Attorney Sues Cuomo Over NY Ban On Large Gatherings, Says It Infringes On Ability To Observe Jewish Faith

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, flanked by state Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, left, and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, holds a news conference in Manhattan on the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in New York state, March 2, 2020. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) – A Brooklyn attorney has filed a lawsuit accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of violating his right to free speech and ability to observe his Jewish faith because of the state’s ban on large gatherings due to the coronavirus.

Lee Nigen also alleges that telling state residents to limit travel, Cuomo has violated his right to meet with clients, friends, family and “like-minded people,” the New York Post reported.

Cuomo signed an executive order requiring an indefinite ban on large gatherings on March 23. He has yet to impose a travel ban.

The suit filed Friday in Brooklyn federal court named Cuomo and the state government.

“Mr. Cuomo’s threat that his directives will be enforced by law enforcement cause Mr. Nigen to fear arrest if he attempts to travel for any other purpose other than getting medical attention or obtaining groceries, thus impermissibly chilling his exercise of his constitutional rights to travel,” the suit says, according to the Post.

Nigen has been strongly criticized on his Facebook page.

“Your rights stop when the purpose is to protect the greater good,” read one comment. “During a horrific time for the country, you feel the need to file a lawsuit? As a Jew, I’m ashamed you use our religion for this nonsense. And then you wonder why people hate us? Go ahead- ignore the warnings, spread the virus in your community and let’s see how many Jews are dead thereafter you schmuck.”

Nigen posted in response to the criticism.

“To those who ill consider my dissent, I still wish you well, and treasure the right you have to express your opinion,” he wrote. “To the extent that fleeting flame has come upon me at this time of plague and panic, there is only one favor I ask of all: Be well and be free.”

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85 COMMENTS

  1. Halacha, unlike secular law, is not about personal freedom and rights, but about personal responsibility.

    He might have a valid argument as far as secular law is concerned, barring the passing of emergency powers legislation, but not in halacha.

    • His argument is invalid under secular law. Supreme Court has held in 1990 that a generally applicable law is constitutional even if it incidentally affects free exercise of specific religions.

      Since the ban on gatherings applies to all New Yorkers for a legitimate public interest, the law doesn’t nor should it care that certain religious practices are affected.

    • Why does he think y’all are above outlaws so fed up with you nasty people thinking you are better then any other religions .we are abiding your not I think the national guard needs to come in and keep you guys in your sanctuary City .sick of people coming here and thinking they can do what ever they want . I see van loads of you guys going through bloomingburg which you people have ruined the town was beautiful .

      • Quan…thanks for lending so much credence to my belief that most Jew haters are ignorant illiterates. I happen to agree that this is an insane lawsuit, but your true colors are shining brightly. I’d suggest seeking out some grammar instruction if you’re going to be posting things for all to see.

  2. Every competent rabbi has ruled not to go to shul as it is a matter of life and death and this fool adds to the chillul Hashem that his coextremists already made by refusing to comply to health directives. Guess what? Your religious believes are fake. You have no right to endanger another person’s life because you don’t want to daven at home

    • some competent rabbis are allowing private minynaim just they are quiet bec they are scared of all of you.

      I am at home now but its not as simple as you make it.

      • Archie – I’m happy that you’re home now – and I hope your wife can prevail on you to continue to do so -even on Pesach when you’ll daven b’yichidus like other shayne Yidden. Just like this idiot lawyer who is fixated on his entitlements, all of the pinheads who insist on being m’kayim a d’rabbonon while being ovayr a d’oraisa forget that if they get infected then an older or system-compromised person in their house can catch it from them. It’s about time we called out these self-centered morons for what they really are…

        • On pesach, thats my breaking point. I will put on a mask and daven at a safe social l distance minyan. You can yell all you want but I refuse to coniue being locked up like this

          • Jews lived in caves and forests for months during the Holocaust. You can’t manage another few weeks in the comfort of your home? If you insist on davening with a minyan on Pesach, when the peak infection rate in NY is scheduled to occur, then your selfishness becomes manifest. Time to grow up and continue to act like a responsible adult – not like a four year old who’s entitled to a minyan, duchening, tal – and all the other things responsible Yidden will forgo so that other people won’t get sick or worse.

          • I really hope you reconsider. I don’t want you to get sick.

            What worries me is the possibility that I will get sick and pass the infection on to someone else, and what the consequences might be for that person.

            If I were to do that through negligence, through failure to listen to what poskim and doctors and government are requiring during a plague, how could I justify that?

