Ultra-Orthodox Jews sang and prayed in Brooklyn on Saturday — often maskless and crowding in the hundreds — as they began Simchat Torah, an annual two-day celebration of the Torah.
“Passover time, we were all on lockdown — most of us got sick, we lost some of the best in the community,” a woman who gave her name as Chaya said at the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, where some 200 worshipers gathered.
Now, “we’re on the other side” of the pandemic, she insisted.
She brushed off as “fake news” the infection spikes recently recorded across a broad swath of central Brooklyn, which Thursday led to strict rules limiting gatherings to under 25 people, or under 10 in the worst so-called “hot spots.”
“The numbers are nothing like they were, also it’s more treatable,” Chaya told a Post reporter. “The community doctors are telling us to live our lives.”
Agreed another worshiper there, “People don’t understand that we have herd immunity.”
He said, “People don’t understand that we have not had people going to the hospitals for months and months and months.
“We have doctors in our community who are telling us what to do,” he added.
“When you see for so long people are not getting sick anymore, we feel that we can celebrate.”
Mostly mask-less crowds gathered along 13th and 14th avenues in Hasidic Borough Park, though there were none of the violent protests against coronavirus restrictions that broke out earlier in the week.
In Williamsburg, Hooper Street in front of Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar was closed off to make room for the observance.
“Nobody wears a mask inside,” a man who cleans the synagogue told The Post, asking his name not be used.
“Nobody cares. Often there are hundreds — no masks,” he complained.
“The cops give them masks outside [the synagogue] and inside they…”
Here, the worker made a gesture of flinging a mask away from his face.
“But what am I gonna do? I have to work,” he added. “It’s kind of hard to find a job right now.”
Not all of the Orthodox rules behave recklessly, said Alex Adama, who lives two blocks from the Satmar neighborhood in South Williamsburg.
But “there is a large group who don’t,” he said.
“I think they are using religion to justify criminal behavior,” he said.
“They don’t believe in science, and if anyone says anything about it, they say you are anti-Semites.
“I don’t understand why the city can’t do anything. Cuomo and de Blasio said they will start enforcing these rules, but I haven’t seen it.”
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