For the United Synagogue’s biggest community, Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue, the first service back in shul will be on Sunday night.
It begins a trial week of evening services before morning gatherings are reintroduced for the 4,000-plus members — and eventually Shabbat services.
Minister Rabbi Alex Chapper told the JC that to comply with the US’s two metres between congregants guidance, instead of being able to accommodate several hundred people in the sanctuary, attendance would be limited to 45 seats apiece for men and women.
But for weekday services, the rabbi believed the number was sufficient.
Members will have to apply for places at services and priority will be given to those with lifecycle events such as Kaddish and barmitzvahs. While naturally pleased that the synagogue was reopening, he acknowledged that there would be “two camps of people — those who are really excited to be coming back and those who are quite nervous about coming back.”
Borehamwood will be continuing its online offering for congregants who do not wish to return in person.
He believed the synagogue was “catering for the whole of the community” and that “we are going to be doing as much as we can to maintain contact with those who don’t want to come to shul or can’t come to shul”.
Those who do attend services will have to bring their own siddurim. As it will not be possible to have a communal kiddush, they will be provided with takeaway kiddush kits.
And when Shabbat services do resume, they will be shorter, with participants asked to do the first part at home.
The same will apply for the High Holy-Days, with potential services across multiple sites to cater for larger numbers. Rabbi Chapper also raised the possibility of street-by-street shofar blowings and a “flash mob choir” in a park.