          • DAVID I get your concern and I hope you worry the same way every time you go the grocery store . Meanwhile I will take every precaution in the book so that the minyan is safer than when you walk outside to take out the garbage . After that point I think it’s ok to Daven and rely on hashem . This thing seems to spreading to those that listened to all drs too

        • Professor:
          Minyan during this time is not a d’rabbanan either. Someone travelling through bandit territory, even with 10 other observant male Jews may not stop the caravan to pray. Remeber R Tarfon in the mishna who decided to stop such a journey in order to recline whilst reciting krias shema? R Akiva lectured him: you would have deserved … because of that!
          Even Mitzvos d’oraisa have set limits when and how they are performed. Danger overrides all except three (which are anyway prohibitions, not positive mitzvos). There are some who don’t perform mitzvos as dictated by Torah, but rather personal obsessions, or nationalistic rituals or cult symbols – they may well feel their personal rights are being restricted, but they are not coming from a Jewish position. I am sure Governor Cuomo will find plenty of rabbis prepared to take the stand and testify that this lawyer is completely misguided, and is misrepresenting our religion, even if not his own faith.

          • It’s not about the hlacha part of minyan . Once it’s Pesach it’s much deeper . It’s about the essence of who we are . How can you shpier a tam in yom tov without a bal tefila in a kittel benching tal or gearing duchaning.

            I don’t think you guys get what kind of minyan I am looking for . All masks , on different porches or backyards with everyone 100 feet away , exactly ten . Much safer than buying milk

        • This is not the Holocaust and we can’t live like that . I am not as strong as them.

          Furthermore if we wear masks and social distance that minyan is very safe . Stop hocking achinik with ocd . I see you didn’t refrain from grocery stores which are a lot less safer .

          Yes tal and duchaning are essentials by me

          • Wouldn’t everyone want to do what you are doing? but clearly that is impossible for us to gather at such distances. So I wonder, how did you merit to be such a tzadik to “deserve” a minyan where the rest of klal yisrael, rabbanim and gedolim included do not? pshhh… you must be a REAL tzadik.

        • Leonard Simon Nimoy was born on March 26, 1931, in the West End of Boston, Massachusetts, to Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Ukraine His parents left Iziaslav separately, his father first walking over the border into Poland while his mother and grandmother were smuggled out of the Soviet Union in a horse-drawn wagon by hiding under bales of hay. They reunited after arriving in the United States. His mother, Dora (née Spinner; 1904–1987), was a homemaker, and his father, Max Nimoy (1901–1987), owned a barbershop in the Mattapan section of Boston.[Wikipedia]

  3. This attorney is a fraud. He is not an Orthodox jew. Obviously he is looking to stir up hatred towards religious (frum) Jews.
    Every one should call him out on it. And let the general public know that religious Jews take our health very seriously and follow the guidelines.

    • “This attorney is a Fraud” Correct. So is his handlers in the Highest level in Govt and Press who said the same. Hopefully every single person who gets hurt in this (Tens of millions) will sue this Lawyer, FOX/Hannity , The POTUS for giving us False Information for 3 months now and failed to prepare. In fact they told us the opposite. “GO TO WORK” and spread the virus. “It will be over in 10 days etc” at the same time the Republican Senators were selling their stocks. Its so much easier to beat up the little guy (small time lawyer) than face the truth Chotosi, Posati. I voted for this Govt. and listened to Fox/Hannity,Rush

      • you didn’t listen to fox and Hannity. Baloney.

        And the president was correct why worry till it came to us. I don’t see any other country better off. The president showed very very good postive leadership

        • And you don’t listen to the Gedolim.

          It is now a p’sach Halacha, issued from the highest levels and adopted by the Vaad HaRabbanim of my community and those where my children live, that we follow the coronavirus restrictions imposed by he government.

          Not even “Educated” you are permitted to have a minyan for Pesach…no matter how unique you think is your “need” to hear a shalich tzibor – and no matter how impressive you think are your anti-virus protections.

          All Yidden are supposed to be batul to our Rabbanim…even the great Educated Archy

    • Actually, all the landlords in Brooklyn know this lawyer. He represents them. He knows the law on the back of his hand and will take the code to court and open it up and point it out to the judge when necessary, on the spot. And all the landlords know when Lee shows up representing a Tenant, they better settle fast or they are going to lose big time and also pay treble damages.

  4. He is right. The threat doesn’t justify the completely suspension of constitutional rights. Furthermore, these orders are open ended, and irresponsible. At worst, the mortality rate of this disease is about 0.7% of the population, which when viewed through the eyes of noninfectious disease and epidemiology, doesn’t justify the complete shutdown of the society at large for MONTHS. It is cruel punishment. While the potential loss of life is regrettable, and even horrifying, this disease, even at its worst, is not an end of civilization event. Closing down, and imprisoning the entire public for the foreseeable future is far the great evil. This is just a cover up for the governments failure to have saved and funded enough hospital beds when we have known for 2 decades that this kind of epidemic was inevitable, and yet we closed down hospital after hospital after hospital and crippled our healthcare networks.

