United Synagogue plans for 'larger attendances at shul services' from July 19

US will issue new guidelines after government provides detailed advice. Other movements cautious over change


Jewish men wear protective face masks pray at a Synagogue in the Jewish settlement of Efrat, Gush Etzion, June 27, 2021. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** חרדי אפרת חרדי קורונה תפילה בית כנסת מסיכות

The United Synagogue will be issuing new guidelines on Covid safety in the light of Boris Johnson’s announcement that remaining restrictions will be lifted on July 19.

Its communities’ director Jo Grose told the JC today that the US was awaiting detailed government guidance before issuing its own recommendations “as we plan for larger attendances at shul services [and] celebrating smachot and holding events as we did before Covid.

“We know davening is not the same without singing; nor weddings without dancing. 

 "The government has said it will be moving away from mandatory guidance and will be preparing instead recommendations for people to follow to stay safe. Mirroring this, we are preparing a new style of guidelines which will provide options and recommended approaches for mitigating risk for communities.”

This would include basic requirements such as asking those who feel unwell to stay at home, and ensuring good ventilation in buildings. “Communities will be able to make judgements based on their own context and what's right for their members,” Ms Grose explained. 

 "This is an important moment for our communities as we look to kick-start communal activities after a very challenging 16 months. While we are excited to do so, we recognise that the end of lockdown does not mean the end of Covid, and we will continue to be careful as we have been throughout the pandemic. We pray that this next set of coronavirus guidelines will be our last."

Meanwhile, the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements have issued a joint statement encouraging "all of our synagogues to continue applying our ongoing level of thoughtful responsibility and to reopen in a cautious way. We want to prioritise our members' feelings of safety and comfort while also understanding their spiritual needs. It is the government’s responsibility to protect the NHS; it is ours to ensure that our members feel, and are, secure."

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