Hundreds pack into Brooklyn study hall and streets for Chasidic rabbi’s funeral
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Hundreds pack into Brooklyn study hall and streets for Chasidic rabbi’s funeral

Religious Jews in New York flouted the rules to mourn the death of rabbi Yechezkel Roth

Screenshots of the funeral and mourning processions
Screenshots of the funeral and mourning processions

Hundreds of men flouted public health rules to crowd into a study hall in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn Sunday afternoon for the funeral of Yechezkel Roth, a Chasidic rabbi who lived in the neighbourhood.

Roth died Sunday morning of a heart attack at 86 years old, according to Hamodia. So many people turned out for his funeral that hundreds could not get into the building and instead gathered in the street outside.

A livestream video of the funeral posted to the local news site BoroPark24 showed men packed tightly into the study hall, with hardly any attendees wearing masks. Coughing can be heard on the livestream.

The funeral is the latest large gathering to take place in Brooklyn’s Chasidic communities, many of which began a return to normal life last summer, long before the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines. The large gatherings — at funerals, weddings and the more regular gatherings at synagogues and study halls — have continued even as New York City struggles with a relatively high COVID test positivity rate of 7.16 percent for the past four weeks.

Screenshot from video posted by ‘boropark24’ news site

The Orthodox community has lost a number of influential rabbis since the start of the pandemic, with several dying of COVID-19. The funerals that follow their deaths have attracted large, unmasked crowds, in a cycle that has fuelled concerns that one death may lead to another.

Roth, who was also known as the Karlsburger Rebbe, was a respected expert on Jewish law and the author of multiple volumes of legal rulings. Roth served as a leader of the Satmar Chasidic community in Jerusalem but later moved to Borough Park at the request of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the original leader of the Satmar Chasidic community in Brooklyn. Even after moving to Brooklyn, Roth continued to spend several months of each year in Israel, where he will be buried.

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