Photo Credit: NBC4-TV screen grab via YouTube
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

CORRECTION: The original report and title stated that Eliyohu Zaks and Shaul Kuperwasser were “arrested”. According to Patch.com, both Kuperwasser and Zaks were charged with a maintaining a nuisance, and Lakewood Police Capt. Gregory Staffordsmith said that Kuperwasser and Zaks have pending court dates.

Lakewood Police have charged Eliyohu Zaks, 49, with “maintaining a nuisance” after he hosted a pop-up wedding of more than 50 people at a home in the community against the COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions set by New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy.

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Zaks was charged on Friday after he hosted the wedding at his home on Spruce Street in Lakewood. A second person, Shaul Kuperwasser, 43, was also charged for a similar reason. In both cases, the gatherings prompted phone calls to the authorities from those who resent the presence of Orthodox Jews in the community – an escalating source of tensions in recent years.

Lakewood Police Capt. Gregory Staffordsmith said that Kuperwasser and Zaks have pending court dates.

“The Lakewood Police is asking that its citizens be responsible and obey the directives set forth by the State of New Jersey for the safety and health of all. Those that choose not to will be subject to criminal prosecution,” police said in a statement.

Last week the governor had banned gatherings of 50 and up, as part of an effort to stop the spread of the pandemic. However, Murphy signed an executive order Saturday morning to implement a lockdown of nearly all nine million of the state’s residents to “simply stay at home.”

“All gatherings are canceled,” Murphy said in a statement via Twitter on Saturday. “ALL non-essential retail businesses must indefinitely close their physical stores to the public effective 9:00 pm [Saturday night].”

Murphy explained at the news briefing Saturday afternoon that his executive order included weddings, parties and all other events as well. For a complete list of businesses allowed to remain open, he said, click here.

“This decision is not an easy one, and it pains me that important life moments will not be celebrated in the way we are accustomed to,” Murphy said. “I know this will be disappointing to many residents, but my singular goal, our singular goal… is to make sure we get through this emergency.

“I’ve signed an Executive Order stating clearly that the rules I have laid out supersedes all other orders issued by county or municipal officials. We must be on one page and reading from the same playbook as one state. Period.”

Murphy also mandated the “indefinite closure of all municipal, county and state public libraries, as well as libraries and computer labs at public and private higher education institutions.

The New Jersey National Guard was mobilized to support state and local authorities.

There were 1,327 confirmed cases of the virus in the State of New Jersey as of Saturday evening, the governor reported in a tweet, including 16 people who had died from the virus.

By the week’s end, Governor Gavin Newsom of the State of California had also ordered all 39.5 million residents of that state into lockdown.

Across the United States, there were a total of more than 22,000 confirmed cases of the virus as of Saturday afternoon, with a death toll of 280 victims reported nationwide.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.