Strictly Orthodox rabbinate backs plan to redesign tube entrance to protect Cohanim

Entrance is linked to Science Museum which houses human remains


The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations is backing a plan to redesign the entrance to a London tube station to enable strictly observant Cohanim to use the Underground.

 One of the entrances to South Kensington tube station is connected to the Science Museum where human remains are on display.

 Since Cohanim are prohibited from contact with dead bodies - with certain exceptions - this puts the tube out of bounds to those who adopt a strict position in Jewish law.

 An application has been submitted to Chelsea and Kensington Council by the Va’ad Mishmeres Hakohanim, an organisation which works to protect Kohanim from ritual impurity, to construct a symbolic arch around the entrance - which in Jewish law would separate it from the museum.

 Now the Union, the main religious umbrella body for Charedi communities in London, has thrown its weight behind the proposal.

 In a letter to the council, Rabbi Yaacov Conrad, registrar of the Union Beth Din, explained, “According to Jewish law and tradition, Kohanim are prohibited from being in contact with human corpses. This prohibition extends to any connection or association with objects or areas that are considered to be under the same roof or connected to spaces housing human remains. 

 “Considering the Science Museum exhibits human corpses, the connection between the Kensington Underground Entrance and the Science Museum via the outside moulding continuation above the entrance poses a significant challenge for the approximately 1,500 Kohanim who cannot use the entire London Underground network, as it operates under one roof, and the perceived impurity would extend throughout the entire underground network.”

 He told the council: “We have come up with a proposed solution that we believe addresses the issue while ensuring inclusivity and accessibility for all individuals. We propose the installation of physical dividers between the museum and the underground station, as outlined in the proposed planning application. 

 “The physical dividers would serve to separate the areas associated with the Science Museum and the Kensington Underground Entrance. This would enable Kohanim to utilise the underground network without being in direct contact or proximity to the exhibits containing human corpses.”

 The dividers should “be designed and implemented in a way that ensures their effectiveness in providing clear and distinct boundaries between the two spaces,” he said.

 “We believe that this solution strikes a balance between religious freedom and the need for accessible public transportation.”


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