Coronavirus: guidance as of March 15, 2020
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Sunday 15th March 2020

Dear Chairs, Rabbis, Rebbetzens, Administrators and Coronavirus key contacts,


Thank you for your communal leadership at these difficult times.


Given the developments in government advice and the ever-changing global picture, we want to share with you our current thinking.


This update focuses on protecting older and medically vulnerable members of the community and new initiatives to support them over the coming weeks and months.


Guidance as of March 15, 2020 


As before, please do follow the national advice as it develops and any NHS guidance.


Additional guidance in a United Synagogue context 


As you will no doubt have read, one of the recent developments in government advice is the move towards shielding people aged over 70 and those who are medically vulnerable, with the aim of preventing those with lower immunity from catching the virus.


As a result and given we have many older and vulnerable members in the community, we are writing to you today to recommend that you:

  • Advise those who are medically vulnerable to refrain from attending synagogue (including for community events and programmes) and advise them that they daven at home
  • Advise those over 70 that they should act with responsibility when deciding whether to attend synagogue (including for community events and programmes), bearing in mind the fact that they are at added risk
  • Cancel all non-religious service events aimed at those in these ‘at risk’ groups
  • Consider cancelling all non-essential social and educational events and programmes
  • Consider seriously cancelling kiddushim given that they are not essential and potentially bring with them a greater chance of the virus being spread


We are not prohibiting the attendance of members over 70. It will be a personal decision for each person and anyone who is symptom-free and wishes to come should be welcome. However, recognising the particular risks to this group and the nature of the synagogue environment, we consider it essential that they be made aware of the risks that they face, our concerns for them and the recommended approach.


Of course, such a scaling back of regular community activity must be coupled with a strengthening of care for and connection to those at home. 


We will soon be launching a helpline for members who are self-isolating or who have been advised to stay at home. Our aim is to ensure that anyone who requires support will be contacted either by a local or central volunteer. This might include support with regular or Pesach shopping and collecting medication, for example. We look forward to sharing more details with you and your Community Care Coordinators in the coming days. In the meantime, I have no doubt that your Community Care volunteers will continue to carry out their essential work and that they are following the guidelines about visiting members in hospital and at home that we sent out last week:


We also recommend that you explore new ways of connecting to members individually and collectively. This could be online (via livestreaming, videoconferencing and social media) or on the phone. We will be happy to advise you of tools that could be employed by you and your Rabbinic team and to provide support and training, if necessary.


We understand that for some communities the distancing of those members aged over 70 could impede the day-to-day running of the community. However, we are in unprecedented times and must do all we can to keep our members safe. Please do be in touch if you have any questions at all and our team will be on hand to help.


US Nurseries and Chedarim 


We also wanted to update you on US Nurseries and Chedarim. As things stand, the UK government is keeping schools open and therefore we don’t see any reason why our Nurseries and Chedarim should not stay open. This is, of course, provided that we are able to maintain appropriate staffing levels and are following our previous guidelines including measures to ensure good hygiene.  We will keep you updated of any changes. You may well hear updates in the media before we are able to communicate this to you and you should follow any new government guidance.


Thank you again for all that you do for your communities and the United Synagogue.


Steven Wilson

Chief Executive

United Synagogue