Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations says only healthy men should attend shuls as it closes 'education and Torah institutions'

The Union has said that women, children and those in the at risk categories should stay away



The Charedi Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) has announced it is closing “education and Torah institutions” and said only healthy men should attend shuls.

In a statement published in the early hours of Friday morning, the UOHC said that synagogues will remain open, but that “minyonim in shuls should only take place through minimal minyan amounts in spacious locations”. 

Women and children “should not come to Shul whatsoever," while elderly men and men with underlying health conditions should pray at home. 

Schools, yeshivot and kollelim will close. 

It had been expected that the statement would be released on Thursday evening, but disagreement over the scale of the closures reportedly held up its finalisation. 

The UOHC’s policy is under review, and the organisation will release another statement at the beginning of next week. 

The JC understands that this statement will consider whether to retain the current advice or recommend the closure of all synagogues based on whether congregants follow the guidelines laid down for Shabbat.

The UOHC is also considering relaxing some Passover laws.  

Sources said the scale of the coronavirus crisis affecting Charedim in New York, as well as decisions taken by other Jewish religious organisations in Britain, pushed the UOHC towards the decision.

Golders Green Beth Hamedrash, the synagogue of Rabbi Yisrael Greenberg, a member of the UOHC rabbinate, closed on Thursday and will remain so “indefinitely.”

In an email circulating online, signed by Rabbi Greenberg, the Rabbi say: “I need to review my relationship with the union altogether.”

In the email, that has been published by Charedi blogger IfYouTickleUs, Rabbi Greenberg claims his name was added to UOHC letter “without my permission” and that he had not been “part of the discussion” as he “disagrees completely.”

The UOHC’s decision becomes the latest in a string of statements from Jewish organisations announcing partial or full closures of their institutions. 

On Tuesday, the Federation of Synagogues announced that “synagogues should not hold large gatherings for minyonim” and advised those in the at-risk categories to remain at home. 

The United Synagogue and the S&P Sephardi Community also announced unprecedented full closures of their synagogues and institutions. 

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