Secret Hasidic wedding with hundreds of attendees fined $15,000 for breaking coronavirus rules

Now, city leaders say they’re taking action. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said the event’s organizers will be fined $15,000 for violating pandemic restrictions, adding that more penalties could come.

“What we do know is unquestionably it was too many people,” De Blasio told reporters on Tuesday. “It appears that there was a very conscious effort to conceal what was going on. And that’s what makes it even more unacceptable.”

The wedding, organized by leaders of the Satmar sect, was the latest act of defiance against pandemic rules in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community, which health officials have cited for ignoring mask regulations and driving local spikes in the virus. Tensions boiled over in October, when hundreds of Orthodox Jews took to the streets to protest new restrictions on religious gatherings, clashing with the police and burning masks.

The conflicts come as coronavirus cases are on the rise in New York. The state reported 4,881 new cases and 45 new deaths on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker. In the past week, the percentage of new daily reported cases and deaths, as well as the percentage of covid-related hospitalizations have all risen in the state.

This was not the first time the Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue has come into conflict with officials over a wedding. In October, the state health commissioner personally intervened to shut down a planned wedding for the grandson of Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, the synagogue’s rabbi, that could have drawn 10,000 guests, the New York Times reported.

This month, for the wedding of the grandson of another rabbi, the sect’s leaders worked to keep the celebration a secret, according to Der Blatt, a Yiddish-language paper. The newspaper said it was aware of the wedding plans but remained quiet “so as not to attract an evil eye from the ravenous press and government officials,” reported the Times, which obtained a translated copy of the article.

But how did hundreds of attendees keep the secret?

“All notices about upcoming celebrations,” Der Blatt wrote, per the Times translation, “were passed along through word of mouth, with no notices in writing, no posters on the synagogue walls, no invitations sent through the mail, nor even a report in any publication, including this very newspaper.”

The wedding lasted more than four hours, the Times reported. Representatives of the Yetev Lev D’Satmar congregation did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment as of early Wednesday morning.

On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) blasted the synagogue over the event, calling it a “blatant disregard of the law” that was “disrespectful to the people of New York.”

If the event’s organizers kept it “secret” due to the state health commissioner’s move to block October’s wedding at the synagogue, he said, that act of defiance would be “shocking.” The governor was also skeptical that local officials wouldn’t have been alerted to such a large gathering.

“If 7,000 people went to a wedding, you can figure that out right?” Cuomo

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Kiryas Joel Hasidic Wedding Probed by New York State After Superspreader Fine

The New York State Department of Health says it is investigating a Hasidic wedding that was scheduled in upstate New York Monday evening at a synagogue where throngs of people were seen gathering without masks and not practicing social distancing.

Officials were so concerned about the event, originally set to take place at the Congregation Yetev Lev synagogue in Kiyras Joel, that they issued a cease and desist order to leaders of the Satmar sect just hours before it was due to get underway. Still, a steady stream of bearded, black-hatted men were seen gathering at the massive synagogue around the event’s originally-scheduled time.

“The order we issued on Monday morning was clear: social gatherings must follow strict protocols regarding capacity limits, mask wearing, and social distancing in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health told The Daily Beast in a statement. “We are aware of reports that a gathering was held and are investigating whether there was adherence to the guidelines laid out in the order. If not, we will pursue all appropriate legal remedies.”

Word of the probe came a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a paltry $15,000 fine over another potential superspreader wedding also organized by the Satmar Hasidic community that took place in Brooklyn and drew thousands of people earlier this month.

Video from that wedding, held in Williamsburg, saw people dancing and singing with hardly a mask in sight in clear violation of COVID-19 public health restrictions.

“We know there was a wedding,” the mayor told Inside City Hall on NY1 Monday night. “We know it was too big. I don’t have an exact figure, but whatever it was, it was too big. There appeared to be a real effort to conceal it. Which is absolutely unacceptable.”

“There’s going to be a summons for $15,000 immediately for that site, and there could be additional consequences as well,” de Blasio added.

The potential deterrent effect of such a modest fine for a gathering that was reportedly thousands-strong—in the face of a so-called Third Wave of the coronavirus pandemic nationwide—remained to be seen.

The order for Monday’s scheduled wedding between two members of prominent ultra-Orthodox families called for the congregation “to cancel the wedding ceremonies unless they can be held in strict adherence with safe social distancing protocols.”

It also sought to prevent groups from larger than 50 people of gathering at one time. But large crowds, collectively amounting to well in excess of that number, appeared at the synagogue originally slated to host the wedding. Rumors that the wedding events were ultimately held off-site complicated the picture, but at least some apparent attendees posting on social media suggested it had taken place.

