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London police break up 400-person illegal wedding at haredi Jewish school

(JTA) — Police in London broke up an illegal wedding party with 400 participants that was held at a Jewish haredi school.

The organizer of Thursday’s wedding at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, which violated emergency measures put in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, are facing a fine of $12,000 each, the Jewish News of London reported. Five guests were given a $220 fine.

The school’s principal, Avroham Pinter, died of the coronavirus in April 2020.

Yesodey Hatorah’s management in a statement said they were “horrified” by the incident and were not responsible for it.

“We lease our hall to an external organization which manages all lettings and, as such, we had no knowledge that the wedding was taking place. We have terminated the agreement with immediate effect,” management said.

The wedding is the latest in a series of large events held in Orthodox Jewish communities in violation of local rules designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Jewish weddings caused tension in London during the pandemic’s first wave last spring and summer, while Hasidic newspapers in New York and Israel have documented steps taken to escape detection by authorities while holding large weddings. An oversized but not massive wedding this fall in Chicago divided the Orthodox community there.

The United Kingdom, where nearly 100,000 people have died from the virus and a highly contagious new strain has become dominant, is under lockdown. Anyone within the country’s borders are forbidden to meet others from outside their household.

“We unreservedly condemn this flagrant and disgraceful breach of COVID-19 regulations, which goes against Jewish teaching that preserving life is of the highest value,” Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said in a statement Friday.

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