(JTA) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has long prided himself on his strong relationship with the Jewish community — a relationship he dates back to his father’s three terms as governor.
But that love for the Jewish community apparently does not extend to the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
In a story about Cuomo’s political career, The New York Times Magazine reported Cuomo’s frustration with a campaign appearance at a Sukkot event during his run for attorney general in 2006.
“These people and their f***ing tree houses,” Cuomo said to his team, according to The Times.
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A spokesman denied the comment.
“His two sisters married Jewish men, and he has the highest respect for Jewish traditions,” the spokesman said.
Sukkot is marked by eating, and sometimes sleeping, in a sukkah, a temporary hut often built from wood and covered in tree branches.
Cuomo’s relationship with the Jewish community has largely been positive for most of his career. But his ties with the Orthodox Jewish community hit a rough patch in the fall when Cuomo ordered tightened restrictions on a number of Orthodox neighborhoods with heightened COVID test positivity rates during a major surge in cases. Coincidentally or not, those restrictions were announced during Sukkot.
One Orthodox advocacy group, Agudath Israel, even sued Cuomo, claiming that a rule restricting attendance at religious services in those neighborhoods was a violation of religious liberty. The Supreme Court agreed with Agudath Israel in November and the rule eventually was amended.
Cuomo’s comments about Sukkot were revealed as the governor continues to power through a multifaceted political scandal involving multiple accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct, charges that his office tampered with the number of COVID deaths of nursing home residents and a newer scandal involving government employees working on his memoir about the early days of the pandemic.
The political firestorm was set off when Lindsey Boylan, a former aide now running for Manhattan Borough president, accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and kissing her in his office in February, followed by nine other accusations. The state attorney general has opened an investigation into the accusations and multiple New York elected officials have called on Cuomo to resign, but he has refused to step down.