The synagogue, a spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, and the State Police did not respond to a request for comment, and state agencies spent much of Monday passing the buck between one another over who was responsible for enforcing the cease and

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$15,000 Fine After Secret Hasidic Wedding Draws Thousands of Guests

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered to celebrate a wedding inside a cavernous hall in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood earlier this month, dancing and singing with hardly a mask in sight. The wedding was meticulously planned, and so were efforts to conceal it from the authorities, who said that the organizers would be fined $15,000 for violating public health restrictions.

The wedding, organized on Nov. 8 by the leaders of the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, is the latest incident in a long battle between city and state officials and members of the ultra-Orthodox community, who prize autonomy, chafe at government restrictions and have frequently flouted guidelines like mask-wearing and social distancing.

In October, state officials announced a series of restrictions in several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens with large Orthodox Jewish populations after the positive test rate in those areas rose above 4 percent. Many residents protested the restrictions, which included the closing of nonessential businesses and limiting capacity at houses of worship.

While the rates in several of these areas have decreased since the implementation of the restrictions, tensions between city officials and area leaders have continued.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the fine on Monday night after video of the wedding — and a florid account of the event and the extensive efforts to conceal it appeared in a Hasidic newspaper — drew backlash online. He said additional penalties could be imposed on the organizers.

“We know there was a wedding,” the mayor told the local news network NY1. “We know it was too big. I don’t have an exact figure, but whatever it was, it was too big. There appeared to be a real effort to conceal it. Which is absolutely unacceptable.”

Representatives for the Satmar community did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

“We’ve been through so much,” the mayor added. “And in fact, the Williamsburg community in recent weeks responded very positively, did a lot more testing and was being very responsible. This was amazingly irresponsible, just unacceptable. So there’s going to be consequences right away for the people who let that happen.”

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called the event “a blatant disregard of the law” and “disrespectful to the people of New York.”

State officials ordered the Satmar community in Orange County to cancel a series of weddings planned for Monday night, but it was unclear if the group complied with that order.

The wedding in Brooklyn, which lasted for more than four hours, was held at the Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue in Williamsburg and celebrated the marriage of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the grandson of Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum.

Last month, Satmar leaders canceled another wedding in Williamsburg, which they said expected 10,000 guests, that was to be held for the grandson of Rabbi Teitelbaum’s brother and longtime rival, Grand Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum.

An account of the wedding was published on Nov. 11 by Der Blatt, a Yiddish-language newspaper closely aligned with the Satmar leadership in Williamsburg.

It described

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Hasidic Community Plans Another Big Wedding, in Kiryas Joel, in Defiance of COVID-19 Rules

KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y.—Plans for a huge, rule-busting Hasidic wedding here were thrown into question Monday after the state sent a cease-and-desist order to the synagogue that was hosting it.

But the scene outside Congregation Yetev Lev synagogue on Garfield Road was a wild one come evening. In fact, the only palpable nod to the pandemic came when a mobile COVID-19 testing bus arrived around 5 p.m.

A steady flow of bearded, black-hatted people going in and out of the enormous synagogue were all unmasked. Large white tarps stretched from the overhang at the top of the stairs down to the floor, blocking passersby from seeing inside the venue.

Around the back, several workers were bringing pallets of bottled water into the space, along with stacks of banquet chairs and assorted staging materials. A number of rolling metal racks for holding food trays sat nearby. By shortly after 5 p.m., the parking lot was full.

A carpentry contractor leaving for the day told The Daily Beast a “big wedding” was planned for the evening. The worker said no one inside was wearing a mask, and that he was tired of asking them to put one on.

An hour after The Daily Beast published a story about the Monday wedding plans, the state health commissioner took the first step toward nixing them by issuing an order to Congregation Yetev Lev in Kiryas Joel, a spokesperson for the Orange County Health Department said.

A spokesperson for the State Department of Health subsequently said that the order, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Beast, called for the congregation “to cancel the wedding ceremonies unless they can be held in strict adherence with safe social distancing protocols.”

“In the event that the ceremonies are not canceled, the order requires that social-distancing and face-covering protocols be enforced,” the spokesperson continued. “With respect to the two receptions, it requires that they be limited to 50 people or canceled.”

An invitation being widely circulated had beckoned members of the Satmar community to the village an hour north of Manhattan for the Monday evening union of two members of prominent ultra-Orthodox families.

Word of the nuptials surfaced just a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the organizers of another rogue celebration that drew thousands of maskless guests to a synagogue in Brooklyn.

Typically, weddings of this sort are massive affairs that would be banned under New York State rules that limit gatherings at private residences to 10 people and religious gatherings below normal capacity.

Yetev Lev has already run afoul of the rules once before. In September, the county health department sent a warning letter that said: “It has come to our attention that your Congregation is operating without maintaining appropriate social distancing or the wearing of face coverings… and it operating in a way which endangers those inside the Congregation and those that they come in contact with.”

It was not immediately clear what steps beyond the order the state planned to take to make

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