Update: LA County Says it Won’t Send Deputies to Jewish Homes at High Holidays to Enforce COVID Policy

By Patrick Goodenough | September 18, 2020 | 8:21pm EDT
Traditional apples and honey on a Rosh Hashanah table in San Ramon, Calif. two years ago. (Photo by Smith Collection/ Gado/Getty Images)
Traditional apples and honey on a Rosh Hashanah table in San Ramon, Calif. two years ago. (Photo by Smith Collection/ Gado/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Los Angeles County has informed a legal organization representing an orthodox rabbi that it will not dispatch law enforcement officials to private homes to enforce a coronavirus health measure that prohibits “having a meal with extended family and friends for a religious or cultural holiday.”

The written assurance to First Liberty Institute came on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which began at sunset on Friday.

Earlier, Rabbi Yisrael Gelb had indicated his intention to meet with another family in his congregation, as he does every year, despite the health order – which L.A. County originally made clear explicitly covered the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the wording was later changed to the more general “religious or cultural” holidays).

Stephanie Taub, senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, wrote to county officials earlier this week, calling for a reversal of the policy, and asking the county to “make it clear to the public that it will not dispatch Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies to the homes of Jewish families gathered for religious meals during the High Holidays inside someone’s home.”

In an email to Taub, County Council Mary Wickham did just that:

You also have asked whether Los Angeles County will ‘dispatch Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies to the homes of Jewish families gathered for religious meals during the High Holidays inside someone's homes.’ The answer to that question is no.

Wickham also expressed the county’s appreciation to rabbi leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community leaders “who have worked collaboratively with the County of Los Angeles in battling this pandemic that has already taken a heavy toll on the Los Angeles County community. Only together will we conquer this COVID-19 virus.”

Her email did not indicate specifically whether the ban on ““having a meal with extended family and friends for a religious or cultural holiday” would be amended.

First Liberty welcomed the assurance.

“Our client and the Jewish residents of Los Angeles County can breathe a little easier knowing that officials have promised that they will not send law enforcement to their homes to enforce a policy that should never have been adopted in the first place,” said Taub.

“Our Jewish neighbors are strong and resilient and simply want to share a table with their local families during the High Holidays in peace,” she said. “While we are grateful that the County has promised that its policy will not be enforced, we will continue to work with our client and the County until this issue is completely resolved.”

See earlier story:

In LA County, Mass Outdoor Protests Are Kosher; Indoor Rosh Hashanah Meals With Friends Are Not (Sept. 18, 2020)

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