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Two mikvahs operating in Williamsburg despite rabbis’ orders to close

Two Satmar mikvahs are unofficially open despite claims to the contrary, according to WhatsApp messages, videos and eyewitness testimony provided to the Forward.

The videos, taken between 5:30 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. on Tuesday, show Orthodox Jews coming and going from Satmar synagogue buildings on South 8th Street and Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in defiance of rabbinical orders and social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus outbreak. There are mikvahs located inside of the synagogue buildings, and both have signs on the door indicating they are closed.

“Kids are going, elderly are going, middle age, younger, 20-30 year olds — it’s like nothing’s happening,” said an eyewitness, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Some Hasidic men make use of the mikvah before morning prayer.

The eyewitness told the Forward that men, some between 70 and 80 years old, were leaving with wet sidecurls in the early morning hours.

Another source, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, provided WhatsApp messages with individuals in the Satmar community to corroborate the account.

In the Lorimer Street synagogue, the doors appeared to be unlocked, with 30-40 people entering and leaving the building within a 15-20 minute time period, according to the eyewitness.

In the South 8th Street building, visitors knocked and were let in, he said.

“The first shul was just open — people walked in and out, drinking coffee, smoking outside,” said the source, who has prayed in Satmar synagogues for his entire life. “In and out, wet peyot — regular stuff, as if it was a year ago.”

The eyewitness told the Forward he checked on two other synagogues, Kehillas Yakov Pupa Shul on Bedford Avenue and Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar on Hooper Street, and neither had visitors or activity outside.

The Orthodox neighborhoods in Brooklyn have been especially hard-hit by coronavirus, and have come into the spotlight as videos of crowded weddings and funerals continue to circulate despite the social distancing guidelines.

A funeral home in Borough Park asked for help transporting bodies to the cemeteries last week, overwhelmed by the quantity of dead.

On Sunday, New York City police officers dispersed a large funeral crowd for a prominent Borough Park rabbi.

Molly Boigon is an investigative reporter at the Forward. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @MollyBoigon


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