Council leaders and police commanders penned a rare public letter to the strictly Orthodox community on Thursday and sent a copy to almost every Charedi household, following Jewish News’ reporting.
Accompanying the local community newssheet ‘Heimishe’, the letter warned Jewish families against organising or attending weddings during the national coronavirus lockdown, after the scale and regularity of breaches were revealed.
Thursday’s laying-down-the-law letter was signed by Mayor of Hackney Phil Glanville, Borough Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, and Hackney’s Director of Public Health, Dr Sandra Husbands.
It emphasises the “significant risk to life” of holding or attending mass gatherings and the three senior figures said that message had “wide support from the community”.
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Referring to revelations in this week’s Jewish News, Glanville described them as “absolutely shocking”, adding: “If true, it demonstrates that a small but significant and selfish minority of the community have a total disregard for their own safety, and that of their family and friends.”
He added: “I am in absolutely no doubt that if regular, mass gatherings have been taking place, as described, lives will have been lost as a direct result. And our local health services will have been directly impacted.
“The vast majority of our local Charedi population have been following lockdown guidelines, and are as angry, shocked and upset by recent events as I am.
“I appreciate the efforts undertaken by many individuals and organisations within the Charedi community to communicate Government and local guidance clearly and keep the community safe from harm, while supporting each other and protecting life.
“It is very clear that Government guidance says that no wedding with more than six individuals present should be taking place anywhere in Hackney and we will be making that even clearer in the coming days.
“However, we are also aware that the Charedi community is highly visible and vulnerable to anti-semitism, which we know has been on the rise in recent years, and that the high profile of this incident has made many feel anxious.”
The Council said meetings were being held between elected local leaders, the Rabbinate, and Governors at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, one of the venues revealed to be hosting large and illegal weddings.
“In every discussion we have emphasised how unacceptable these events are and how the Council will redouble our efforts to work with the police, Government and local people to keep not just the Charedi community, but everyone in Hackney safe,” said Glanville. “We will provide more updates on this work next week.”
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