Rabbi receives warning after telling Covid-19 survivor not to fast
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Rabbi receives warning after telling Covid-19 survivor not to fast

Chair of Princes Road Synagogue, Liverpool, wrote to Rabbi Ariel Abel after he questioned 'how it is possible to halachically allow anyone to fast' during a time of pandemic

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Rabbi Ariel Abel
Rabbi Ariel Abel

A synagogue has warned its rabbi against “bringing it into disrepute” after he advised a Covid-19 survivor not to fast on Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Ariel Abel, who serves Liverpool Hebrew Congregation, also questioned “how it is possible to halachically allow anyone at all to fast this year”, fearing it could lower an individual’s immune system at a time of pandemic.

He added: “No one can possibly know how, if they catch it, Covid-19 will affect them. They would be playing God to decide on a 25-hour fast day and allow the immune system to lower itself to vulnerability to this terrible plague. Where are… our great rabbis in respect to this?”

The column, which appeared in The Jewish Telegraph, prompted senior warden Saul Marks to issue Abel with a letter over the “controversy it has caused in some circles”.

In the letter, seen by Jewish News, Marks stated while there was “no objection” to his regular columns or his “right to publish halachic opinions”, the synagogue requests Abel “write nothing that could reasonably reflect badly on the congregation or bring it into disrepute”.

Abel, who is a regular Jewish News contributor, was asked to ensure his columns are accompanied by a disclaimer making clear “the opinions expressed… are his own and not necessarily shared by Liverpoo Old Hebrew Congregation or its management”.

Originally published on 25 September, the column also stated: “We have no right in Judaism to disregard clear and palpable dangers.

“There is nothing holy about wading into a 25-hour fast in the knowledge that you could be dead within a fortnight because of the risk you took.”

A source close to Abel said: “That a learned rabbi should be censored for making a ruling on a halachic matter by a synagogue chairman is a gross impertinence.”

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