Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has warned that it is “indefensible and … disgraceful” to flout the UK’s ban on public gatherings during the lockdown.
The faith leader called on the community to abide by the UK’s rules to halt the spread of the virus in his weekly d’var Torah, broadcast online on Tuesday.
“Our shuls are closed, we’re not gathering in numbers to perform the mitzvot that we should within a minyan because we value life, we don’t want the carrying out of mitzvot to present a danger to life,” he said in the clip.
He added: “When a group of people gather together in a quorum in order to perform a mitzvah such as the celebration of a marriage or the staging of a Tefillah service in a minyan and it is a breach of law, they are in endangering their lives, they are endangering the lives of others and they are causing a terrible Chillul Hashem – a desecration of God’s name. It is indefensible and it is disgraceful.”
WATCH: The Chief Rabbi explains why the Torah forbids weddings, gatherings for prayer, etc. during the current…
Rabbi Mirvis’s stark message came after the Metropolitan Police issued a prohibition notice on a shul in Hackney on Monday.
Detective Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, the BCU Commander for Hackney and Tower Hamlets, said in a statement: “My officers have continued to engage and explain the current guidelines to those involved and that the synagogue, by continuing to open and operate, is going against clear government coronavirus social distancing restrictions.
“The overwhelming majority of people in London are doing exactly what the Government sets out, which is to stay at home, protect our National Health Service and save lives. Following weeks of engagement and discussions, enforcement action has now had to be taken.”
“Enforcement has always been our very last resort and we have worked closely with faith leaders, local authority partners and wider community groups to encourage adherence to the Government guidelines throughout the lockdown period. My officers have been very clear that whilst enforcement is a last resort, if venues continually breach the restrictions and do not follow Government & Public Health England advice to close, further action may be necessary and taken.”
Reports of a wedding, held last week in Golders Green, also sparked outcry, after photos and footage were circulated on social media.
In the US, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio faced criticism over a tweet condemning those flouting the lockdown, which appeared to single out the entire Jewish community.
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” de Blasio wrote on Tuesday. “I have instructed the NYPD [New York City Police Department] to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”
The mayor had earlier expressed frustration over reports of a large funeral service in the city’s Williamsburg area.
In response, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote: “Hey @NYCMayor, there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC. The few who don’t social distance should be called out — but generalizing [sic] against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are scapegoating Jews. This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever.”