Shul-reopening and weddings now permitted in England, but Chief Rabbi and Board urge caution

Boris Johnson made the announcement in an address to the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon


Prayer services and weddings will be allowed to go ahead in England from July 4, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs on Tuesday - although Jewish leadership urged caution.

Mr Johnson said that places of worship would be green-lit to reopen for services and that weddings be allowed, provided that social distancing is respected, and attendance was limited to a maximum of 30.

Addressing the Commons, Mr Johnson said: “I know that many have mourned the closure of places of worship and this year, Easter, Passover and Eid, all occurred during the lockdown.

“I am delighted that places of worship will be able to reopen for prayer and services, including weddings with a maximum of 30 people, all subject to social distancing,” he continued.

Outdoor weddings involving up to 10 people have been permitted in Northern Ireland since June 8, while Wales approved small wedding ceremonies on June 22.

Mr Johnson also confirmed that pubs, restaurants and hairdressers would be permitted to reopen from July 4 and said that the two-metre social distancing rule was being replaced by one metre.

The Prime Minister warned that each step in the easing of the coronavirus lockdown was “conditional and reversible”.

The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement, but said that “return to congregational activity will, of course, be as cautious as is necessary to protect our communities.”

Rabbi Mirvis has previously said that United Synagogues may remain closed for longer than is mandated by government regulations and noted in his statement that “further guidance would be available in the coming days.”

He added that: “It is a cause for additional celebration that couples, some of whom have to wait for several months, will now be able to marry.”

Steven Wilson, the chief executive of the United Synagogue, said: "We are delighted that the government has given us the green light to re-open our synagogues safely from July 4." 

Mr Wilson continued: "Each of our communities will be restarting services at its own pace depending on the needs of their members and we will support each community every step of the way. It has been extremely painful for us - although the right thing to do - to keep our synagogues closed and we are looking forward to welcoming members back soon."

Liberal Judaism's interim director Rabbi Charley Baginsky echoed the Chief Rabbi's caution.

Rabbi Baginsky said that reopening on July 4 was "not something that Liberal Judaism will be rushing to do."   

She continued: “It is essential that all Liberal Judaism communities conduct a full risk assessment before they reopen and we will be supporting and advising them throughout this process.

"We will also examine all Government guidance, as it continues to be formulated, and ensure our congregations have all the information they need to open safely when they feel ready to do so."

Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies, welcomed the announcements but also urged caution.

Ms van der Zyl said: “On the day that we reveal that the total number of deaths in the Jewish community has reached 500, we would urge people to proceed with caution and stick within the government's guidelines to ensure there is no second spike in cases."

The Board said that it held meetings with Downing Street and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that Jewish concerns – especially acute within the Charedi community – over permitting weddings were taken in account during the decision-making to ease the lockdown.

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