Use video calls to bring families together for Seder, rabbis say, as Israel orders all synagogues shut

Ban on mass gatherings effectively means the closure of all shuls in the country



All synagogues in Israel are to be closed as even further restrictions were announced on Wednesday to prevent people from leaving their homes because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Religious worship will now only be permitted if it takes place in an "open space" with two metres between each participant, officials announced.

The restriction also applies to weddings, funerals and circumcisions, which can only take place outdoors and with a maximum of 10 participants.

It comes as a group of Orthodox rabbis in Israel made a joint statement permitting people to use videoconferencing technology this Passover so that families can still celebrate Seder together.

The group of Sephardi rabbis said it was permissible this year on a one-time basis, despite the halachic ban on operating electronic devices on holy days, so long as all computers were switched on and the video connection established before the holiday sets in.

“Passover is a special holiday, especially the night of the reading of the Haggadah, which is seen by all as a special event, a treaty between God and Israel,” said the rabbis' ruling, according to Haaretz.

“It would also seem that the young children of Israel, were it not for their connection to their grandfather and grandmother, would not gather around the Seder table, and only the connection to the grandparent causes them to take part in the mitzvah of the Hagaddah reading and eating matzah.

“And in this generation, it is very important that children pay attention to their elders.” 

Under new restrictions announced by the Israeli government early on Wednesday morning, people will be allowed outside to buy food or medicine, or to travel to work if they are unable to work from home.

In all other cases, Israelis will not be permitted to travel more than 100 metres away from their homes.

All train services were suspended on Wedneseday evening and other public transport services are set to be further reduced to discourage travel. No more than two passengers will be permitted to travel in private cars and only one passenger in a taxi, except in an emergency.

The new measures came into effect at 5pm local time and will be in place initially for a week.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive