$15K fine for NYC synagogue with 7,000 person capacity after massive secret wedding

A Brooklyn synagogue was fined $15,000 for violating coronavirus restrictions after a video surfaced showing people standing shoulder-to-shoulder and apparently without masks at a massive, secret Hasidic wedding.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the fine at a news conference on Tuesday and condemned the large event as “unacceptable.”

The wedding was held on Nov. 8 at Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue in the Williamsburg neighborhood, according to the New York Post, which published a video that showed the crowd jumping, dancing and singing during the event. The video does not show people wearing masks.

Calls to the synagogue on Wednesday were not immediately returned.

Worshipers gather outside Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue in Brooklyn, N.Y. , on Oct. 19, 2020.John Lamparski / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

The synagogue holds up a maximum capacity of 7,000 people, although it’s unclear exactly how many were at the wedding.

The mayor said Tuesday that they are still trying to determine the final number of attendees.

“What we do know is unquestionably it was too many people,” he said. “Whatever that number — whether it was hundreds, thousands — it was too many people. And it appears that there was a very conscious effort to conceal what was going on. And that’s what makes it even more unacceptable.”

Organizers kept details of the wedding planning a secret as to not draw attention, according to The New York Times, citing the weekly Yiddish newspaper Der Blatt. Guests were told about the upcoming nuptials through word of mouth and no posters or notices about the wedding were left on the synagogue walls, the Times reported.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that a wedding was stopped at the synagogue before and if they kept this one a secret to avoid that happening again “that would be really shocking.”

“It’s illegal. It was also disrespectful to the people of New York,” Cuomo said.

De Blasio said that in addition to the fine a cease and desist letter was placed on the building, and if they are found to be in violation of restrictions again, the synagogue would be shut down permanently.

“We don’t want to see that happen to anyone, but we need to be very, very clear that if folks are doing something dangerous we can’t allow it to happen,” the mayor said.

The wedding was held as New York, and every other state across the country, grapples with a rise Covid-19 cases. In an update Cuomo posted on Wednesday, New York reported 6,265 positive cases and 41 deaths.

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City issues $15K fine, denounces Satmar wedding that flouted Covid regulations

Men walk past the Yetev Lev temple in New York.

Men walk past the Yetev Lev temple Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. | Frank Franklin II/AP

The congregation that hosted an indoor wedding where more than 1,000 maskless guests celebrated in cramped quarters is being hit with a $15,000 fine for the “amazingly irresponsible” event, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Inside City Hall Monday night.

The city’s health department also sent the congregation, Yetev Lev D’Satmar in Williamsburg, a written warning about future indoor gatherings.

“There are clear rules in place to save lives across the city. This gathering was not only illegal, it was deeply immoral as lives were put at risk in a blatant disregard of the law and public health,” mayoral spokesperson Bill Neidhardt told POLITICO. “There must be consequences for that.”

The wedding drew condemnations from several people running for the City Council seat representing the Satmar sect in Williamsburg. But one high-profile candidate declined to blame the community, which has been repeatedly cited in the media for Covid-19 violations and also comprises an influential voting bloc in that district.

City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi sent the congregation’s leader a cease-and-desist letter condemning the Nov. 8 wedding, which was reported in the New York Post over the weekend.

The article included video of attendants singing and dancing side by side, with nary a mask in sight. It also pointed out that next door to the Hooper Street building is a city firehouse. The FDNY, tasked with checking buildings for pandemic violations, told the Post it was not notified to conduct an inspection.

The wedding was held “in violation of numerical limitations of attendees and without adhering to required physical distancing of six feet and the requirement of wearing face coverings if individuals are closer than six feet,” Chokshi wrote.

He further described the wedding as “an act that is dangerous to human life or detrimental to health,” in accordance with the city’s nuisance law.

The letter cited orders put forth by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, including one issued on June 6 limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, as long as the site’s maximum capacity is double that.

Chokshi slapped the synagogue with a $15,000 fine, citing the mayor’s Oct. 10 executive order regulating nonessential gatherings, and warned congregants to avoid similar events.

The wedding became an issue in the crowded race for the 33rd Council district, which includes Williamsburg.

“They knew it wouldn’t be allowed because they arranged it surreptitiously. A flagrant disregard for safety,” Council candidate Ben Solotaire told POLITICO. “Everyone has sacrificed in the pandemic and the Hasidic community should do no less.”

He recommended the city consider further charges if any future cases of Covid-19 are traced to this wedding, and suggested mask giveaways in the neighborhood.

“My concern is that people from outside the Satmar community are seen to not have a legitimate opinion as to what happens in the Satmar community,” Victoria Cambranes, another Council candidate, said. “Are

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