Ultra-Orthodox Sect Hosts Another Superspreader Wedding in Brooklyn

Screenshot / Twitter
Another mammoth wedding was held in the main synagogue of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in Brooklyn on Monday, attended by thousands of mask-free night owls. The celebrations continued until Tuesday.
Shlomo Halberstam, 18, the youngest son of the over a dozen children of Rabbi Bentzion Halberstam, head of the Bobov Hasidic sect, was married to thousands of men in the synagogue parking lot before the group moved in. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, hundreds of celebrities have traveled from Europe and Israel, which likely increases the risk of coronavirus transmission.
"This was one of the biggest spectators I've ever seen in the synagogue," said Abby Stein, author of the memoir Becoming Eve and a member of the Hasidic community until she came out as a transgender five years ago. Her relatives in Williamsburg and Borough Park are members of the Bobov sect, and she told The Daily Beast that the first of her many visits to the group's main synagogue was as a toddler. She grew up with Shlomo Halberstam. "A wedding is very warm and fuzzy, and I'm not trying to take that away, but I think health comes first."
Although the wedding had thousands of attendees, it was a relatively small proposition, according to Stein.
"You can see videos of the groom's siblings' weddings in even larger locations than this. This is a relatively scaled-down version. That's probably why it was in the synagogue rather than a rented venue," she said.
"There is no doubt that this isn't the safest way to celebrate. I don't want to downgrade it. It's a beautiful celebration. In normal times, a community can make a living from it. It's the talk of the town for a week before and everyone is excited. But religiously there is no argument for having more than 10 people, ”said Stein.
The Israeli news site JDN published two versions of a story about the wedding. An issue released on Monday described the secrecy required to plan such an event, far from the prying eyes of local authorities trying to enforce the law. The replacement article posted the next day described the wedding as small, intimate, and in line with the restrictions of the coronavirus. Although guests were warned not to record the event, videos apparently recorded during the wedding and posted on Twitter and YouTube documented the celebrations as massive.
Stein said wedding attendees communicated through word of mouth, synagogue announcements, or Yiddish newsletters. She estimates that half of the community never uses the internet. their own 12 siblings, 10 not, nor their parents.
New York Hasidic leaders have disregarded and disregarded precautions and regulations intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus during the pandemic. Several synagogues in New York have held secret but gigantic weddings, and community leaders have stood up to those who exposed and criticized their actions. As a result, COVID-19 has hit ultra-Orthodox enclaves harder than other parts of the state.
“April was really bad. At their peak they had three or four pages of names only in the main Yiddish newspaper, sometimes hundreds of people died every week, ”Stein said. "This is a community that really doesn't like being told what to do and if you try they'll just fight you back."
Stein said the Bobov sect adhered to health guidelines at the start of the pandemic.
"They were one of the first churches to be completely closed," she said. “But what happened is pandemic fatigue in an isolated community. It is not intentional to be bad and not care about your health, but they will find an excuse like herd immunity or not talk about it and choose not to live in prison. "
New York tries to end potential superspreader wedding
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted the first iteration of the JDN article as saying, “It is a difficult task to organize a mass wedding in such turbulent days. Even if you've managed to find a respectable venue, the heart is not at peace as you are at risk of whistleblowing at all times and the police are on their way to the location and the celebration subsides. If there are concerns in Israel, all the more so in the United States of America. "
Tuesday's story praised the sect's head: “JDN News has learned that the wedding will be very limited due to the situation, and notes that the Rebbe is very strict in the instructions and is one of the first to do so have ordered the closure of the Hasidim's Torah institutions to protect against the virus. Thousands of Bobov followers from around the world will celebrate from home the joy of the great wedding, the joy of the Rebbe's youngest son, who will be married at a good and successful time. The hearts of thousands of followers are full of excitement. "
So far, the authorities do not seem to have intervened in the celebration.
"Our assessment at this point is that the event was in line with applicable guidelines," New York Sheriff Joe Fucito told the New York Post.
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