    • I sincerely hope you’re being sarcastic.

      Have you not seen the daily levaya notices? Especially in Brooklyn???
      You people (yes, I’m including you, mrbrklyn) all act like this guy wants to and then, when you get sick or die, you shout victim & can’t understand why you’re sick. תתביישו לכם!

        • There’s difference between locked up and being cautious. And the notices are much more frequent now FYI. You can go to the store & not get close to anyone. You don’t have to maybe be carrying something then go to a shul or anywhere else with lots of people close together & spreading it. Many people have underlying medical problems and some don’t know it.
          You want to think like you do, be my guest. But don’t put the rest of us in danger and DEFINITELY don’t make a chilul Hashem while you’re at it. You put all the rest of us to shame.

    • “Cover up for governments failure” Yes. Trump just extended it to April 30. One more good reason to vote him out. “Governments failure” one way or the other.

    • If the minyan can be done safely (all wear masks, out doors, only 10 ) perhaps on a holy day like pesach the rtazan hashem is to join. You do go the grocery store for essentialns don’t you?

      • Grocery is essential, itz a mitzveh deayrayse . . Davening with a minyan is not. Its a mitzveh sebo beavayro at best at worst RODEF at worst according to most respeted gedolim. Its time to admit what many godajlim said. Itz the Yetzer Hora in you. You mentioned a dz times it all about you. you this you that cant handle. Not once said its about your connection to hashem you are missing. Many Rebes davened without a Minjan even normal times.

        • Minyan on yom tov like pesach is just as essential as grocery stores. What makes your need to buy mil essential? Eat canned tuna.

          Minyan on yom tov is about shpeing and feeling a tam yom tov. How can one celebrate pesach without tal and ducahning?

          Many rebas are making private minyan even now not on yom tov

          • How can you….? Simple, because we are G-d’s slaves, he isn’t ours. If he sent us a message that it is not wanted, then it is not wanted.

            But if you have a minyan between everyone’s porches, 30 and 40 feet away from each other, I hardly think it’s a problem. But no krias hatorah, that just means a minimum of 10 strangers touching the SeferTorah etc

  5. The Governor should impose a resident only parking for local streets in Brooklyn. For example: only residents that live on east 12th should be allowed street parking on east 12th. All other vehicles should be towed. Any out-of-state license plate shtick should be towed as well. Any home owner who has a legal driveway must park in his own driveway or at least blocking his own driveway. If his car is found on the street it should be towed immediately.

  6. Just 3 days ago Trump said that next week it will be ok to go to churches etc. Hmmm? Why attack a unknown lawyer when he just repeats the FOX/Trump propaganda? We read it right here on win daily from the Trumpist . 3 day Pesach will go to daven and its not human etc. (B”H less and less) .

  7. What a dumb attorney. Everyone who takes the bar exam knows that “a generally applicable penal statue is constitutional even if it incidentally infringes on specific religious practices.” (Employment Division v. Smith).

  8. Relax everybody. He’s shilling for DiBlasio who urged everyone to mingle and enjoy the sights and sounds of NYC despite Corona , in early March. Diane Feinstein who sold her stocks with hubby , leaked a text to him to sue Cuomo. DNC , the criminally insane impeachers who robbed us of our time and disregarded Corona is sending him fat checks too.

    • Nice try, it was TRUMP not DeBlasio who said go to work and the rest. and it was a Republican Senator Richard Burr not a Democrat. Its just a click away. At any rate dont vote for Blasio again even if he did or didnt say that. but for sure based on your comments cant vote for TRUMP again.

      • Trump will be preident without your vote. We will need to postpone elections. According to you its not safe. We need to social distance. No elections in Nov. Trump will be POTUS be default. Now eat that

  9. I bet if this guy were a muslim in another life, he’d be lining up to be a suicide bomber, convinced that g-d demanded that he kill infidels to get his place in paradise

  10. Jewish law puts highest regard to safety and saving lives.Even violating the Shabbos or eating non kosher we do anything to save and protect lives if that’s what’s necessary.

    This fool is trying to put religious Jews in a negative light when everything he says is diametrically opposed to everything we hold dear. First and foremost the sanctity of protecting lives

  11. For one, check Washington Examiner on Bill de Blasio’s March 1 statement: That despite Corona , people in NY should go on the streets and have fun. This, after President Trump akready issued travel warnings to S. Korea and Italy.
    Check other news sources .Even Trump hating CNN asked him about it and he fumbled.

  12. To our Honorable Governor Andrew Cuomo.

    As an orthodox jew, I have to say, that I embarrassed that this lawsuit was brought.

