Health workers disinfecting Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue
Health workers disinfecting Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue
Photo: Oren Hen
 Health workers disinfecting Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue

Coronavirus Shabbat: No synagogues, no services

From Marrakesh to Manchester, Jewish world begins first sabbath without communal gatherings as rabbis across the globe urge cooperation with countries' guidelines and restrictions used in fight against deadly virus

Itamar Eichner |
Published: 03.20.20 , 19:49
The Jewish world was embarking on an unprecedented situation on Friday: Shabbat without services, friends and family as rabbis across the globe ordered their communities' synagogues closed due to the continued spread of the coronavirus.
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  • On Tuesday, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis ordered the closure of all the nation's synagogues.
     Health workers disinfecting Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue  Health workers disinfecting Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue
    Health workers disinfecting Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue
    (Photo: Oren Hen )
    “These extraordinary times call upon us to take extraordinary measures,” Mirvis said in a letter issued by his office.
    “Our Torah obligation to protect the sanctity of life transcends all other considerations," he said.
    הרב אפרים מירוויסהרב אפרים מירוויס
    British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
    (Photo: Gettyimages )
    "Therefore, with much pain and with the heaviest of hearts, in consultation with the Dayanim (judges) of the London Beit Din (rabbinical court), I have concluded that we have a Halachic imperative to suspend all activity at all of our synagogues until further notice,” Mirvis wrote.
    The order includes prayer services as well as educational, cultural and social gatherings.
    Morocco's Jewish communal council, Conseil des Communautés Israélites du Maroc (CCIM), sent similar guidelines to its communities, urging that "prayers at synagogues be halted until further notice."
    Also Tuesday, the Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ) closed both countries' synagogues, calling it a "biblical duty."
    Turkey's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Haliva demanded Wednesday that all the country's synagogues be closed.
    הרב יצחק חליבה מטורקיההרב יצחק חליבה מטורקיה
    Turkey's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Haliva
    "We must not forget that any precautions we take," said Haliva, "are meant to deal with the ever creeping and nearing health risk and not to worsen it."
    "We have temporarily halted all prayers and meetings," he said.
    "I have no doubt the God will receive our prayers from our homes. I pray with all my heart that this period ends soon. May God bestow health upon us all."
    Chabad leaders in Brooklyn have decided to close the movement's biggest prayer house at 770 Eastern Parkway, also known as "770."
    Фото: Леон ЛевитасФото: Леон Левитас
    Chabad House at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn
    (Photo: Archive)
    U.S. President Donald Trump's advisor, Avi Berkowitz, held an urgent phone conference with ultra-Orthodox leaders in America, urging them to the restrictions and guidelines seriously.
    Berkowitz called for the closure of all the yeshivas and to safeguard the children.
    Following the meeting, Satmar's Chief Rebbe Zalman Teitelbaum ordered all the community's schools and learning institutions closed until next Sunday, when a new assessment will take place.
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