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Days after yeshiva raid, Brooklyn police disperse crowd at synagogue

Williamsburg congregants escorted from site by authorities after breaking regulations against gatherings in places of worship

Illustrative: Police disperse a crowd at a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, on May 20, 2020. (Screenshots from WhatsApp video)
Illustrative: Police disperse a crowd at a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, on May 20, 2020. (Screenshots from WhatsApp video)

JTA — In the latest dustup between New York authorities and Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, police broke up a gathering of at least several dozen men at a Hasidic synagogue on Wednesday morning.

Videos circulating on the messaging app WhatsApp showed police officers holding the doors of a synagogue on South 8th Street in Williamsburg as dozens of men exited the building.

It is unclear if the men had gathered for services or for yeshiva studies, but several of the men carried tefillin, a ritual object used during morning prayers. Both kinds of gatherings are barred under an executive order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The gathering comes as New Yorkers grow increasingly weary of social distancing after two months under a stay-at-home order, and as other parts of the state begin to reopen. Within the ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, several breaches of social distancing, including a large Hasidic funeral that drew thousands into the streets, have led to tensions with city authorities.

This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio called out Jewish violators of distancing rules for a second time in a tweet that his political adversaries, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, are criticizing as unfairly targeting Jews at a time when many New Yorkers are breaking the rules. The mayor also vowed Tuesday to shut down underground schools that he said tipsters had been warning city officials about.

Several parents told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this week that yeshivas have reopened with altered schedules and sometimes in different locations, apparently to evade notice. On Monday, police shut down one yeshiva after officers found more than 60 students in the school, many of whom were without masks and not practicing social distancing.

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