Suburb rabbis take the bus to alleviate Yomtov isolation

'If people can't come to shul, we have to come to the people'


Hampstead Garden Suburb United Synagogue has found a route to involvement for congregants unwilling or unable to attend its festival services. They are being visited by its rabbinic team on the shul’s Rosh Hashanah bus.

HGSS’s two rabbinic couples have been stopping at locations around the area to blow the shofar, distribute honey cake and extend Yomtov greetings to members who are isolating or at home with young families.

Senior rabbi Daniel Friedman explained that “if people can’t come to shul, we have to come to the people”. He wanted congregants who would not be participating in physical services to know that “we love them and care about them more than ever”.

Community rabbi Ephraim Guttentag added the bus was “our way of reaching out”.

To ensure safety, the rabbis wore gloves and masks and maintained social distancing. Their “bus stops” were for 45 minutes to maximise the involvement of the community.

The bus — which usually transports special needs children — has been loaned by the Levenfiche Foundation. Olivier Levenfiche, an HGSS congregant, was in the driving seat, happy to support a “very good cause. It’s important to give back.”

Rabbi Friedman also reported a “great response” to the synagogue’s reopening, expecting around 700 at services on the first day Rosh Hashanah.

However, Rabbi Guttentag pointed out that while “700 sounds like a great number, when we’ve got close to 3,000 [members], there’s still quite a large proportion that’s not coming, whether it be those who are feeling vulnerable, and also families with young children”. There will be limited capacity children’s services on Rosh Hashanah.



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