On Thursday, October 15, two of our local Queens educational institutions – Fresh Meadows’ Yeshiva Ketana of Queens and Kew Gardens’ Yeshiva Tiferes Moshe – were issued inaccurate summonses for “not complying with NYS EO #202.6 and NYSDOH guidelines by operating a school in a red/orange zone.” The duo from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would not listen to a rationalization that the schools were in their respective yellow zones and allowed to operate.

Council Member Rory Lancman and Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal immediately jumped on the case and soon got both summonses withdrawn.

In an interview with Hamodia, Rosenthal explained that the administrators of Yeshiva Tiferes Moshe refused to accept the summons and were informed it would be mailed.

According to parents, the Yeshiva’s menahel, Rabbi Yaakov May, was quick to send out an alert that the DOH workers “did not enter any student area and did not conduct an inspection of our building.”

The same city employees then chose to issue a summons against Yeshiva Ketana of Queens, which falls in the Fresh Meadows area of the Central Queens yellow zone. According to Hamodia, a Yeshiva representative was told, “You are operating a school illegally in a red zone.” Then, the school official was unable to offer evidence from New York City’s Department of Education proving that the facility was allowed to operate. “It does not matter. Our supervisor, Deputy Martinez, said you are in a red zone and we should issue you a summons.”

Later in the day, Lancman and Rosenthal released a statement, “We expressed to the Mayor’s office our extreme displeasure and the potential impacts of these types of errors on community confidence and the administration’s ability to fairly enforce restrictions. We do not believe the summonses reflect anything other than bureaucratic incompetence.”

The yeshivos have continued regular operations without incident.

On Tuesday morning, October 20, the Mayor announced that he is “hopeful about Central Queens,” indicating that he may work alongside Governor Cuomo to ease restrictions. Jacob Kornbluh, the Jewish Insider journalist allegedly ganged up on during a Borough Park protest, asked the Mayor to expand on a meeting he held organized by his staff member Mr. Pinny Ringel Monday evening with Jewish community leaders and Dr. Mitch Katz, CEO of New York City Health and Hospitals. The meeting that lasted well over two hours “was moving, productive and honest,” according to the Mayor.

The mayor then called for “a positive reset,” explaining that the group discussed everything that transpired from the beginning of the pandemic and how painful and confusing it has been for the different communities.

A pivotal moment came when the mayor made an admission: “I did express my regrets. I look back now and understand there was just more dialogue that was needed. I certainly got very frustrated at times when I saw large groups of people still out without masks, but I think more dialogue would have been better. So I certainly want to express my regret that I did not figure out how to do that better, and obviously, you know, that one night in Williamsburg, I let my frustration and concern get away with me and I should have been more careful in my language.”

Community leaders also expressed the need to comply with the health and safety guidelines, with the hope that the descending rates will allow the yeshivas, shuls, and businesses to reopen in the near future. The Agudath Israel of America wrote, “We are hopeful that this important and unusually long, personal conversation with the Mayor will open the lines of communication and collaboration and lead to tangible results. Agudath Israel continues to press elected officials at all levels of government to work collaboratively with us to return our communities, businesses, shuls and schools to operation as soon as safely possible.”

By Shabsie Saphirstein