Progressively Speaking: Forget vaccine passports, shuls should be open to all

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Progressively Speaking: Forget vaccine passports, shuls should be open to all

 Shulamit Ambalu takes a topical issue and offers Reform take


I love ethical problems and Covid certainly presents plenty of them. The questions our institutions are thinking about are among the hardest they will ever have to face. Should you need to show evidence of vaccination or immunity to be able to enter a synagogue? I know that a lot of people will say ‘yes’. But I am firmly opposed. 

Some people feel that the requirement to show a vaccine passport will give us a role
in enforcement. Synagogues, mosques churches and all the rest, all playing a part in creating the social climate that rolls out the work of government. There are others that fear a backdoor route to identity cards and policy creep.

Arguing from halachah, one could make the claim that no requirement for a vaccine passport is possible until the exact impact of the vaccine on transmission is known.

But I base my thinking on none of these opinions. For me, the synagogue and other Jewish communal spaces are not workplaces. They are not leisure centres or cinemas. This is not a trip to a restaurant, the theatre or the gym. Quite simply, the synagogue is a home. 

It might not be a home you come to very often. But it is still home, and it should be open to everyone. It is up to us to put in place those measures to make our homes safe. We recognise the reality of risk. 

In fact, as Jews we are only too aware that entering our synagogues is not a risk-free act, hence why we are so used to looking after our own security in our communal spaces. 

But for me, security risks withstanding, our doors must be open. With limited numbers, pre-booking, masks, hand sanitisers and whatever else; all playing a part in creating a safe space. 

Jewish people are quite good at dealing with risk – and the risk of protecting the openness of our communal home is one I would rather take.

  •  Shulamit Ambalu is principal rabbi of Sha’arei Tsedek North London
    Reform Synagogue

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