Rabbi who ‘got around’ Covid rules in charge of Stamford Hill virus cooperation
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Rabbi who ‘got around’ Covid rules in charge of Stamford Hill virus cooperation

EXCLUSIVE: Rabbi Yossi Teitelbaum advised that gatherings with 'as many guests as one likes' were 'permitted', when people were banned from mixing with anyone outside their house.

Screenshot from Jewish News' video last week, in which police were filmed intervening at a Charedi wedding. Rabbi Yossi Teitelbaum is believed to be pictured top right with his hands outstretched.
Screenshot from Jewish News' video last week, in which police were filmed intervening at a Charedi wedding. Rabbi Yossi Teitelbaum is believed to be pictured top right with his hands outstretched.

A rabbi accused of advising strictly-Orthodox Jews how to bypass Covid-19 laws has been put in charge of “Covid coordination” by the community’s main umbrella group.

Rabbi Yossi Teitelbaum was handed the responsibility by the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations last month, despite his advice in December – purportedly “legal advice” – as having been described by experts as “riddled with errors”.

In a newsletter delivered to thousands of homes across the community, Teitelbaum said educational and religious gatherings, charity events, work meetings, and life-cycle events were all “permitted activities” allowing “as many guests as one likes”.

He said venue managers were “not responsible” if people refuse to wear masks inside, “extended bubbles” could allow get-togethers “as big as you like with no distancing”, shop workers could say they “work in the back” to avoid masks, and post-marriage parties were within the definition of communal worship.

In a section on the police, he wrote that officers “broke the law in many situations already and they need to be held to account,” without explaining what laws the police had broken.

He added: “They have NO powers of entry. If a door is open and they enter you should ask them polite but firmly to step outside… If the police suspect an unlawful gathering they can get a warrant.”

Teitelbaum also said: “The only time the law specifically requires us to keep proper two-metre social distancing is weddings of strictly 15 people – the type of chasineh which no-one is interested in having anyway – and funerals.”

Barrister Adam Wagner said Teitelbaum’s advice was “wrong and irresponsible” and would “lead to people getting £10,000 fines and worse”.

Teitelbaum’s most recent advice note on Covid restrictions, published two weeks ago, garnered praise for its markedly different tone and content, including his strong encouragement for community members to wear masks and avoid mingling.

A friend of Teitelbaum’s, who did not wish to be named, said: “He means well. His advice has changed a lot since December. I think he realised how it came across. His goal was to give hope and encouragement to families who had been stuck inside for the month of November, possibly with 8-9 kids.”

Told about Teitelbaum’s new Covid coordination role, however, Wagner said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to have Rabbi Teitelbaum anywhere near Covid coordination for the strictly Orthodox community.

‘Legal advice’ handed out by Yossi Teitelbaum

“In his leaflets, which have been given to thousands of people, he painted a picture that the rules are there not to protect us from a deadly virus but to be got around.”

Wagner, a top human rights lawyer who advises a Parliamentary committee on Covid-19, said: “It’s a bit like putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop. Unfortunately, he [Teitelbaum] exemplifies a real attitudinal problem [towards this pandemic] in parts of the strictly Orthodox community.

“You saw that in the tone of his leaflets, as well as in the content. It’s really irresponsible. I can’t understand it and have not seen anything like that during this pandemic. It’s brazen.”

On 10 December London was in Tier 2 – “high alert” level. A maximum of six could meet outdoors, but people were not allowed to mix indoors with anyone outside their household or support bubble. Social distancing rules had to be followed “at all times” and weddings were limited to 15 guests.

Rabbi Teitelbaum has been approached for comment.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments