15 Charged With Holding NJ Funeral That Broke Quarantine Orders

It was the fourth major bust in Lakewood in as many days, all of them in the city's burgeoning Orthodox Jewish community

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What to Know

  • For the fourth time in as many days, Lakewood police have charged people with violating the state's stay-at-home orders
  • In two of those cases, parents hosting gatherings at their homes were charged with child endangerment because their kids were present
  • Lakewood has become a flashpoint for tensions over social distancing rules, and the target of anti-Semitic responses as a result

For the fourth time in as many days, Lakewood police broke up a prohibited event and filed criminal charges -- this time, when as many as 70 people gathered for a funeral and refused to disperse.

The ongoing defiance of the state's social distancing orders has turned Lakewood into a flashpoint for tensions. Gov. Phil Murphy, at his daily press conferences, has stepped gingerly around the issue so as not to specifically call out Lakewood's huge Orthodox Jewish community -- while also clearly condemning multiple anti-Semitic threats made against them.

In the most recent case, police said they received a call Wednesday evening for a large crowd, and found 60 to 70 people on a street corner for a funeral.

"As Officers tried to disperse the crowd, the crowd became unruly and argumentative," police and the Ocean County prosecutor's office said in a statement.

One Brooklyn man refused to identify himself and later gave police a false identity, police said. He was one of 15 people charged with violating the governor's order.

The funeral bust Wednesday followed a crackdown on an engagement party Tuesday afternoon.

Yaakov Kaufman, 47, and Eti Kaufman, 45, were caught holding an engagement party at their home Tuesday, police said. Authorities dispersed the crowd and charged the Kaufmans with six counts of child endangerment, one for each of their minor children in the home.

Another eight people -- one of them 99 years old -- were charged with violating the governor's March 21 order for attending the party.

Tuesday's incident followed a similar one on Sunday, where police broke up a bat mitzvah and charged the hosts with five counts of child endangerment. There was also an event broken up on Monday morning as well.

Murphy has said the state would not hesitate to "name and shame" violators of the law, nor would it hesitate to charge people.

New Jersey has the second-largest COVID-19 burden in the country, with more than 22,000 cases and 355 deaths.

Correction Note: It was previously reported that a 100-year-old man was arrested as part of the Wednesday arrests. Police later corrected their report, stating the man was 25 years old, and the mistake was due a "typographical error."

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