Shul congregations downsized by up to 90 percent
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Shul congregations downsized by up to 90 percent

Borehamwood United will see its normal capacity of 3,500 shrunk to just 600 people for Rosh Hashanah due to virus restrictions

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Mill Hill United synagogue under Covid restrictions, including social distancing and masks (Credit: Marc Morris)
Mill Hill United synagogue under Covid restrictions, including social distancing and masks (Credit: Marc Morris)

Synagogue congregation sizes will be reduced by up to 90 percent during the Jewish new year.

Borehamwood United, in the heart of Britain’s biggest Jewish community, will see its normal capacity of 3,500 shrunk to just 600 people  (83 percent) due to virus restrictions.

Hampstead Garden Suburb United will see attendances slashed by more than half from 2,000 to 900, while Edgware United is reduced from 1,100 to just 400 people being allowed in for services.

Elsewhere, Woodside Park will be down by 72 percent with just 200 shul-goers allowed and Mill Hill United will welcome 500, down from the usual 2,000.

Mill Hill’s Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet said: “It’s not the numbers per se that will impact the atmosphere as much as the quicker service, lack of singing and social distancing. That said, as I’ve emailed the community today, we can all still make the experience meaningful. Sitting in your own two meters, covered with a mask, provides a private space for one to be a little more intimate with G-d”.

Mill Hill United synagogue’s Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet (right) praying under Covid restrictions (Credit: Marc Morris)

Cranbrook Shul in Ilford will have less than 10 percent of its normal capacity, down from 950 to just 82 attendees. Its rabbi, Steven Dansky told Jewish News there will be one service, then “we’re going to be having a break and then an exploratory service – and after this, we’re going to clean in between”, to ensure it’s safe.

He said it’s a “very sad state of affairs” that there will be no singing, and he will “not pressure anybody to come. If you feel safe enough to come, then you should come”.

Rabbi Nicky Liss, Chair of Rabbinic Council of the United Synagogue, said: “This will be a Rosh Hashanah like no other but one I know United Synagogue lay and Rabbinic leaders have done their best to make memorable for their members. Both through pre-Yom Tov online provision and printed materials to reach out to those who cannot come to shul as well as through running socially distanced services, multiple shofar blowings and a range of innovative family and children’s programming.”

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