State Curbs Guest List for Chasidic Wedding in Brooklyn


(JTA) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration ordered a preemptive limit on guests at Monday’s wedding in Williamsburg for a grandchild of the influential Satmar Grand Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitlebaum.

As many as 10,000 people were expected to gather for the wedding at Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar.

On Friday, State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker ordered “the owners or occupants of the venue to immediately cancel or postpone any event in excess of the 50 person gathering limit,” state officials said. CBS reported that authorities are worried that guests will also gather outside the building without following social distancing guidelines.

Rockland County, where many Satmar followers live, is in one of state’s “red” zones, with an 11.26% positivity rate reported Friday.

In a statement Sunday, Cong. Yetev Lev D’Satmar said that as a result of the publicity and the “unwarranted attacks” surrounding the event, the plans had been changed to include only close family members. Previously, the statement said, the plan had been to include close family members for the indoor ceremony but then allow others guests to extend their greetings for a short period of time, and in accord with social distancing guidelines.

“Its sad that nobody verified our plans before attacking us,” the statement said.

Later on Sunday, the congregation leadership said the wedding would be a “very limited affair,” and offered a live feed  through the movement’s “Ma’areches Satmar” telephone system. Internet use is sharply limited in the community.

The wedding follows close on the Covid death Friday of Mayer Rispler, 70, a prominent Satmar lay leader who called for Orthodox Jews to follow New York City’s health regulations during the pandemic’s first wave this spring. According to Vos Iz Neias, an Orthodox news site, he had been placed on a ventilator in late September, as infection rates were rising in the city’s Orthodox neighborhoods.

While Rispler was hospitalized, city and state officials imposed restrictions on “red zones” with many infections, causing some Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn who burned masks in the street to protest their sense of being singled out by the rules.

Rispler had backed the city’s handling of the pandemic in April, after a large funeral for a rabbi who died of COVID-19 prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to lash out at the community in a widely criticized tweet. Rispler defended the mayor and called for compliance with government health regulations.

“We do not condone any behavior that puts people at risk and pledge to keep working alongside the brave men and women of the NYPD in addressing and eliminating any such occurrences,” Rispler wrote at the time.

Rispler was an accountant and a major donor to Satmar institutions in Williamsburg. His funeral was held there Friday.