Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, Satmar Hasidic leader, tests positive for COVID-19


(JTA) — Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, leader of a faction of the Satmar Hasidic community, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Yeshiva World News.

Teitelbaum, who is in his late 60s, is apparently showing mild symptoms, according to the site.

Teitelbaum, who is based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is not the first Hasidic leader to test positive for the virus. His own brother and leader of a rival faction of the Satmar Hasidic community, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, tested positive for COVID-19 back in March.

The Satmar community has been implicated in a number of large gatherings over the last several months, in defiance of state and city guidelines meant to minimize the spread of COVID-19. In November, a large wedding for one of Zalman’s grandchildren was downsized after plans for it drew public scrutiny.

Later that month, a grandchild of Aaron Teitelbaum married in a massive wedding that was held in secret — and later detailed in an article by his faction’s Yiddish-language newspaper.  Even after both weddings were publicized and denounced by elected officials, large weddings continued to be held in Kiryas Joel, Aaron’s base.

In a speech given at a post-wedding celebration and printed on flyers posted in Hasidic neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Aaron struck a tone of defiance.

“We won’t surrender. We won’t close down. And indeed, we didn’t close down, neither the boys’ schools, nor the girls’ schools, nor the yeshivas. Neither the large ones nor the small ones. Everything proceeded as usual,” he said. “God came to our aid, and the authorities realized they were dealing with a stubborn people.”

Just days before Teitelbaum’s diagnosis Sunday, thousands were set to gather at a Thursday night event memorializing a Satmar leader who died weeks earlier and whose funeral attracted thousands. And on Sunday, WhatsApp alit with pictures of Zalman dancing with hundreds of his followers at the dedication of a new Torah scroll on Saturday night. Few if any in attendance could be seen wearing masks.

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