An illegal Jewish wedding broken up by police in London on Thursday took place at a school whose principal died of COVID-19 last year.
Rabbi Avrohom Pinter died in April at the age of 71. When the British government ordered a lockdown that month to slow the spread of coronavirus, Pinter went door-to-door in northeast London to deliver the public health warning to the ultra-Orthodox Jews in his community. Within days, he had caught the disease and died.
A spokesman for the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in the UK capital’s Stamford Hill neighborhood has said it had “no knowledge that the wedding was taking place,” and added that management were “absolutely horrified about [the] event and condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
On Thursday Metropolitan Police said 400 people attended the wedding at the school, some of whom fled when officers arrived.
The wedding-goers had covered the windows of the building to prevent people from seeing inside, police added.
Five people were fined £200 ($273) and police said they were weighing a £10,000 ($13,663) fine for the wedding organizer.
The UK’s chief rabbi slammed the gathering as a “shameful desecration.”
Pinter and his wife, Rachel, were instrumental in building up the Yesodey Hatorah school. He was the principal and she set the academic trends, introducing the concept of students taking a broad range of advanced exams and striving for excellence. Rachel died in 2014.
According to the BBC, the school serves as a coronavirus testing center on Sundays.
A police commander slammed the wedding as “a completely unacceptable breach of the law” and the mayor of the London borough where Stamford Hill is located denounced the event.
“We will be meeting with the Rabbinate and our community partners over the coming days to see how we can prevent further incidents of this nature,” Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville was quoted saying in a police statement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed the police for “taking action against people who flagrantly and selfishly ignore the rules”, his spokesman said. “Large gatherings such as that pose a health risk, not just to those who attend but those who they live with or others who they may come into contact with.”
The wedding came as England is weeks into its third national lockdown, with schools and non-essential shops closed for the foreseeable future due to surging infections.
On Thursday, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced police will be able to issue bigger fines to those breaking coronavirus lockdown measures by partying.
The new fines regime, which comes into force next week, targets those attending house parties and other illegal gatherings, with penalties doubling for each offense.