Kiryas Joel community gathers at synagogue for holiday amid high COVID-19 infection rate
There are concerns about compliance in the Village of Kiryas Joel, a state-designated red zone with a COVID-19 infection rate close to 30%.
Outside of Kiryas Joel's main synagogue on Garfield Road on Friday, there were cars lined along the street, a packed parking lot, white sheets covering windows, and worshipers going in and out of the building.
Under the new state orders that began Friday, no mass gatherings are allowed and houses of worship are restricted to 10 people at a time.
The Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin told News 12 that the governor's orders don't take effect until midnight Saturday.
However, the governor's office confirmed to News 12 that the law kicked in at 12:01am Friday.
Szegedin added, "Today is a special day of prayer dedicated to God, to eliminate COVID-19 and heal all the sick, done in compliance with the governor's existing order of masks and social distancing."
In response, a spokesperson for the state quoted the governor, saying: "The Torah speaks about how certain religious obligations can be excused, if you are going to save a life. This is about saving a life. That's what this is. No large gatherings to save a life."
The village has a history of non-compliance, with schools kept open and maskless gatherings with thousands in attendance.
This time, the state appears to be cracking down, promising fines up to $15,000 while both Hassidic and Catholic leaders are challenging the order in federal court.
County Executive Steve Neuhaus says no matter the “zone,” everyone should be wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large groups.
Village leaders say they've distributed thousands of masks and are increasing testing to quarantine the sick.