A leading Charedi rabbi in north London has said the city’s strictly Orthodox community is no worse than any other for adhering to social distancing rules, despite police being called to break up outdoor prayer meetings.
Rabbi Avroham Pinter, the principal of a large Charedi school in Stamford Hill and a trustee of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, argued that strictly Orthodox Jews were, if anything, better at staying indoors than other communities.
“When doing essential shopping on Stamford Hill I noticed that the number of people from the Charedi community was low, much less than that of any other community,” he said, speaking to Jewish News.
Police were called earlier after photos of Orthodox men in an outdoor minyan were posted on social media, despite Jewish doctors having warned the Charedi community not to gather.
The number of Orthodox Jews obeying the social distancing rules was “extremely high,” said Pinter, but there were “those who are ignoring it are a very small minority who, for unknown reasons, choose to put themselves and others at risk”.
However, he added: “This is very similar to the situation in the general public. The police have to encourage and remind people of the importance of adhering to the rules. These percentages are approximately the same.”
He said: “I would like to reiterate that, both from a common law perspective as well as a Halachic (Jewish religious law) perspective, public health must be taken most seriously and all the guidelines must be strictly adhered to.”
Police confirmed they had “become aware of small number of religious meetings in Stamford Hill” after more than a dozen men were seen standing close to one another outside a synagogue.
A police spokesperson said officers “engaged with the community and are encouraging them to follow the government’s very clear instruction to stay at home… This precludes gatherings of more than two people and includes places of worship.”
Jewish doctors last week warned against outdoor minyanim, adding that “a disproportionate number of the Jewish community” had been infected by the novel coronavirus.
In Israel 50 percent of cases have so far come from the Charedi community, despite Charedi Jews comprising only ten percent of Israel’s population. Prominent Charedi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky urged followers to pray alone and not attend a minyan.