London police shuts down COVID-19 Jewish wedding with 400 attendees

Police in London broke up an illegal wedding party with 400 participants that was held at a Jewish haredi (ultra-Orthodox) school.
The organizers of Thursday’s wedding at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, which violated emergency measures put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, are facing a fine of $12,000 each, the Jewish News of London reported. Five guests were given a $220 fine.
The school’s principal, Avroham Pinter, died of the coronavirus in April 2020.
Yesodey Hatorah’s management said in a statement that they were “horrified” by the incident and were not responsible for it.
“We lease our hall to an external organization which manages all lettings and, as such, we had no knowledge that the wedding was taking place. We have terminated the agreement with immediate effect,” management said.
The wedding is the latest in a series of large events held in Orthodox Jewish communities in violation of local rules designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Jewish weddings caused tension in London during the pandemic’s first wave last spring and summer, while hasidic newspapers in New York and Israel have documented steps taken to escape detection by authorities while holding large weddings. An oversized but not massive wedding this fall in Chicago divided the Orthodox community there.

The United Kingdom, where nearly 100,000 people have died from the virus and a highly contagious new strain has become dominant, is under lockdown. Everyone within the country’s borders is forbidden to meet others from outside their household.
“We unreservedly condemn this flagrant and disgraceful breach of COVID-19 regulations, which goes against Jewish teaching that preserving life is of the highest value,” Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said in a statement Friday.
Chief Rabbi of the UK Ephraim Mirvis called the incident “a most shameful desecration of all that we hold dear” in a Friday tweet and said that the majority of the Jewish community in the UK is opposed to it.


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson supported the police and said that those who broke the rules did so “flagrantly and selfishly.”  British interior minister Priti Patel said on Thursday that fines would increase to GBP 800 ($1,100) to prevent people from having parties. Health services in the UK are worried that, as the lockdown continues, more and more people are not minding restrictions.   
While police claimed the wedding had 400 guests, a local security guard downplayed the figure and said roughly 100 people were present, BBC reported. The number of guests was reported as 150 by Reuters, which added that police are searching for those who fled the event to fine them.  
The ultra-Orthodox wedding guests reside in the borough of Hackney, where Stamford Hill is. Hackney has 625 confirmed COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people when compared to the average in England of 471, according to BBC.
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville noted that such events happened in the school before and that they are unacceptable. He stressed that meetings will be held with Jewish leaders and community partners to prevent them from happening again, according to Sky News.
This is not the first incident of this nature in Hackney, as mentioned. A man who organized a “large party” at a local synagogue last Saturday will be fined GBP 10,000, The Jewish Chronical reported.


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