New York State Health Services has taken emergency measures to close Monday’s ultra-Orthodox wedding, which could have brought 10,000 guests to Brooklyn, near one of New York’s coronavirus hotspots.
The state health commissioner personally intervened to have the sheriff’s deputies deliver the order to the Hasidic synagogue on Friday, warning that it must adhere to medical protocols, including restrictions on fees for less than 50 people.
On Sunday, the synagogue, the congregation of Etev Lev D’Satmar, accused government officials of “unwarranted attacks”; on the wedding of Zalman Leib’s grandson, Teitelbaum, the synagogue’s rabbi. The congregation said the ceremony and meal would be restricted to “close family members”, while the public would be invited to attend only “for a short period of time”.
The wedding will continue, the synagogue said, but it will be limited to a smaller group of family members. “It is unfortunate that no one confirmed our plans before attacking us,” community secretary Haim Jakobovitz said in a statement.
The state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, took the rare step of personally issuing a so-called Section 16 order that could result in a daily fine of $ 10,000 for violation. During the pandemic, the state issued dozens of orders under section 16.
Dr. Zucker was quick to move forward with his publication because of concern that the state’s usual first course of action, involving the cessation and refusal to write and hear the case, would be too late to prevent a large wedding, according to someone familiar with the action. Late last week, government officials received wedding invitations and confirmed that some guests would be traveling there from state hotspots.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday that a large wedding was too risky and could lead to a so-called proliferation event. Government officials said they had determined that the wedding, which was to take place in Williamsburg, could be attended by up to 10,000 people.
“My suggestion: have a small wedding this year,” Mr Cuomo told a news conference on Sunday. “Have a big wedding next year. Invite me and I will come. ”
The episode highlighted tensions between the governor and the Hasidic community as government officials try to monitor the spread of coronavirus cases in some parts of Brooklyn and Queens and in counties north of New York.
Some Orthodox voices, including a growing faction of hoarse youths, accuse the government of targeting them because of their faith and religious life. Earlier this month, the governor ordered new shutdown restrictions in areas where cases were rising.
Orthodox Jewish leaders announced a large community prayer on Tuesday in response to the wedding termination and broader restrictions. The event, which will take place over the phone, is not a protest, leaders said.
Mr Cuomo said on Sunday that the state’s efforts to fight the outbreaks had been successful in reducing the level of positive in the target areas, which he divided into zones. As of Saturday, the state’s overall infection rate was 1.08 percent, according to the governor, much lower than in other states. But the figure is 3.19 percent in areas with the highest levels of infection, or “red zones,” which include areas near Williamsburg. The synagogue itself is not in a hot place.
“We are so aggressive every time we see a virus pop up – we run and shoot it down,” the governor said of the state’s outbreak control strategy. “It’s exhausting, but effective.”
A number of factors – including distrust of scientific reports and secular authorities, devotion to communal life and dense living conditions – have contributed to the growth of the ultra-Orthodox community in the city.
Although New York State has one of the lowest rates of new cases, health workers are worried about another jump in the colder months, when people stay indoors for a long time and can more easily spread the virus in confined spaces. Mr Cuomo said on Sunday that even relatively small events, such as the Sweet 16 party on Long Island last month, could cause an infectious outbreak.
There were more than 80 guests at the birthday party – more than 50 people – and it led to at least 37 cases and many more people who were forced into quarantine.
In a similar episode, the sheriff’s office in New York said that early Sunday morning, deputies broke up an illegal party of more than 215 people in a banquet hall near the Ozone Park in Queens. Authorities said those present were dancing, not social distancing or masks.
On Sunday, officials reported seven more coronavirus-related deaths in the state, totaling more than 26,440 people.
“We once had the worst problem on earth,” Mr Cuomo said. “The numbers are moving in the right direction.”
Liam Steck contributed to the reporting.