Mr de Blasio, a Democrat with less than a month in power, has long-standing political ties to the ultra-Orthodox community and has been criticized for his handling of issues, including yeshivot surveillance and a circumcision ritual, metzitzah b’peh, which leads to infection of several babies with herpes.
Mr de Blasio relied on ultra-Orthodox leaders as he rose through the political ranks, moving from city council to that of public defender and then mayor. He also relied on Orthodox donors during his unsuccessful presidential campaign.
Mr de Blasio announced the vaccination mandate for public school teachers in August, but he did not define a similar mandate for private schools. Some private schools have defined their own mandates for teachers and students.
Dr Thomas Chadzutko, the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, signed the letter with Rabbi Zwiebel. In Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens, the vaccination rate for teachers and staff is around 88%, its spokesperson said.
The letter said the mandate could be “devastating to our schools and the children they serve” if teachers who are not vaccinated lose their jobs in the middle of the school year.
“Some schools might even be forced to close due to the severe shortage of teachers,” he said.
In August, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said in a television interview that he “strongly encourages” teachers and staff in Catholic schools to be vaccinated, adding that staff who do not were not vaccinated had to undergo testing.
“We cannot endanger the health of children,” he said.
A correctional officer vaccination deadline – which Mr de Blasio had pushed back a month due to the ongoing staff crisis at the Rikers Island prison complex – arrived this week, and about 82% of staff in Correctional service uniforms were vaccinated starting Thursday, city officials said.
Yet hundreds of officers were put on unpaid leave, and many of those who were vaccinated worked 12-hour shifts in prisons.