Free from the tracing of lines that skyscrapers leave in the sky of the city, the oppressive atmosphere of Borough Park and its low houses could pass through a corner of the Hierosolimitan Mea Sharim, or Bnei Brak, ultra-Orthodox bastions of Israel: men with corkscrews, black frock coats and phylacteries;
the spitting image of modesty in women, with sad monk skirts.
But although most of the signs are in Hebrew, despite the presence of numerous synagogues and yeshivas (Talmudic schools), Borough Park is a borough of Brooklyn and a red zone of the pandemic in New York, with a positivity rate that multiplies by four that of the city, of only 1%.
The contagion rate is 7.1 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last week in the city, while in the neighborhood it is double.
Hence, the local authorities decided to reintroduce severe restrictions three weeks ago, such as the closure of schools and non-essential businesses, while the neighbors remain uncovered, without a mask, as if the human were alien to them.
They say no, but the bridal banquet halls that are clustered between 43rd and 44th streets - and that today show their windows blinded with papers to avoid gazes - are considered the epicenter of the upturn in cases that forced Borough Park to reconfine. , home to the largest Hasidic community in the city, and eight other populous districts.
Every Monday night, mass receptions were held during the summer, with no safety distance between the guests or masks;
there is a profusion of photos and videos on the Internet.
In August, the wedding season resumed after the three-week non-business period that marks the Jewish calendar, and ultra-Orthodox New Yorkers indulged in wedding celebrations so fiercely that August 15 saw the first rebound since spring, with Borough Park in the lead.
Last week the local authorities prevented the connection of the grandson of a well-known rabbi of the Satmar Hasidic sect (the same one to which the protagonist of the
) to which 10,000 people were expected to attend, when the anti-covid-19 regulation marks a limit of 50. The wedding was to be held in Williamsburg, a nearby neighborhood and also mostly Jewish.
"That doesn't happen here, weddings are still celebrated here, but with parents and siblings and few others, in the houses," says Frimet, in black, as she walks her baby through Borough Park.
The presence of carriages everywhere is the only note of color in the neighborhood, as well as the high birth rate of the community.
Frimet is the only neighbor who agrees to speak, the rest flee in terror or even start when questioned, but she does so by deconstructing her story to nothing: “Those weddings with hundreds of guests have not been here, and it was not Therefore, things were taken out of context and a photo with a certain focus can convey an image that does not correspond to reality.
No, definitely not, these things don't happen here ”.
And why isn't he wearing a mask?
"It is that today I have forgotten at home."
Two uniformed beards whisper before answering the question.
"We do not wear a mask because it is uncomfortable," they recite the lesson amid a hint of laughter while the mention of weddings dribbled faster.
Only an ultra-orthodox who would say
, kippah and a mask sealed in the jaw, plows the street with the freedom that a
The rest shy away from questions.
“You want to know if the bridal banquet rooms are still working, have you seen them, do you see activity?
Well, everything has already been said, ”snaps a woman with a tone of few friends.
Although restrictions have been relaxed this week in other parts of the city, in Borough Park everything remains on hold.
The few existing businesses are closed, and only the supermarkets and fragrant bread ovens, whose owners are without exception Jews, and their employees, unanimously Latino, operate normally: the social and ethnic stratification so common in the city.
The slumber of a leaden afternoon turns the walk into a procession, and only a van with a large banner over the loudspeaker encouraging the vote for Trump shakes the anachronistic drowsiness of this
(town, in Yiddish).
It is no coincidence that electoral propaganda is what it is, since the anti-scientific suspicion of the ultra-Orthodox approaches the denialism of the president.
Meanwhile, tensions between the community and New York City have been increasing after the reintroduction of the quarantine, with the former denouncing the social stigma of being singled out.
Not a few community leaders argue that its characteristics - isolated, without social interaction outside its limits, a ghetto in practice - are the perfect environment to achieve herd immunity, but with the data in hand, so much promiscuity pays off: Weddings as ultra-contagious events have proven to be a scientifically proven fact.
And not only parties, but also everyday life (families in which several generations live together; demographic overcrowding, small and crowded synagogues; continuous interconnection in rituals and celebrations) appears at the antipodes of the social distance necessary to prevent covid-19 .
In the end, because of the coronavirus, the Jewish weddings will not be echoed by the hubbub and the party, the circle dances, only the bitter aftertaste of
, or of the naive young man from another television series,
, who thought that spontaneous love existed.
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