One of Britain’s biggest shuls has announced the cancellation of a range of Rosh Hashanah events.
Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue (BES) has been forced to scrap its popular Tashlich in the Park and family treasure hunt and is reworking its shofar programme amid new coronavirus restrictions and a spike in cases in the area, following talks with Hertsmere Council.
In 2017, Borehamwood officially overtook Stanmore as Britain’s biggest community, due to a “sudden growth” due to cheaper housing.
This comes after a spike in cases locally, in part due to a cluster at Yavneh College, which forced Jewish students to self-isolate at home. Earlier this week, Boris Johnson announced new measures, making it illegal to gather in groups of more than six. Synagogues are permitted to hold greater numbers, but there is a restriction on people gathering in groups within venues or mixing socially.
BES’s rabbi Alex Chapper told members the shul had spoken to authorities and “gained reassurance that the regulations we are adhering to will create a Covid secure environment” to run services for festivals, but “we remain concerned” by local trends, and “we feel we need to re-examine our plans”, before making a decision about opening fully for Rosh Hashanah, next week.
The synagogue confirmed “we are cancelling our Tashlich in the Park event, family treasure hunt.. on Rosh Hashanah and are reworking our shofar programme as well in light of recent events.”
The synagogue said members can be sent packs to help them celebrate the Jewish New Year, but warned people not to turn up unless they were registered and confirmed, or attend if anyone in the household has symptoms.
“If you are considered vulnerable then we urge you to think twice about attending for your own safety”, the shul added.
BES has been approached for comment.
On Friday Hertsmere has been designated as an area of concern by the Department of Health.
MP Oliver Dowden wrote on his website he is “working closely with the Health Secretary, the Borough Council, Herts County Council, and relevant local public bodies. We are confident that whilst the case level remains high we have measures in place to control the outbreak.”
The recent rise in cases stems from inappropriate social gatherings amongst younger people. The County Council and the headteachers of local schools are working together to remind pupils of the need to follow the social distancing rules which are in place as they keep all of us safe.”