Government U-turn to allow 15 people at stone settings welcomed by community

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Government U-turn to allow 15 people at stone settings welcomed by community

Board of Deputies president applauded the change in policy after the 'seemingly anomalous' decision to let 30 attend a funeral but just six at a stone-setting

Headstone with a star if David at a cemetery (Thinkstock)
Headstone with a star if David at a cemetery (Thinkstock)

Jewish leaders have welcomed the British Government’s decision to allow up to 15 people to attend stone settings, having initially set it at six to keep Covid-19 infection rates down.

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl applauded the U-turn, saying it had been “seemingly anomalous” to allow only six people to attend stone settings while up to 30 people are allowed to attend funerals.

“We have asked Government for a consistent approach that will allow a Minyan and additional close friends and family to attend stone-settings and give comfort to mourners,” she said.

“We are grateful to the Government for its compassion in heeding this advice. Nonetheless, this thoughtful concession should give no room for complacency.

“With the alarming rise in the infection rate, we urge the community to be meticulous in observing social distancing regulations at cemeteries as in all other spaces.”

Melvyn Hartog, United Synagogue’s Head of Burial, said: “We are very pleased the Government has listened carefully to our and others’ concerns and has increased the stone setting limit to 15. While this number is still not ideal, we know it will bring some comfort to our members at this difficult time.”

Rabbi Celia Surget, Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors said: “Reform Judaism warmly welcomes that the concerns of the community have heard-this will bring enormous comfort to so many Jewish mourners.”

Whatever the limit, we will continue to put safety first and encourage everyone to stringently follow the Covid-19 guidance and local restrictions at stone settings as well as any other permitted gathering.”

News of the increase in stone setting attendance from six to 15 came just hours before national announcements that London and Essex would be moving up to Tier 2 in the three-tier Covid-19 warning system from Friday, meaning that households in much of the south-east will be prohibited from mixing indoors.

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