Orthodox Jewish synagogue fined over secret pandemic wedding

New York (AFP) –


An Orthodox Jewish synagogue has been fined by New York authorities after thousands gathered to attend a secretly organized indoor wedding that violated coronavirus restrictions.

The Hasidic place of worship was fined $15,000 over the November 8 event, which was organized without the knowledge of city officials, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

It is the latest example of tensions between officials and Orthodox communities over social distancing measures imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19, which ravaged Orthodox neighborhoods in the spring.

Last month, an area in Brooklyn witnessed angry protests against localized measures that placed restrictions on places of worship and closed non-essential businesses in an attempt to fend off a second wave of the virus.

City and state leaders said the measures were necessary to stem a surge in infections, which coincided with Orthodox Jews gathering in large numbers to celebrate important holy days.

Members of Orthodox communities said they were being unfairly discriminated against and prevented from practicing their religion.

Last month, under pressure from authorities, Orthodox leaders cancelled another wedding that was expected to have 10,000 guests.

But the latest wedding went ahead at the Yetev Lev temple in Williamsburg after invites were spread by word of mouth, with no posters advertising it on synagogue walls, wrote a Hasidic newspaper that knew about the celebration in advance, according to the New York Times.

The city issued a fine after a video of the wedding showing thousands of attendees singing and dancing without masks circulated on social media.

"It appears that there was a very conscious effort to conceal what was going on. And that's what makes it even more unacceptable," said de Blasio.