The city is investigating a wedding in the Satmar Hasidic community that reportedly drew thousands of people to an indoor celebration in Brooklyn without masks, in violation of pandemic social distancing restrictions.
Thousands of guests, most of them men, gathered earlier this month for the wedding of the Satmar Grand Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum’s grandson, Yoel Teitelbaum, according to videos obtained by the New York Post. The videos appear to show wedding-goers packed inside the Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue in Williamsburg on Hooper Street, singing and dancing with no face coverings.
“The City is conducting an investigation into the incident and will hold those accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
She did not provide further information, such as when the city found out about the mass gathering. According to the Post, the wedding was held November 8th.
Last month, rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum’s rival (due to a longtime feud and split within the Satmar sect) Grand Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum planned to hold a large wedding for his grandson in which an estimated 10,000 guests from Brooklyn and Rockland County were expected to attend.
After pressure from officials and news coverage of the event, the synagogue’s leaders announced it would only be attended by close family members following what a spokesperson called “unwarranted attacks.” The state health commissioner issued a pre-emptive order to limit the number of guests.
This wedding, however, was planned in secret, according to the Post, citing a Yiddish-language newspaper, Der Blatt. The newspaper reported the wedding was planned by word-of-mouth to avoid “ravenous press and government officials,” according to the reports.
“If that happened, it was a blatant disregard of the law,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday when asked about the wedding. “It’s illegal. It was also disrespectful to the people of New York.”
“If it turns out that because we stopped that wedding, the reaction was, ‘Well, we’ll have a secret wedding,’ that would be really shocking,” Cuomo added. “I’m sure [the city] will be able to figure it out, and then we’ll bring the full consequence of legal action to bear.”
The synagogue could not be immediately reached for comment. The Post points out that it is located next door to a firehouse, and the FDNY is one of the city agencies responsible for inspecting establishments that may be in violation of COVID-19 restrictions. FDNY spokesperson Frank Dwyer told the Post that the wedding celebration “clearly violated” the rules, which currently limit indoor religious services to 33% capacity and require social distancing be maintained.
But “firehouses don’t conduct surveillance on their neighbors,” Dwyer added.
One member of the Brooklyn Hasidic community tells Gothamist that weddings are still taking place regularly. “This just happens to be the one reported on,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of a backlash from the community, said.
Additional reporting by Jake Offenhartz.