Shul closes and care homes back in lockdown as Manchester faces second wave of restrictions

Visitors barred from welfare sites and synagogues take extra precautions in response to new guidance after coronanvirus cases rise in area


Manchester care complexes have reintroduced visitor bans in response to partial local lockdowns in northern areas.

But the new restrictions — which allow pubs, restaurants and places of worship to remain open but prohibit socialising outside of household “bubbles” — have added to the struggles of synagogues and kosher food businesses. One shul, the Sephardi Shaare Hayim congregation in Hale, has shut in response to a general spike in cases locally. A spokesman said the situation was being closely monitored and the shul hoped to reopen “as soon as it is considered safe to do so”.

On the welfare front, Mark Cunningham, chief executive of The Fed, said that following the government’s announcement, its Heathlands home immediately imposed “a suspension of all visits”.

An action plan had been in place for reimposing a site lockdown and “our position has consistently been that this is far from over and we must remain vigilant and prepared for any eventuality.

“We are blessed to have incredible support from relatives, whose patience and understanding has gone a long way in assisting us to work through this difficult period. We will continue to update them every step of the way.”

Similar action has been taken at Didsbury care village Belong Morris Feinmann, where all visits, including those in the garden, have been suspended in line with the government guidance. The exception is for relatives of residents at “end of life”.

A kosher caterer covering the Manchester area, Ed Shaerf, who runs Feast, said the new guidance made no sense as “I can go to the pub or a restaurant but can’t go to my in-laws”.

Reuven Banay, boss of Sahara Nights kosher caterers in Prestwich said the business was going through some “really hard times”. When he spoke to the JC, Mr Banay had just had a dinner party booking cancelled as the hosts could not have someone in their home from outside their social bubble.

In a message to faith leaders in the North, the Chief Rabbi’s office stressed that any shuls which took the “painful decision” to close again would have the “complete support” of the Chief Rabbi. Those yet to reopen should “err on the side of caution”.

Synagogues were also advised to consider more stringent safety precautions, including moving minyans outside and further restricting the number of attendees.

Other than Shaare Hayim, Manchester shuls contacted by the JC had elected to remain open in some capacity.

For example, Hale Synagogue delayed its plan to resume Shabbat services last weekend. But it is continuing weekday services, although these are being held outdoors.

Hale president Ben Sallon said that “whilst we have reduced the risk, ensuring a return of regular minyan members is challenging. We must remain positive in the hope that some normality will return to our precious community soon.”

South Manchester Synagogue’s Rabbi Dovid Lewis said the latest changes had not allowed shul leaders much preparation time. In the event, the decision was taken to move services outdoors, with attendance limited to 30 —its sanctuary could accommodate 70 socially distanced worshippers.

The shul was hoping to seat 100 congregants at High Holy-Day services, making use of the “family bubble” rules. It was “planning for the worst, hoping for the best”.

Heaton Park Synagogue, Prestwich Hebrew Congregation and Yeshurun Hebrew Congregation in Cheadle are maintaining their original health and safety precautions.

Paul Abeles, president of Stenecourt Synagogue, said the local lockdown “hasn’t really changed anything” as the shul had reopened with a “conservative approach”.

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