Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis yesterday indicated shuls under his auspices might not open the moment the government allows faith buildings to do so.
Ministers said on Monday that places of worship could not open until the third phase of the easing of lockdown – starting on 4 July at the earliest.
But Rabbi Mirvis urged extreme caution, saying: “No matter how much we might want to see the reopening of our shuls, above all else we must ensure that the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown does not come at the expense of human lives. Even when the government allows the reopening of our places of worship, the Jewish community must act responsibly and with greatest possible caution.”
The Chief Rabbi has repeatedly emphasised the primacy of preserving life during this crisis and denounced in the strongest terms those flouting social distancing rules for simchas and prayer gatherings.
Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “We are committed to pikuach nefesh, prioritising the physical safety of our members at this time. We are therefore extremely cautious regarding the reopening of synagogue buildings and will not recommend doing so until the evidence is clear that it will be safe to do so.
“We are in close contact with all our rabbis and cantors and communities and discussing all options, including the possibility that our synagogues may not be able to open their doors for the High Holy Days in September.”
Matt Plen, chief executive of Masorti Judaism said the movement’s “communities will only resume face-to-face activities when it is safe to do so.”
Meanwhile, Baroness Altmann has urged rabbis not to issue a ban on over 70s attending shuls when they do open. Writing in today’s Jewish News, she said: “I would respectfully point out that all older people, many of whom consider shul and community a vital element of life, should make their own choices, with guidance or advice, rather than having restrictions forced on them.”