WILLIAMSBURG, Brooklyn — A huge group of Satmar Hasidim packed into their Williamsburg synagogue Saturday night, with no masks or social distancing evident, to celebrate the arrival of a new Torah at the site.
The gathering seemed to be about 2,000 strong, with Grand Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum — who had COVID-19 last March — presiding over the event at the Hooper Street location near Marcy Avenue.
#New Despite the arrival of COVID19 #variants in NYC, this Satmar synagogue was packed Saturday night in Brooklyn to celebrate the arrival of a new Torah. A Satmar advocate who’s been questioned about lack of mask wearing said “It’s enough already.” pic.twitter.com/5FGszHE4Dd— Mary Murphy (@MurphyPIX) February 21, 2021
His faction of Satmar is based in the community of Kiryas Joel upstate, but Teitelbaum has a large following in Williamsburg, so sources said a party was held to welcome the handwritten parchment that was donated to the synagogue.
The person who sent the video to PIX11 News indicated some Hasidim are taking advantage of the Supreme Court ruling which relaxed some restrictions on religious gatherings.
“The fact is: The Supreme Court decision clearly states there needs to be social distancing and masking,” the source, a member of a different Hasidic faction in Brooklyn, said.
Some Hasidic organizations joined a lawsuit filed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn when New York State was severely restricting attendance at religious services, even when a large venue would allow for more than 25 people, when social distancing was followed.
Other videos from this Saturday party were posted on the website AhBlinkLive.com, with the date of the event stamped in Yiddish on a calendar.
PIX11 reached out to Isaac Abraham, a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, who has dealt with the media a long time.
He was annoyed that large Satmar gatherings continue to make headlines.
“Why is every Jewish wedding political, but when they’re dancing in the streets for Biden, it’s OK?” Abraham asked.
When PIX11 mentioned to Abraham that the novel coronavirus could be mutating, with variants now showing up in New York City, he replied, “We are doing whatever has to be done. We’ll most likely be vaccinated.”
Abraham mocked the shifting guidance on masks, with the latest recommendation from New York City and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House Task Force suggesting Americans wear two masks for maximum protection.
“They have decided to take John Q. Public as hostages,” Abraham said. “Don’t tell us how to protect our children! It’s enough already. We’re going to celebrate.”
Abraham pointed out that many in his community often get tested before significant events and also donated their plasma after recovering from COVID.
Abraham also made a reference to the upcoming celebration of Purim, where Jewish people wear costumes in a tradition that’s similar to Halloween.
“One thing’s for sure, we’re going to wear masks on Purim,” Abraham said.