With Boris Johnson’s second national coronavirus lockdown coming into effect this week and Jewish worshippers facing another month without communal prayer, not every synagogue in the UK was being forced to shut its doors.
“We’re open!” said a delighted Rabbi Moshe Rubin of Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation in East Renfrewshire, known as the hub of Glasgow’s small but active Jewish community.
The new curtains-down order Johnson announced on Saturday only extends to England, with Wales already under a strict “circuit breaker” lockdown, but in Scotland places of worship are set to remain open, at least for the time being.
While restrictions have meant that functions in Giffnock’s 230-person Banqueting Suite or 100-capacity Reception Hall have been few and far between of late, Rubin – “the most northerly Gerrer Chassid in the world” – is just happy that there are still services.
“We have 700 members and fortunate to have minyamin for all services,” he says. “We’re an active community. We follow the rules – social distancing, personal protective equipment, no more than 50 people in synagogue. You have to book. It doesn’t matter midweek but for Shabbat there’s a waiting list sometimes.”
He added: “There are still some people who are staying away. We had online services during the summer when the shul was closed. Whenever we can do a service we’ll try. People in the shul keep to the rules.”
Unfortunately, worshippers from the rest of the UK cannot nip north to Giffnock to pray communally – visitors are not allowed – but if they could they would find an optimistic and much-loved rabbi, who also happens to be Senior Rabbi to Scotland.
“We will get through this,” he says. “We’ll move forward. We’ve been through things before and we’ve got through it. People want to share and be together. It will take time, but eventually we will overcome it, and things will go back to the way they were.”
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