Liberal Judaism will not be “rushing” to physically reopen synagogues despite the government’s latest easing of lockdown restrictions, the movement’s joint interim director said today.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky urged caution after the PM announced earlier today synagogues across England will be permitted to reopen for prayer and to hold services as of next month.
From 4 July, places of worships in England will be able to reopen, including for wedding services with a maximum of 30 guests, all subject to social distancing.
But Rabbi Baginsky warned it is “essential” all Liberal Judaism communities conduct a full risk assessment before reopening.
In a statement, the faith leader said: “Although Government advice is that places of worship can physically reopen from July 4, this is not something Liberal Judaism will be rushing to do.
“We are speaking with our communities, all of which have different and specific needs, as well as consulting with experts and partners outside our movement. It’s also important to note that Government advice for faith communities is still being formulated and there are many areas still being discussed.
“It is essential that all Liberal Judaism communities conduct a full risk assessment before they reopen and we will be supporting and advising them throughout this process. We will also examine all Government guidance, as it continues to be formulated, and ensure our congregations have all the information they need to open safely when they feel ready to do so.”
Online services, however, “have seen more people than ever attend and engage”, and will continue, she added.
The number of coronavirus-related fatalities reached 500 among UK Jews as of last Friday, according to the latest figures collated by the Board of Deputies, released today.
Citing the death toll, Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl urged members of the community “to proceed with caution and stick within the Government’s guidelines to ensure there is no second spike in cases.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, meanwhile, said the return to congregational activity will be “as cautious as is necessary to protect our communities”, with further guidance released in the coming days.