Rogue worshippers defy lockdown

September 8, 2021 by Henry Benjamin
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A rogue group of ultra-orthodox members of the Melbourne Jewish community has held Rosh Hashanah prayers violating the lockdown restrictions.

Police contain worshippers Photo: James Ross AAP

The number who gathered in the premises in the Melbourne suburb of Ripponlea varies between 30-100. Acting on reports, police surrounded the building on Tuesday and the worshippers eventually started to leave the building after dusk.

Supporters became violent and a news cameraman was thrown to the ground and now in hospital suffering concussion.

The worshippers are being fined $5452 each.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria said it is appalled and outraged by the selfish actions of a small number of individuals who organised and attended an illegal prayer gathering, breaching COVID restrictions.

The vast majority of us are playing our part to help reduce the spread of Corona-virus. We do this together, unified as Victorians, Australians, who work together, play sport together, live and socialise together. We do this together as family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. It is not acceptable for any one to break these rules and put others at risk. Those who break the rules should be punished to the full extent of the law. Those who break the rules are acting as individuals, not communities or faiths. We can be disappointed, frustrated and even angry with those individuals, but we cannot digress to hate and generalisation to include the majority of individuals who made the right choice to follow the rules.

The JCCV’s  president Daniel Aghion said: “The actions of a few do not represent the vast majority of our community who have celebrated Rosh Hashanah at home only with the people with whom they live, and just like the wider community, continue to follow the rules.

It is central to the Jewish religion that lives are to be protected, and that the law of the country must be complied with. The individuals who gathered together ignored those basic Jewish principles, and we condemn them for their selfish and unlawful conduct.

Our sympathies are with the cameraman who was injured, and we wish him a speedy recovery. We also thank Victoria Police for their excellent work in protecting the Victorian community in what must have been a difficult situation for the police.”

In a statement the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council said: “The news over Rosh Hashanah that a tiny fraction of Melbourne’s Jewish community participated in illegal gatherings and allegedly obstructed the police and assaulted a member of the media, is a source of great distress.”
AIJAC executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein added: “Jewish Australians have overwhelmingly been following COVID-19 public health requirement.Those who breach the public health regulations represent a tiny minority and they have no support outside their own tiny enclaves.

Obedience to the law of the country in which any community of Jews lives is a religiously mandated obligation for them and disobedience a transgression against Jewish, as well as civil, law.

While this was the second year in Melbourne that Rosh Hashana coincided with a lockdown, the overwhelming majority of Jewish Australians marked Rosh Hashana in a COVID-safe way, within their households.”

The president of the Adass Israel congregation told J-Wire that there shul was not open during Rosh Hashanah. Benjamin Kopel said: ““Contrary to reports, the Adass Israel congregation was not responsible for the Rosh Hashana public health order breach.

The gathering in question was an independent group of worshippers, unaffiliated with Adass Israel

Adass Israel has taken all necessary steps to ensure our synagogue and buildings are compliant with public health orders.”

Federal MP Josh Burns told J-Wire: “The public health rules apply to everyone and it is beyond frustrating to hear that a small group of people are continuing to act with disregard for the law.

There’s nothing pious about ignoring the health rules and putting lives at risk.

As painful as staying apart is at this time, especially for Jewish families on Rosh Hashanah, I thank the vast majority of families who are doing the right thing.“


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