Ban on shofar-blowing lifted for congregation leaders ahead of High Holy Days
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Ban on shofar-blowing lifted for congregation leaders ahead of High Holy Days

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl expressed gratitude for the decision, saying it will be 'welcome news across the Jewish community'

Shofar on top of a prayer book
Shofar on top of a prayer book

A ban on blowing wind instruments such as shofars in places of worship across England has been lifted for congregation leaders, but not worshippers, the government said.

The trumpet made of a ram’s horn is traditionally blown on Rosh Hashanah and after Yom Kippur.

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl expressed gratitude for the change, effective from last Saturday.

The Jewish umbrella group was in talks with Government last week, she revealed.

“This will be welcome news across the Jewish community. Nevertheless, we continue to urge everyone to observe all health regulations so that we can all have a happier and healthier New Year,” she said.

But the Reform movement said it is advising all shuls to find alternatives to in-person gatherings over the High Holy Days and warned against a “two-tier system” favouring non-vulnerable members.

“We are particularly motivated by not wishing to spread this disease, in awareness of the limits of social distancing with such big numbers for the High Holy Days, and also not wishing to create a two-tier system where some members are able to attend in person and more vulnerable community members can only follow along online,” a spokesperson for the movement said on Monday.

United Synagogue guidance recently shared with congregation leaders includes a three metre rule – but the distance extends to four metres if the shofar blower is on a platform.

Rooms must be well ventilated, and the shofar blower must be asymptomatic and not blow the instrument towards someone else’s face.

The guidance suggests using a perspex screen as an additional barrier and requires the shofar to be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.

The latest government advice, which recommends all instruments be cleaned before and after use, permits small groups of singers to perform in front of worshippers, even indoors, but with no audience participation.

Worshippers should avoid singing, chanting, shouting and playing instruments to avoid an increased risk of transmission, the guidance says.

The guidance, which permits indoor theatre and other performance venues to resume with social distancing precautions, says the UK is in stage four of a five-step plan for the safe return of performing arts.

“People should continue to socially distance from those they do not live with wherever possible and venues, performers and audiences matched to ensure two metre distancing applies wherever possible,” it says.

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