Oversized Chicago wedding will share Orthodox judges, reveals finders

JTA – Officials in the Chicago area are struggling to find out if an Orthodox Jewish wedding that violated public health restrictions caused new COVID-19 issues in the hard city.

About 150 guests attended the wedding in a suburb of Chicago on Dec. 2 at a time when 14.8% of COVID-19 tests in the surrounding county were coming back positive.

The wedding made local news the latest in a series of events in orthodox communities that have challenged public health management and local orders. But public health officials in charge of monitoring the spread of the virus last week said they could not find a list of guests who needed quarantine – or even the name of the woman. bride and groom.

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“This is the time we desperately need that information and we are still trying to gather that,” Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior public health medical officer at the Cook County Department of Public Health, told Group Jewish Telegraph on December 9th.

The next day, the Department of Health had cited the event planner and attendee, and received a list of attendees that the department would advise being tested for COVID-19 and quarantine to get their results.

With more than a week from the event, however, any contracted issues there could have begun to spread, making the potential impact of the wedding even greater. and more difficult to exist.

Orthodox Jewish wedding violates COVID-19 restrictions at Hilton Chicago Northbrook hotel, December 2, 2020. (Screenshot: CBSN Chicago)

Many members of the local Native community have become increasingly distressed. Most people have followed the rules, they say, but the community ‘s ability to keep schools and synagogues open is under threat with the small number who do not seem to be taking part. pandemic.

“It has become an event associated with stigma and taboo and has created a sense of proper separation within the community,” said Manya Treece, who founded a contract search campaign for Orthodox studies in and Chicago.

The wedding and its aftermath also reinforce the extent to which internal tensions in the Orthodox community are hampering efforts to hold large gatherings at this stage of the pandemic.

In April, when another big wedding drew crowds – also in violation of public health restrictions – local Orthodox rabid groups released a statement criticizing the gathering. But Rabbi Yaakov Robinson, head of the Agudath Division of Israel Midwest and spiritual leader at Beis Medrash Mikor Hachaim, a local Orthodox synagogue, said there might be no recitation on this visit.

Robinson refused to go to interview but said in an email to JTA that media attention on last week’s wedding was a hindrance in itself.

“We’re trying to avoid too many solemn, hard and harsh letters to the community,” the rabbi wrote. “It’s been emotionally heavy and for the most part the community is doing very well. It’s time to let them heal. We’re focusing more on messages of strength and hope. “

Several events of the Orthodox wedding round were involved in the event, which took place at Hilton Chicago Northbrook. Event designer A&E Events and attendee Circle Catering both received official citations last week from the Cook County Department of Public Health, although there are no penalties associated with the references. Both declined to comment.

Singer Yaakov Shwekey performing live at a concert at the Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv, January 2, 2012. (Mendy Hectman / Flash90)

A wedding posted on Instagram a few days after the wedding date gave credit to the attendee and party designer, and also said that Yaakov Shwekey, the Orthodox singer who reworked the this summer one of his most popular songs to be a paean for US President Donald Trump. played.

The waiter is led by the kashrut branch of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, meaning a kosher supervisor from the council would have to oversee the preparation of the food in the supply kitchen as well as the event itself.

Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, head of the council’s kashrut department, said the group had dropped legal issues such as public health regulations regarding incidents to the center, saying it was not the group’s area of ​​expertise.

“The CRCs were always in charge of the hotel to make sure all the laws going into a venue are complied with and we just come in and make sure that the food is more kosher, “Fishbane said, adding,” We don’t get into the things we do that there are no experts. “

The Chicago Hilton Northbrook apologized for hosting the event in a statement and said the public health rules governing events were less restrictive when the event was originally planned. In fact, during most of the summer and early fall, Illinois banned gatherings in most places to 50% room capacity, or 50 people, no matter what. less.

But in late November, with things rising, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker imposed new restrictions prohibiting hotels and other event venues from hosting indoor events.

With around 150 guests, the wedding was larger than would have been allowed over the summer as well, although it was smaller than the typical pre-pandemic Orthodox wedding. While masks are needed for indoor events, videos taken by CBS television station in Chicago showed that few guests at the wedding wore them.

A member of the local Orthodox community said he had spoken to several people who attended the wedding about the idea that more safety warnings would be issued.

“There are a lot of people who made bad judgments,” said a community member.

The wedding took place at a time of widespread disease spread within Chicago and the entire state of Illinois – and within the Chicago Jewish community, where it threatened to close schools and synagogues.

“If you have a big wedding, it has great potential to be a superspreader event,” said Dr. Ben Katz, a pediatric professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and an expert on infectious diseases who has been involved in local efforts to safely open schools and synagogues in Chicago.

While Katz said he had no data on new cases related to the wedding, he suspected he could be a suspect to new cases last week.

“I know there have been a lot more cases in some schools lately,” he said Friday.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, center, will speak at a press conference in Ewing, New Jersey, March 2, 2020. (Photo AP / Seth Wenig)

It is up to detectives to find out where these cases are coming from. Across the country, detectives hired by cities and states report running into roadblocks when those they reach come in contact with their contact details. In New Jersey, for example, Gov. Phil Murphy said last week that 74% of people did not cooperate with detectives, refusing to answer questions about their actions or giving names of binders.

That was also the case in Chicago, where communication seekers first ran into a brick wall while following the wedding news reports. Although they eventually received a list of guests, it was difficult for public health officials to get the list from the event planner, delaying attempts to contact guests and taking advised them to be tested for COVID and quarantine to get the results.

Knowing that community members may be wary of cooperating with government inspectors, Treece launched an anonymous communications detection campaign for an Orthodox Hearing in Chicago earlier this year. But Treece also said she didn’t get much information about the wedding, saying “I’m just as dark.”

Treece said no one who was ill and contacted the people who contacted Community Counter had reported being present at the wedding.

For now, members of the community are holding their breath, hoping that the wedding will not fuel the spread of the disease among their neighbors and that other illegal gatherings will not take place at a time when the ability to operate sensitively for schools and synagogues.

“So far they’ve been staying open,” said Katz, the pediatrician. But a repeat of last week ‘s big wedding could be in jeopardy – some schools were already closing.

“I think something like this raises the possibility that we need to close the schools,” he said.