Jersey Jews are back in shul

Social distancing, mask-wearing and no singing. But leaders of the small community say they're glad to resume Shabbat services


Taking advantage of a local relaxation in restrictions, Jersey Jews were back in shul on Shabbat for a “strange and wonderful” service — their first in three months.

 Community secretary Martha Bernstein said it was a “huge step towards getting back to normal”. But for now, “normal” entailed no singing, social distancing and masks being worn by all, in accordance with Jersey government policy.

The congregation also took advice from the Chief Rabbi’s office.

“It was different, there was no doubt about it,” said Stephen Regal, 72, the community’s president. “If you can’t sing and are wearing masks and gloves, it makes for a very strange scene. I don’t quite understand the no singing business.”

Ms Bernstein, 60, and her husband ensured there was a two-metre gap between each chair. Hand sanitiser was available at the synagogue entrance. 

“We also made it a one-way in, one-way out system.”

There were eight men and four women at the service, “a fantastic turnout in view of the age of the community”. 

The Jersey shul has a formal membership of 49, although others are involved. It also includes the few Jews living in neighbouring Guernsey. 

Mr Regal said that the membership had come through Covid-19 relatively unscathed and had kept in touch through WhatsApp and Zoom. Telephone calls had been made to those living alone. 

As the lockdown eases further in both Jersey and mainland Britain, Mr Regal is looking forward to replenishing the community’s kosher meat supplies. 

“During the pandemic it has been impossible to import kosher meat,” he explained. “We have three deep freezers and they are looking quite empty at the moment.” 

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