Don't rush back to shul, chief rabbi tells Jewish worshippers

28 May 2020 - 16:45 By TimesLIVE
Chief rabbi Warren Goldstein says shuls should remain closed until Jewish leaders have discussed whether they can comply with regulations.
Chief rabbi Warren Goldstein says shuls should remain closed until Jewish leaders have discussed whether they can comply with regulations.
Image: Tshepo Kekana

Chief rabbi Warren Goldstein says synagogues in SA will remain closed until Jewish leaders have considered whether they can reopen safely and comply with regulations imposed under level 3 of the lockdown.

In a letter to the South African Jewish community on Thursday, Goldstein said the decision would not be made "without careful thought and deliberation".

"There’s a lot at stake - and it’s not something that can or should be rushed," he said.

"To begin, I have convened a series of consultations with the Beth Din, the rabbis of our community, the Rabbinical Association, shul lay-leaders and medical experts, with a view to gaining insight on the issues and arriving at a framework on how to proceed."

On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said religious groups would be able to resume services for no more than 50 people from June 1. But several churches and other organisations have said they will advise their congregations to stay at home.

Goldstein said discussions about reopening synagogues would be based on health and safety, and the need to avoid harming others.

"The sanctity of life comes before all other considerations. One thing is for certain: any possible reopening of our shuls cannot compromise this principle," he said. "The question then is a practical one: can our shuls be opened in a way that is safe for all?

"We go to shul to pray, learn Torah and socialise. At this stage of the pandemic, it is obvious that socialising cannot take place at shuls, and that learning needs to be done online."

Regarding prayer, he said: "The question arises as to whether our shuls will have the operational capacity to implement the regulations to the full extent, and over a sustained period. But we cannot make any concrete decisions until these detailed regulations, which have not yet been published, have been studied and discussed."

Goldstein added that the broader context - in which society was going to learn to live with Covid-19 - was important

"Whether or not our shuls reopen, we need to realise that we are living in a new world – and in this world, each and every one of us will be responsible for our own health and wellbeing, and for not causing harm to others."


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