UPDATED 4/28/20: Rabbi Kotler denies any involvement in the creation or approval of the wedding plans, only 'shared' them to public in a letter. Kotler representative states that authors of plan were Lakewood Police, Lakewood Office of Emergency Management and the Ocean County Prosecutor.
NEW JERSEY - When Governor Murphy said stay safe and stay home, he meant it. According to a recent Monmouth University Poll, executive orders restricting certain activities in the state are also widely popular.
Specifically, 'requiring people to maintain six feet of distance (97% approve / 95% aware) and to wear a face covering in public (95% approve / 95% aware), as well as banning all gatherings and parties (88% approve / 85% aware).'
During Tuesday's press conference, a pool reporter asked the Governor about his thoughts about Lakewood's plan for catered orthodox weddings in Lakewood. The plans, that had begun this past Sunday, were shared by Rabbi Aaron Kotler and Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles. According to Coles, the weddings were to be attended by the Lakewood Police Department to observe for 'social distancing.' Coles previously indicated that the catered weddings were also cleared by the Ocean County Prosecutors Office. On Tuesday, the Ocean County Prosecutor denied, to the Asbury Park Press, ever approving any catered weddings at the site. In the same story, Rabbi Aaron Kotler, the president and CEO of Beth Medrash Govoha, said he didn't know if the weddings were being held or not.
Kotler's public relations representative, Norris Clark, refuted any claim that Kotler was involved in any way. In an email sent on April 28, Clark wrote:
"Here are the facts:
LPD and Lakewood Office of Emergency Management made the plan
Rabbi Kotler was NOT involved in making the plan, and never approved the plan.
Prosecutor Billhimer, Lakewood Police and Mayor created the plan to avoid people making backyard weddings and inadvertently violating the law.
Rabbi Kotler shared this plan with his community.
Billhimer backed out, as is his right, and this killed the plan."
Lakewood Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg said in a report at nj.com that the arrangement allowed for small ceremonies at Ateres Reva. A large catering truck was seen at the location on Tuesday.
It appears that the Governor and Attorney General were left in the dark on the plans. It was rejected on Tuesday.
Said the Governor, "The wedding venue - listen, I want to gather as much as the next guy, but we can't allow that to happen, so I'm not sure if Pat's (New Jersey State Police) got any more insights, but we cannot allow folks to congregate and that's gotta continue to be the case."
It wasn't clear if anyone had been charged by police.
Lakewood, Toms River and Brick form a large cluster of COVID-19 cases that total 2,666 as of Tuesday. The Ocean County Health Department updates the figures daily. Social distancing has been shown as key to success in stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus. There have been numerous charges filed against violators of the new rules designed to save lives.
New Jersey Attorney General’s spokesman Leland Moore said the state has not reviewed or approved "any plans with respect to weddings at catering halls or elsewhere in New Jersey. The Governor’s Executive Orders and related Administrative Orders concerning gatherings and social distancing remain in full effect and are the most effective tools we have to protect the health of New Jerseyans during this pandemic. As Attorney General Grewal and Colonel Callahan make clear every day in their daily enforcement updates, New Jersey law enforcement will hold those who flout these orders accountable,” Moore said.
You can view Rabbi Aaron Kotler's letter sharing the catered wedding plans at Ateres Reva in an earlier article here.
You can view the Governor's position on the weddings during the pandemic here: