Massive, maskless Hasidic wedding in Brooklyn doesn’t get shut down

Coronavirus
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A large, maskless wedding was held in Brooklyn, with the grand rabbi’s son getting married. Despite massive crowds, the event was not shut down.

BOROUGH PARK, Brooklyn — The NYPD was reportedly watching from a distance, as thousands of members of the Hasidic Bobov community arrived for a prominent wedding Monday night in Borough Park, with the grand rabbi’s son marrying his bride in an outdoor parking lot on 48th Street under a chuppah.

Yet hours later, the festivities moved inside for the ceremonial main dance, as the groom’s father, Bobov Grand Rabbi Bentzion Halberstam, 65, celebrated in a white satin robe in the center of Congregation Shaarei Zion synagogue. A massive crowd of maskless men, not socially distanced, clapped from their seats.

It was another example of some in the Hasidic community ignoring the dangers of COVID-19, which has killed many of their friends and family since the pandemic started.

The city was aware the wedding would take place, but it was apparently walking on eggshells, because of recent court rulings that loosened restrictions on religious gatherings.

Jewish leaders had joined forces with the Roman Catholic bishop in Brooklyn in legal challenges to certain COVID-19 restrictions, which had sought to limit attendance at services to a very small number, even in large venues.

However 50% capacity is usually the largest number allowed, and it was clear from videos obtained by PIX11 of the wedding dance that revelers were packed into the synagogue, not socially distancing, and not wearing masks.

PIX11 has been reporting since last spring about large gatherings shut down around the city in every borough because of crowd violations during the pandemic.

“The Diocese of Brooklyn vs. Cuomo changed the landscape,” a law enforcement source told PIX11 News. “The religious ceremony itself is different from a catered event.”

According to the source, officers from the NYPD and the New York City Sheriff’s office were counting the arrivals of Hasidic men Monday evening, before the ceremonial dance inside the synagogue.

Many of the men were wearing masks.

“We actually did a count; we had about 700 inside,” said the source. “The location itself is rated for 1,800 people. With the court decision, the amount of people allowed at the location is 900.”

Yet PIX11 News received other information that tarps covered some areas of the synagogue complex, so it’s possible other people got inside.

The video from inside clearly shows large groups of maskless, Hasidic men in ceremonial Bobov hats sitting shoulder to shoulder, or standing very close together.

When PIX11 News asked New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito for comment, he sent us a statement.

“The Sheriff’s Office and the NYPD were aware and monitored the religious event from outside positions. Our assessment at this time was that the event was compliant with relevant guidelines as determined by recent court decisions.”

In September, a wedding hall was closed down in Queens not long after the Sheriff’s office busted a wedding party of 284 people.

This gathering in Borough Park — with men packed in the synagogue wearing no masks — was much larger.

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