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As revelations continue to emerge about the extent to which charedim in London’s Stamford Hill have broken Covid rules during the pandemic, a woman told The Jewish Press why she attended the illegal bar mitzvah of her nephew in August with a “heavy heart.”

She said, “We knew when the pandemic and the lockdown started that we had an upcoming bar mitzvah. His parents had waited more than 10 years for an only child and they had been planning the bar mitzvah from the minute he was born. It was the only simcha they would ever make. It was a very big dilemma.

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“Because of the community they belonged to, they went ahead with the plan and made the bar mitzvah. When we received the invitation, the dilemma became even bigger. We were invited as very close family.

“Every day we grappled with whether to go or not, to maybe just say mazel tov at the door and then leave, or stay for a bit.”

She added, “Things are very sensitive in families. Finally, when the day arrived, with a heavy heart, we did go with the firm resolution that we would not break the boundaries of social distancing and that we would not hug or shake hands with anybody and wear facemasks.

“That was the plan, but we did not wear masks. We did feel going was wrong. We knew we shouldn’t have done it. But it was a very difficult decision.”

The Jewish News recently reported that more than 50 charedi weddings took place in London during the lockdown. Lookouts were used to raise the alarm in case police showed up and money was set aside to pay for fines.

The Jewish News was told that illegal weddings with up to 200 guests, sometimes several daily, have been occurring for 10 months. At one wedding the bride was reportedly Covid-positive.

Police were reported to have mostly “turned a blind eye” when called to simcha venues.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said, “Coronavirus cases remain high in Hackney and it is utterly deplorable that people are making an active choice to put their own lives and the lives of others at risk by hosting illegal mass gatherings.

“Staff at the Homerton [Hospital] and across the NHS are overwhelmed with the amount of cases. Those who are continuing to flout the rules are showing clear disregard for the tireless work of the NHS and key workers.”

He threatened further fines.

Members of the Stamford Hill Jewish community are calling for a boycott of the Jewish News in response to the report.

 

Ofsted Marks Down Schools That Won’t Teach Sensitive Topics

Despite the pandemic, Ofsted has been inspecting schools that were previously rated inadequate. Two of these, Gateshead Cheder Primary School and Manchester’s Yeshiva Ohr Torah, were marked down again for failing to teach LGBT subjects. Both schools refused to discuss the issue with their pupils.

 

Report: One-Third Of British Charedim Had Covid

A report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests that more than a third of British charedim contracted Covid – one of the highest rates in the world. Three-quarters of charedi secondary school and half of primary school children are believed to have been infected.

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Doreen Wachmann served as a senior reporter and columnist for Britain’s Jewish Telegraph newspaper for more than 20 years.