A senior Orthodox Jewish rabbi has urged his community to stop holding weddings, after footage emerged of another gathering in north London.
Footage shows at least 30 maskless guests dancing and singing at a wedding in Stamford Hill, which reportedly took place in January.
It comes after a wedding with up to 150 guests was held last month at Yesoday Hatorah Girls Senior School, also in Stamford Hill, prompting a police raid and a £10,000 fine for the organiser.
Weddings are banned under England’s lockdown rules. Ceremonies are only permitted under ‘exceptional circumstances’, such as terminal illness, but are limited to six people.
Following the latest footage, shared by the BBC, Rabbi Herschel Gluck condemned the Covid-flouting celebrations and said weddings ‘should not go on under these circumstances’.
Rabbi Gluck, president of Shromrim a Stamford Hill neighbourhood watch group, said some had ‘sadly overstepped the mark’ but that the ‘majority’ in the community had been following the rules.
He told the broadcaster that weddings are ‘very central in Judaism’, adding: ‘In the Torah the first commandment is “be fruitful and multiply”.
‘It goes to the very core of the Jewish experience. Therefore there is a great need and a great urge to have weddings – but we need to put the brakes on.’
Research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found the Orthodox community’s past infection rates are ‘among the highest reported anywhere in the world’.
The London Orthodox community took part in the study, which showed it had a past infection rate of 64% – nine times higher than the UK average of 7%.
A previous Jewish News investigation found illegal weddings with up to 300 guests have been taking place ‘every day for months’ in London, with one bride at a ceremony testing ‘positive for Covid before getting married’,
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner claimed ‘bespoke legal advice’ had been passed around the community appearing to suggest a way to get around Covid-19 rules to hold weddings.
It was reportedly advised that it would be legitimate for any number of people to attend weddings as they have a prayer element.
Mr Wagner told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It was inaccurate, in quite some significant ways. It just hit the wrong tone, it was really about getting around the rules, rather than keeping to the rules because of the danger of the virus.’
However, the barrister said the guidance has since been revised after rule-breaking gatherings were reported in the media.
He added: ‘The latest advice I’ve seen in the last few days is much better and I think the media attention has told on the individuals who are responsible for it.’
The Interlink Foundation, a body for ultra-Orthodox organisations, said the overwhelming majority in the community were making daily sacrifices in order to stick to the rules.
Joel Friedman, director of public affairs told the BBC: ‘We have worked consistently throughout lockdown with local authorities to promote the guidance and are all disappointed when we hear about actions that put lives at risk.’
Last month, Yesoday Hatorah Girls Senior School said it was ‘absolutely horrified’ about the wedding that took place and ‘condemned it in the strongest terms’.
A spokesperson added: ‘We lease our hall to an external organisation which manages all lettings and, as such, we had no knowledge that the wedding was taking place. We have terminated the agreement with immediate effect.
‘We are investigating how this shocking breach has happened and have no plans to re-lease the premises to any third party’.
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