‘We live here but we’re not Americans’: 1000s attend hasidic funeral in NY, no masks

Thousands violate health guidelines. Satmar leader says, “We live here but we’re not Americans.”

By World Israel News Staff

Thousands of members of the Satmar hasidic sect packed a funeral in Williamsburg, New York for one of the revered leaders of their community, the New York Post reported Monday.

With coronavirus infections spreading at exponential rates across much of the United States, a crowd estimated at 5,000 people packed the Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue Sunday with the overflow jammed outside the building for the funeral of 94-year-old former chief Satmar judge Rabbi Yisroel Chaim Menashe Friedman.

Most of the crowd of males dressed in traditional black garb were not wearing masks, and the dense crowding obviated social distancing.

“Normally, we would avoid having such a crowd unless it was for something very, very important. This was one of those times,” a man named Lipa told the Post.

Lipa called Rabbi Friedman “a giant” who helped rebuild the Satmar community after World War 2. “A very, very holy man. For someone like him, you couldn’t keep people from coming even if you wanted to.”

Another hasidic Jew at the funeral said the Satmar community is immune to the coronavirus because of herd immunity, as most of its members have already contracted it.

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“Ask anybody here if they had COVID. They’ll say yes — and they won’t be lying,”the man said. “People from the outside, they don’t understand that. We’ve all had it.”

Before the funeral, the leader of the highly insular Satmar community, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, warned his followers about getting too close to the secular world, especially regarding the recent American elections.

“Jews are drawn to U.S. politics and have greatly breached the line between Yisrael and the nations,” Rabbi Teitelbaum said at a gathering to mark the Dec. 7 anniversary of legendary Satmar leader Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum’s escape from the Nazis.

“We need to understand that we’re in galus [exile]. We live here but we’re not Americans,” Rabbi Teitelbaum said, referring to the biblical passage, “I was a stranger in a foreign land.”

The Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue was supposed to host the October wedding of one of Rabbi Teitelbaum’s grandchildren, where 10,000 guests were expected. The wedding was barred after officials were tipped off about the event, as New York State bars any gathering above one-third maximum occupancy. The synagogue can legally hold only 1,600 people under normal conditions.