On Friday, the Belgian authorities issued a directive to close down all Christian, Muslim and Jewish prayer houses, as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Rabbi Aharon Schiff, the Av Beit Din of the Haredi community in Antwerp, Belgium, issued a halachic ruling to obey the authorities, which most of the 40 synagogues in the city followed, moving services and celebrations (there were 4 Aufruf simchas this past Shabbat) to limited quarters in private homes (which is still permissible in Belgium).
Seven shuls, however, did not obey both secular and religious authorities’ instructions, according to reports on Rotter, possibly because the drastic instructions came so suddenly, and the congregations in question did not have time to prepare accordingly.
And so, on Shabbat morning, Antwerp police raided these seven shuls in which Jews had gathered for services in contravention of government directives, and dispersed them.
In the shul of Rabbi Leibish Leiser, the third Rebbe of Pshevorsk, the police arrived before the start of services, but discovered that the doors had been locked from the inside. They eventually managed to get in through the ladies’ section and proceeded to scatter all the men, who were in the middle of the Torah reading. The Rebbe was smuggled to his room with a minyan.
At the Satmar seminary, police arrived during the kiddush following the prayer service, and dispersed the crowd. Police also raided the Belz-Machnovka synagogue and the Vizhnitz seminary.
Antwerp police warned officials at the raided synagogues that next time each participant would be fined 350 euros ($390).