By Jumaane Williams, Public Advocate for the City of New York

I want to wish all in the Jewish community Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach amid these holidays, and to implore that whether in celebration or in protest, we follow public health practices that promote safety and save lives. We marked Sukkot this week – a time for peace, happiness, growth, and good works in the community. It’s a reminder that we must all do what we can to protect and support each other.

Amid the rising COVID-19 cases in Brooklyn and around the city, amid recent incidents and tension, true leadership demands we act on multiple points simultaneously. In recent days we have seen protests against the restrictions aimed at preventing further spread of COVID-19 turn violent. This violence is inexcusable, unacceptable, and cannot continue. We must also, as ever, forcefully condemn instances of anti-Semitism and hate that is far too prevalent.

We should be clear about how we got here. Proper communication and engagement on how to effectively prevent further spread is key but has been absent, beginning at the top with the Mayor and Governor.  Containing the ongoing pandemic through both individual actions and larger restrictions is crucial, and executive leadership and community engagement are also critical.

We must know our communities and understand how to communicate effectively. The one size fits all model of communication has been ineffective, the subject of widespread complaint across the city. The constant bickering and mixed messaging by the Governor and Mayor only makes this worse.

It is without question that both the city and state were not engaged with community leaders with resources and efforts to limit gatherings and increase precautions during the period of High Holy Days. These holidays are annual, and as I called around to leaders, I was appalled at the lack of planning by the Executives or their teams.  Failures by the Mayor and Governor to adequately work with the community, or hear from its leaders, have helped create the tense and untenable moment in which we find ourselves. To resolve it, the community should develop a plan rooted in science and safety, one that respects the need for social distancing, and work with law enforcement and executive leadership to implement it.

While I continue to have thoughtful, productive conversations with community leaders – the kinds of conversation they had hoped to have with the Mayor, Governor, I ask that regardless of personal opposition or objection to the ways in which these measures were reached, announced, and implemented, that  all unite in an effort to promote safe practices and save lives. This cannot be left up to debate or discretion and is true in every community. The result of non-compliance is too deadly and affects too many. We are asked to each do our part to protect our fellow New Yorkers, not endanger them.

I call on all leaders representing the geographic and faith communities here in Brooklyn to unite in an effort to promote safe practices and save lives. We must all wear a mask, practice social distancing, and follow the measures needed to promote public health – the only way to beat this virus is a shared effort, with a shared purpose.

Jumaane Williams is the Public Advocate for the City of New York.

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