Shuls should retain an online presence after reopening so congregants unable to attend in person do not feel excluded, United Synagogue leaders were told on Wednesday.
“Whilst some members will return to our buildings for services as soon as they are open, others will be unable to attend or will not wish to return yet. As a result, it is essential that the online provision remains strong and that those that cannot or are not ready to return do not feel excluded,” reads detailed guidance produced by the movement this week.
The 22-page document, shared with communities ahead of the government’s easing of restrictions on places of worship on 4 July, warns that evidence from around the world suggests places of worships “have been centres of outbreaks.”
Reiterating advice shared with communities last week, it cautions against reopening for the first time on 4 July and recommends rolling out smaller weekday services before welcoming larger crowds on Shabbat.
United Synagogue policy also includes a two-metre social distancing rule even outdoors and for face coverings to be worn indoors, but does not feature any mandatory temperature tests.
Communities must not hold kiddushim, seudot or other meals and those who attend services cannot shake hands, embrace nor kiss the Sefer Torah, mezuzot and tallitot, the guidance says.
There can be no singing other than from service leaders, and the blowing of the shofar is not permitted at present.
Those who handle ritual items such as the Sefer Torah should wear disposable gloves and the advice is for congregants to bring their own religious books wherever possible or select a copy from a shelf of titles cleaned in advance.
Those who live with people who are shielding are advised to use their own judgement when deciding whether to attend services, as should those over 70, it adds. Meanwhile, when travelling to shul, congregants should be advised to avoid public transport during the week and abstain from sharing car rides with other households.
While children under 12 should not to attend services during the initial reopening period, the guidance does allow for early exemptions on Shabbat mornings for the families and close friends of bar and bat mitzvah children. “When communities feel ready and confident that they are able to manage social distancing and people flow, they might wish to invite children to shorter services initially, such as Kabbalat Shabbat,” it adds.