New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio left members of a Syrian Jewish synagogue scratching their heads on Saturday, when he asserted to them that Syrian Muslim migrants thronging to enter New York are like Jews who fled the genocidal Nazi regime.
"I know this community understands deeply the pain of any family that must leave a homeland they love because they were forced away by violence and discrimination,” said de Blasio in his Shabbat address at Brooklyn's Congregation Shaare Zion.
“When it comes to saving children and families from one of the greatest crises of our times, I remind people to look at history," he said, referencing both the Nazi genocide and the flight of Syrian Jews.
Congregants murmured uncomfortably at the odd comparison, in a skeptical response caused not least of all by the fact that Syrian Jews were forced to "leave a homeland" by the persecution of Syrian Muslims, whose descendants de Blasio was exhorting them to accept into the US.
Judy Zarug of Brooklyn told the New York Post that de Blasio's statement doesn't hold water, saying, "I don’t think it’s a fair comparison... the Jews never had a history of being destructive."
“I was sitting next to a woman who is a Syrian refugee and she really reacted and it was uncomfortable," added Zarug.
Another congregant whose family fled Syria said, "the difference between me coming here in 1991 with my family is that we were kicked out for being Jewish.”
The only applause came when de Blasio promised to protect New York's Jews in the wake of targeted terrorist attacks worldwide.