United Synagogue says shofar blowing in parks unlikely

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United Synagogue says shofar blowing in parks unlikely

Ahead of Rosh Hashanah the Orthodox movement tells congregations tashlich prayers must be private, but synagogues can be used if guidelines are followed.

Anti-virus screens around the bimah at South Hampstead synagogue
Anti-virus screens around the bimah at South Hampstead synagogue

Shofar blowing in parks and communal tashlich prayers will not be permitted over Rosh Hashanah, according new guidance from the United Synagogue.

In a letter sent to chairs, rabbis and rebbetzens of its 40 communities this week, the Orthodox organisation outlined what is permitted for the High Holy Days in light of updated Covid-19 restrictions, banning gatherings of more than six people. Synagogues are permitted to hold greater numbers, but there is a restriction on people gathering in groups within venues or mixing socially.

Jo Grose, communities and strategy director and Rabbi Nicky Liss, chair of the US Rabbinical Council, told congregations as of Friday afternoon that “services in our buildings.. can continue as planned, as long as our guidelines” for social distancing and safety are followed. Children’s and youth services and programming can go ahead too, if rules are met.

However, in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus, the US asks “members not to linger after services and to leave the area in a socially distant manner”, while kiddish after services will not take place.

They also said “it is looking unlikely that communal shofar blowings in public spaces such as parks will be permitted”, but that it is “seeking clarification” from the government and local authorities about activities in gardens, in particular.

Time slots for blowing the shofar on site may require registration, while alternative venues to hear it may be moved to a car park or community centre, to ensure social distancing.

The US also said “communities will not be able to go ahead with any planned communal tashlich programmes”, which involves praying near a river”.

“Members should be encouraged to say private tashlich”, instead, it said.

Shul officials add that while they “cannot eliminate risk, we have the confidence of public health officials who have let us know that our synagogue sites, run according to our guidance are Covid secure.”

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