Update following introduction of Tier 4
Date Uploaded: 
Sunday 20th December 2020


Dear Chairs,  Rabbis and Rebbetzens,


Shavua Tov.


As you know  London and the South East are now subject to the new Tier 4 restrictions. These have been introduced due to rapidly rising cases of Coronavirus in these areas, as a result, it is believed, of a new variant of the virus, which is more easily transmittable. Tier 4 restrictions resemble those of the November lockdown.  However, communal worship is permitted.


This email sets out the United Synagogue policy for those communities located in Tier 4 areas.   Synagogues can continue to open for services, working with the same Covid regulations outlined here. However, ahead of your next service Honorary Officers must write to members and:

  • discourage anyone aged over 70 or with a vulnerability from attending
  • ask all those who do attend to be exceptionally careful  on site. We require absolute compliance with Covid regulations including a strict adherence to the 2m social distancing rule.   
  • make clear that members in the same household as someone self-isolating as a result of being in close contact with someone who is Covid positive must not attend services.  This applies even if no-one in the household displays symptoms or has tested positive.  (This does not apply to US staff.)
  • emphasise that no-one should feel under any pressure to attend or to make up a minyan


Measures in shul

Whist distancing and behaviour in our buildings and during services is well-regulated, we note that members can sometimes gather as they leave the site.  As a result, communities must manage the departure of attendees  so that they leave in a staggered manner with no opportunity to mingle. As an additional measure in order to reduce risk, communities could consider reducing capacity by imposing a total cap on numbers. 


Lifecycle events

  • Lifecycle events such as Bar/Batmitzvah and Brit that can be incorporated as part of a regular service can continue.
  • Shiva services incorporated into a regular maariv can continue.
  • A commemorative event during the week of shiva can take place in shul with a maximum of 6 people
  • Weddings can only take place with a maximum of 6 in attendance but only in exceptional (end of life) circumstances.
  • Levayas can take place with a total of 30 attendees.
  • Stonesettings can take place with a total of 6 attendees


Children and Youth

  • Nurseries on your sites can continue to run
  • Formal youth services can continue to run if there is adult supervision and Honorary Officers are confident that social distancing between households is possible
  • Children’s services must not take place.  We will review this decision in early January.
  • Informal programming for families, children and youth must not take place and should move online
  • Cheder can no longer take place in person but of course can move online.


Other activities

  • Essential voluntary activity such as preparing meals for the vulnerable or packing food boxes can continue but care should be taken to be Covid compliant and to keep the number of volunteers to a minimum
  • Shiurim held immediately after or between services i.e. the shiur between mincha and maariv on Shabbat can take place but care should be taken for them to be as short as possible e.g. by davening mincha as late as halachically allowed.


Synagogue Offices

Synagogue offices should, once again, be closed and only open for office staff to fulfil tasks that cannot be done from home such as printing or collecting the post.



You will be aware that some United Synagogue communities in Tier 4 have made the decision to close and they have our support. Should you decide that closure is the right course of action for your  community over the coming weeks, please do let us know and we can discuss how, together, we can best support the needs of your members, particularly those saying kaddish, those with yahrzeit and those due to celebrate smachot.  Please also consider how you will review this decision.


Kaddish Buddy Project

Among the many hardships and painful experiences of the pandemic, being unable to say Kaddish is one of the most painful and ongoing challenges for mourners. In light of this we have set up a facility to enable Kaddish to be recited on your members’ behalf by someone attending a legal Minyan. We will match members’ requests with a volunteer who has agreed to say Kaddish at least once a day for one person or at least once a day on a Yahrtzeit.  This is the link for people to request someone to say Kaddish: https://myus.theus.org.uk/events/61664/kaddish-buddy-project-request/ and this is the link where volunteers can offer to say kaddish on behalf of someone: https://myus.theus.org.uk/events/61625/kaddish-pairing-project-volunteer. In the next day or two we will be updating the text on these two webpages to reflect the new Tier 4 language.


Daily davening online

In light of Tier 4 restrictions, every day on the United Synagogue Facebook page members can join one of our Rabbis and pray along with him, or watch them on demand. The rabbi will say a memorial prayer at the end for those in mourning or observing a yarhzeit. Your rabbi can also offer advice on further memorial prayers members can say while davening alone should they, sadly, be in mourning or marking a yahrzeit. Our online pre-Shabbat Kabbalat Shabbat prayers continue on Friday afternoons on TheUS.tv, our on-demand video platform.


As ever, please do not hesitate to be in touch with any queries.


With continued thanks for your tireless efforts in providing a safe, uplifting and spiritual environment for your members, both in person and online.

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Jo Grose

Communities & Strategy Director

The United Synagogue

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Rabbi Nicky Liss


Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue



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