Judge rules against Orthodox Jewish group's lawsuit over New York's COVID restrictions

Agudath Israel of America file lawsuits against Governor Cuomo's COVID restrictions

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, October 9, 2020
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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A federal judge ruled against a group of Orthodox rabbis, who filed a lawsuit against New York's new COVID restrictions.

On Friday, a federal judge found Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration's new restrictions do not violate religious freedoms.

Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, sued the governor Thursday over the new restrictions, which force synagogues and other houses of worship in red zones to limit occupancy to 25% capacity or a maximum of 10 people.

"This is something which is very devastating to communities of faith," Rabbi David Zwiebel of Agudath Israel of America said. "Why in the world would a large shul with large capacity be treated the same as a small shul?"

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Other groups in the filing were Agudath Israel of Kew Garden Hills, Agudath Israel of Bayswater, Congregation Zichron Moshe Dov, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rabbi Menachem Feifer, Rabbi Aaron Stein and Steven Saphirstein.

The judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order ahead of three Jewish holidays this weekend.

The state argued the new restrictions do not unfairly target the Orthodox Jewish community and it is not a constitutional violation to acknowledge that religious gatherings have a higher risk of spreading the virus.

The judge agreed, stating she could not ignore the compelling state interest in protecting the health and life of all New Yorkers.

Agudath Israel of America called the ruling a "crushing disappointment" and vowed to "regroup" after this weekend's holiday to "determine our next steps."

In addition, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn on Thursday, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state of New York, on the basis of violating their First Amendment right, the free exercise of religion.

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