Defying a statewide order that closed schools to curb the spread of COVID-19, some ultra-Orthodox yeshivas are still holding classes in Brooklyn, according to a concerned parent in the hard-hit Orthodox community.
Male students in the Satmar area of Williamsburg have been widely encouraged to attend the religious studies classes, which are taking place in empty synagogues and private apartments, the source said. The Forward first reported the story on Tuesday morning.
A father whose son previously attended the underground lessons told Gothamist that some smaller yeshivas had convened students within days of Mayor Bill de Blasio's order to shut down schools last month.
"It started slowly, and by now, after the holiday, even the bigger schools are slowly opening more and more classes," the parent added. "Some of them have 15 classes per grade."
Asked about the alleged infractions, City Hall spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie said they'd received a tip on Monday that "a handful of teachers individually took it upon themselves to implement an in-person program during this epidemic."
Lapeyrolerie said the city had worked with community leaders at the unnamed school to "stop this reckless practice," and would continue to monitor the situation. The teachers were issued a verbal warning, according to the spokesperson, who added there was "no indication this was happening for more than one day."
The Orthodox source, meanwhile, described the illicit schooling as far more prevalent. He named Samtar UTA, Talmud Torah Tashbar, and Talmud Torah Bnei Shimon as among the yeshivas that were still holding off-site classes. (Inquiries to those schools were not immediately returned).
"In general our community does not trust leadership — just the mayor saying the schools should be closed, they’re not going to take it seriously," he said.
Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods have seen some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections throughout the city. But portions of the community have continued to eschew social distancing rules, holding prayer services and large funerals this month that have been broken up by police.
"The ideology [among many parents] is that because we suffered already, most of our community already had it," the parent told Gothamist. "There’s a lot of vulnerable people still here, and with kids going around to different buildings, it’s enough to keep it spreading."
"I know too many people who lost loved ones," he added.