United Synagogue postpones all stonesettings and limits funeral attendances

Those sitting shivah cannot have visitors. No weddings can now take place


The United Synagogue is postponing all stonesettings and limiting attendance at funerals to immediate family until social distancing requirements are relaxed.

Announcing the decision today, the US pointed out that although the stonesetting ceremony was an important tradition, it was not “entirely essential”. While it was customary to hold this ceremony within a year after the burial, it could be held later.

However, as long as stonemasons are able to continue working, the tombstone should be erected, reflecting the halachic imperative to properly mark a grave.

With regard to funerals, a minyan will not be required. All will be held outdoors and mourners will be asked to stand “some distance apart”. No transport will be provided.  

People could consider livestreaming funerals to allow others to be included. US cemeteries will otherwise be closed to the public until further notice.

Those sitting shivah cannot have visitors as “a gathering of people in a shivah house does not comply with government social distancing requirements”. Rabbis will not visit the shivah house and the US advises that those wishing to comfort mourners should phone or email.

Although the US had previously advised that weddings could be held in restricted circumstances, its now says they are “not possible at this time”.

Mikvaot remain open for women, but men are asked to refrain from going.

Members were reassured that "best-practice guidelines on hygiene and social distancing are in place at local mikvaot in North London".

US chief executive Steven Wilson said the new guidelines "reflect the United Synagogue's overwhelming priority to protect life.

"The coronavirus crisis has forced changes upon us we couldn't have imagined.

"No chief executive wants to have to limit attendance at funerals or tell families they have to postpone a stonesetting for a loved one.

"The Torah teaches that regarding mitzvot, 'v'chai bahem [you must live by them]', from which the Talmud learns that in certain circumstances, we have to postpone a mitzvah in order to save lives. This principle has been at the heart of all the careful actions the United Synagogue has taken so far in response to this crisis."




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