Coronavirus: guidance as of March 17, 2020
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Tuesday 17th March 2020

Dear Chairs,

 

Guidance as of 17 March, 2020 

 

You will have seen the recent announcement by the Chief Rabbi and his ruling that we must no longer hold religious services in our synagogues. As he says,"our Torah obligation to protect the sanctity of life transcends all other considerations".

 

Understanding how painful this will be for you, your Rabbis and Rebbetzens and your fellow Honorary Officers to implement, we have compiled some additional information, which we hope will answer some of the questions that you might have. Further guidance, advice and suggestions for supporting your community at this time will follow.

 

Please cancel all activities in the synagogue including all services - weekday and Shabbat. Whilst the synagogue office can be opened from time to time for administrative purposes, the site should be understood to be closed. We will follow up with you if you have a nursery or an independent school on your site as they can currently remain open in line with government guidelines.

 

The community should not facilitate, support or publicise any minyanim or services in members’ homes. Sifrei Torah should not be loaned for these purposes.  We understand the implication of this on individuals who wish to say kaddish. It also means, sadly, that we will not be able to hold Barmitzvahs, Batmitzvahs or other smachot.

 

The Chief Rabbi and Beth Din have made an exception for weddings (chuppot). However, restrictive regulations will be in place. Please contact the Office of the Chief Rabbi for more information on this.

 

Over the last few days many of you have been exploring new and creative ways to reach your members at home and have tested new technologies. Later today we will be sending out information about Microsoft Teams which has been set up to enable your community to learn online, hold virtual meetings and collaborate as a community. Our IT Support and Communities team will be on hand to support you.

 

In addition, we have been inspired by the responses that you have had to calls for volunteers and befrienders. It is at these moments that we note the power of community and our ability to support those that most need our help.

 

To complement and support the tremendous work of your local volunteers, today we have launched the United Synagogue Coronavirus Helpline, which aims to be a central port of call for members who need extra help whether practical, spiritual or emotional. The helpline is live and the number is 020 8343 5696 or email helpline@theus.org.uk.

 

Many of you have asked about arrangements for Pesach and information on funerals and shivas. We will be writing tomorrow with some more halachic guidance as the Chief Rabbi said. Please click here for further information on Funerals and Shivas. Of course, all local questions should be directed to your Rabbi.

 

May we take this opportunity again to thank you for leading your community at this immensely challenging time. 

 

This week’s double sedra, Vayakhel-Pekudei, moves the Jewish people to new territory. The mishkan is finally built. There is an additional focus in their lives, as they moves from just their homes to connection to the sanctuary as well.

 

Today, because of Coronavirus, our focus will sadly shift – temporarily – away from our synagogues and back solely to our homes. But although shul is central to our existence as Jews, so are our homes where we can also pray.

 

We will find new ways to create community. Whether through online shiurim, acts of kindness, a virtual Kabbalat Shabbat (before candle lighting) or livstreamed weekday Ma’ariv service, together we will keep our communities going through these difficult times.

 

Thank you for everything you do for your community and the United Synagogue. 

Michael Goldstein 

President,

The United Synagogue

 

 

 

Previous guidance can be found here: