‘A pleasure to be back’ as regional shuls plot their return

Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds congregations speak about their plans


Manchester’s Stenecourt Synagogue will be opening “very early next week”, reported its president, Paul Abeles, using its multiple spaces to conduct staggered minyans, enabling social distancing and adequate cleaning between services.

Leaders had hoped that all four of the shul’s halls could be deployed. But flooding last week rendered two temporarily unusable.

“A lot of our membership are used to coming to shul every day,” Mr Abeles said, citing the four minyans that would normally take place on Shabbat. He claimed that pre-lockdown, the majority of its 600 members passed through its doors every week.

He added that it would be “a pleasure to be back in the sense that it marks something monumental in terms of the recovery from Covid and moving forward”.

Stenecourt has been livestreaming all but its Shabbat services online — as well as barmitzvahs and shivahs – and will continue to do so.

Mr Abeles was aware of the problems a two-tier operation might cause but pointed out the Chief Rabbi had “recommended a hybrid service” to cater for all.

In Liverpool, Childwall Synagogue will be opening for a Shabbat service this week to allow third-generation member Adam Jacobson to have his barmitzvah. Rabbi Avinoam Czitron said that instead of the regular Shabbat attendance of around 100, the maximum would be 30.

Childwall has implemented a one-way system for entrance and exit, as well as cleaning measures and PPE approved by a doctor congregant. The rabbi hoped senior members were “not motivated” to return until they felt safe to do so.

Etz Chaim Synagogue in Leeds plans to reopen soon, although no firm date has been set. Leaders of the city’s Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue are discussing opening sometime next week.

St Annes Hebrew Congregation, which has a membership of 200, was taking a “fairly cautious” approach, said president Robert Pinkus. The plan was to hold a weekday service before arranging anything for Shabbat.

With a capacity of 600, and pre-lockdown Shabbat morning attendances of around 40, Mr Pinkus was not expecting problems accommodating those who wished to attend.

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