By Philissa Cramer
Weeks after one prominent Satmar wedding was publicly called off amid a backlash over convening guests during the pandemic, members of the Hasidic Orthodox sect held another wedding in Brooklyn that brought together thousands of people.
The Nov. 8 wedding was arranged to avoid detection by secular authorities, according to the New York Post, which first reported about the wedding on Saturday. Photographs published in the Post show Congregation Yetev Lev B’Satmar in Williamsburg packed with guests, in violation of pandemic rules limiting houses of worship to 50% capacity at most, and less in areas with many COVID-19 cases.
“Due to the ongoing situation with government restrictions, preparations were made secretly and discreetly, so as not to draw attention from strangers,” the Satmar newspaper Der Blatt reported, according to the Post’s report.
The previous wedding, for a grandson of Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, the leader of the Satmar faction based in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, was made family-only after Gov. Andrew Cuomo learned about announcements in Yiddish circulating in the community and issued a formal public health order to stop it.
No such announcements were made for the Nov. 8 wedding, of a grandson of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, a leader of a Satmar faction based in Kiryas Joel, a town in upstate New York’s Orange County. “All notices about upcoming celebrations were passed along through word of mouth, with no notices in writing, no posters on the synagogue walls, no invitations sent through the mail, nor even a report in any publication, including this very newspaper,” Der Blatt reported.
Cuomo’s order shutting down the previous wedding came amid escalating tensions between Cuomo and Hasidic Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn at a time when COVID-19 cases were on the rise in several heavily Orthodox neighborhoods. Since then, cases have risen across the city, and Orthodox neighborhoods no longer have the highest proportion of tests coming back positive.
The Nov. 8 wedding took place at the main synagogue in Williamsburg attended by followers of Aaron Teitelbaum. The synagogue’s president, Mayer Rispler, died of COVID-19 in mid-October, after having openly urged his community to follow city and state health rules earlier in the pandemic.
“We do not condone any behavior that puts people at risk and pledge to keep working alongside the brave men and women of the NYPD in addressing and eliminating any such occurrences,” Rispler wrote in May, as tensions between the city and his community escalated after Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized a large Hasidic funeral.