooklyn? Somehow, amid a pandemic and widespread rioting, the police department suddenly came up with some extra bodies to police in Jewish neighborhoods.

But they weren’t there to protect Jews; they were there to harass them. And despite all this, members of the community were delivering donuts to the local precinct last night, despite the fact that the police have routinely passed the buck on protecting Jews, but has not missed a single opportunity to single them out during this pandemic and lockdown.

George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a white police officer was an unforgivable, horror, exposing a systemic problem of police brutality against members of the black community. We Jews should be joining in with our black neighbors protesting their very legitimate grievances and demanding a more equitable world.

But the police have targeted New York’s Jews too, and neglected to protect them.

You deserve better. Demand it.

Bethany Mandel is a frequent contributor to the Forward and an editor at You can follow her on Twitter @BethanyShondark.

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