Mayor's open letter to Charedi community: stay away from large events to keep safe
The Mayor of Hackney has written an open letter to members of the Charedi Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, in response to an illegal wedding at Yesodey Hatorah School last week, and further reports in the media today of many large-scale weddings taking place behind closed doors in various venues.
The letter, which is co-signed by the Borough Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, and Hackney's Director of Public Health, Dr Sandra Husbands, emphasises the significant risk to life of holding or attending mass gatherings and has wide support from the community. It will be delivered today to every Charedi home in the borough with local community newsheet, Heimishe.
The most recent media reports are absolutely shocking. And, if true, demonstrates that a small - but significant and selfish minority - of the community have a total disregard for their own safety, and that of their family and friends. I am in absolutely no doubt that if regular, mass gatherings have been taking place, as described, lives will have been lost as a direct result. And our local health services will have been directly impacted.
The vast majority of our local Charedi population have been following lockdown guidelines, and are as angry, shocked and upset by recent events as I am. I appreciate the efforts undertaken by many individuals and organisations within the Charedi community to communicate Government and local guidance clearly and keep the community safe from harm, while supporting each other and protecting life. It is very clear that Government guidance says that no wedding with more than six individuals present should be taking place anywhere in Hackney and we will be making that even clearer in the coming days.
However, we are also aware that the Charedi community is highly visible and vulnerable to anti-semitism, which we know has been on the rise in recent years, and that the high profile of this incident has made many feel anxious.
We have emphasised our strong partnerships with the community, and that the Council and the Police are here to enforce the rules, but also protect them from anti-semitism and any other abuse or threats.
The Council’s leadership this week has been listening to residents from all communities and meeting with key partners, including community organisations, Yesodey Hatorah School and the Rabbinate to discuss recent events. In every discussion we have emphasised how unacceptable these events are and how the Council will redouble our efforts to work with the police, Government and local people to keep not just the Charedi community, but everyone in Hackney safe. We will provide more updates on this work next week.
Alongside other east London council leaders and mayors, the Mayor wrote to faith leaders earlier this month and joined Hackney’s Faith Forum to ask them to work together to pause communal worship in response to rising case rates.
He wrote: “One key strategy to reduce Covid-19 infection rates is to pause communal
worship and this is something many local places of worship are either already doing or are actively considering.
“None of us want to see places of faith or their facilities close to communal worship, but these are challenging times and we must do all that we can to protect the most vulnerable in our communities and reduce pressure on the NHS.”