An Orthodox shul in Dublin has been holding services since the end of June, taking advantage of the earlier lifting of restrictions in the Republic. But Cardiff congregants are still waiting to be back in shul.
Dublin Hebrew Congregation has been organising services for around two dozen worshippers and intended to have its first post-lockdown ladies’ service on Shabbat.
Michael Stein, its president, pointed out that attendances represented “a very good crowd” for the small community, which has a membership of around 150. Shul leaders have actively discouraged some elderly members from attending and the service has been reduced to an hour.
To allow proper social distancing — and to keep doors open during services — the shul’s function hall is being used instead of the sanctuary. The hall is given a full weekly clean.
Mr Stein said that, once social distancing guidance in Ireland was relaxed to one metre, the shul could again use the sanctuary.
He added that it was reviewing operations on a weekly basis and was not yet ready to consider provision for the High Holy Days.
Jewish Representative Council of Ireland chair Maurice Cohen said that although“fantastic that services can resume, especially for those who are regular shul-goers and those who have got Yahrzeit”, there were fears about the impact of “a potential second wave” of Covid cases in the country.
Despite last Friday’s announcement from the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, allowing places of worship to resume services, Cardiff United Synagogue will not be back in its building until some time in August.
An additional bimah space is being created so congregants can watch the rabbi lein at a safe distance. To begin with, only Shabbat services will be held in the building — weekday services, on request, will take place via Zoom.
Cardiff’s 150 members will be limited to 16 spaces for men and 15 for women. Plans for the High Holy Days could allow multiple services, potentially making use of the synagogue hall.
Shul chair Lisa Gerson said it had been “useful” to hear the experiences of shuls that had reopened.