In latest issue of The Atlantic, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a freewheeling interview on a multitude of issues ranging from the presidential race to his public health efforts, including a new consent form requirement for a controversial circumcision practice, metzizah b’peh, often used in the city’s Orthodox Jewish community. “I think it’s fair to say that nobody else would take that on. I mean, come on!” Mr. Bloomberg exclaimed of the political fortitude needed to even touch the issue. “Who wants to have 10,000 guys in black hats outside your office, screaming?”
Two Orthodox Jewish officials were not amused, however. Councilman David Greenfield and his predecessor, former Councilman Simcha Felder, released a sharply critical statement this morning blasting Mr. Bloomberg.
“For the mayor to identify an entire religious group by the clothes they proudly wear is the basest of insults,” Mr. Greenfield explained. “It is even more offensive coming from a secular Jewish mayor. I don’t judge the Mayor or his religious practice; surely he has no right to judge me or other members of the Orthodox Jewish community…One has to now wonder if the Mayor’s sudden opposition to metzizah b’peh was done simply for the sake of political expediency so he could claim to be standing up to a minority religious community. It’s ironic that the Mayor appears to have respect for every other religion except his own.”
Mr. Felder, a candidate for the State Senate this November, was similarly offended.
“First the Mayor moves to restrict our right to freely practice our religion,” he said. “Then he uses offensive and derisive language aimed towards our community. I am asking Mayor Bloomberg to apologize for these insensitive words, which simply do not have any place in our society, especially from our political leaders. I am also requesting that he end his attack on metzitzah b’peh and on religious freedom.”
Update (1:30 p.m.): State Senator David Storobin, whom Mr. Felder is running against, had a statement of his own:
“The people of my district and the entire Jewish community are deeply offended and appalled by the comment Mayor Bloomberg made the other day to ‘The Atlantic’, of how proud he is standing up to “10,000 black hats” protesting against his aggressive approach in imposing regulations on metzitah b’peh- an old-aged traditional practice of circumcision. The Mayor’s utter ignorance doesn’t stop by raising taxes and hurting small businesses in our community, but now by insulting and demeaning an entire community for standing up for their rights of religious freedom. This is the same ‘Black Hat’ Jewish community that supported Mike Bloomberg for 3 terms.”
“I call upon the mayor to retract his affronting comment and immediately apologize to the Orthodox Jewish community, or else be hold responsible and resign from his post.”
As did Assemblyman Dov Hikind:
“When Mayor Bloomberg decided to run for a third term, he came to our community seeking favor with the Hareidi community—he asked Orthodox, Torah-observant Jews to support his candidacy,” said the Assemblyman. “ Now when he finds those same people unanimously frightened by his personal agenda and aggressive stance against Metzitzah b’peh, he quips, ‘Who wants to have 10,000 guys in black hats outside your office screaming?’ But we weren’t Black Hats when he needed us.
“The mayor is certainly entitled to his opinion on traditional circumcision but it’s demeaning the way he characterizes it. Metzitzah b’peh is not a point of view—it’s a religious tenet. The mayor is certainly at liberty to take on unpopular issues, but describing his constituents in a demeaning and derogatory way is unbecoming of the mayor’s office. It’s insensitive and it’s offensive.
“Mr. Mayor, my community deserves more respect.”
We’ve reached out to Mr. Bloomberg’s office and will update if they have any response.