    Mr Cuomo, you should know that I vote Republican, but I think that you are doing a great job, and please don’t get blindsided by this lawsuit. You have all the orthodox Rabbis backing you up, by telling everyone to stay home.

    May God bless you and your family and New York State, and the whole USA, and we should pull out of this with minimal casualties, and it should be over, ASAP.

  13. The fact that every rabbi forbade having minyanim means that it is NOT a JEWISH/RELIGIOUS thing to do currently. So how could the government be infringing on a non existent right?

  14. Nothing doing, hoaxer.
    Trump was referring to the hysterical media madness to blame him , as a hoax.
    Heck, my kid sister in Made in China pampers knows that. Every normal American knows that except the liars at CNN and the rest of the Bloods.
    You’re desperate.. Take Tequila with ketchup and enjoy..

  15. How about when any of these people who keep going to minyanim and this joker, if and when they get sick, chas v’shalom, they DO NOT get a ventilator. Let’s see how many continue with these dangerous and lige threatening behaviors.

  16. The problem really is with these lefty liberals. They are seeking to destroy our Faith in any way they can. They want yeshivas to teach evolution and same gender propaganda to children as young as five. This lawyer is a good guy. He is for gutting for authentic Judaism. The governor is a rotzeach since he let out all the criminals with his no bail laws. This lawyer should get our support. You know in 1970s every year almost two thousand Jews were murdered in street crimes in New York alone.

  17. you can go to the store while touching the same door knob and wagon the last guy with corona touched . But an outdoor minyan where you don’t get near anyone with a ten foot pole ( literally ) that’s the danger ?

    Can you keep the masses locked up like this forever ? We agree it’s a war zone out there but the question still needs to be addressed

    • Archie – some of us go grocery shopping only when absolutely necessary, wearing masks and gloves and armed with disinfectant wipes we use on the grocery wagons. Tell me, if you went to one of these outdoor minyanim, how would anyone get an aliyah and still maintain the required social distancing – the Baal Koreh can’t read from six feet away unless he’s got a telescope! How would you prevent more than 10 people from joining for Yiskor? How do you prevent some well-meaning idiot from setting up a table after davening with some homemade cake and bromfen so that he can share a l’chaim? You are opening up a can of worms by insisting on your apparently (G-d-given) right to t’filoh b’tizbur.

  18. To Educated Archy, The purpose of our existence is to do the will of Hashem, not to make us feel good inside. By doing the will of Hashem we are fulfilling our purpose in life and what can provide more satisfaction than that? Halacha is Hashem telling us what to do. What can be deeper than that? Your feeling all warm and fuzzy inside? How shallow! Our Poskim tell us what the Halacha is. Not your inner distorted feelings. The reform Jews think that being a Jew is just being nice and feeling good. Being a Yid is doing Hashem’s will which is told to us by Halacha, whether we like it or not. Right now the poskim are telling us that the halacha is to follow the medical directives of our govt. which are for our own good. That is what we are required to do by the Torah. The poskim are telling us what Hashem wants from us right now.

    • Haven’t you figured it out yet. Archy is a reform jew. He thinks that his idea of the “feeling” of yideshkeit is more important than halacha. He might as well drive to his minyan and have some bacon with kiddush

  19. When there is a fire run – with the Corona virus it means distancing – no time for “claring”

    NO MINYAN ANY WHERE – PERIOD LIKE WITH SHOR NAGOCH -SHMERA ME’LAH
    Hashem does not want now minyonim – causing goyim to hate us – chilul hashem – We are supposed to be an a noovon!!!

  20. It is wonderful that ARchie has such a hightened love for Tefila beminyan. In the warsaw getto they also loved the minyan but when the SS came around you hid where ever you could .
    When it is a mageifa – the novi say – bo bachadorecho – keep indoors on your own – be mechallel one shabbos to live to keep shabbos in future. Please dont practice a mitzvo which at this moment is no mitzve but can cause spread of infection. shmor as nafshcho and others too

  21. I hope the police arrest everyone who puts a minyan and mikvah ahead of pikuach nefesh. If the haven’t gotten the message by now, I think this is the only thing that will stop them.

  22. Haven’t enough choshuva yidden died because of ignorant people who had to be at a minyan and then caught the virus. All of us want to attend a yom tov minyan, missing our families and having small sedorim. We have to act responsibly as the Gedolim have said, no minyanim and no family over. This is a test for you to see if you listen to the Gedolim of your generation or are too arrogant to listen to them. Gam Zeh Yaavor.

  23. I see nothing wrong with those who tested positive to make a Minyan amongst themselves. In Israel the biggest Minyan is in the Tel Hashomair. Covid19 wing where hundreds shape the Minyan

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