New York State Issues Guidance for High Holiday Services


(JTA) – Worshippers at services should be 12 feet apart from one another when singing. Sukkahs can be considered outdoor environments, though distancing should be maintained and ventilation increased. Apples should be distributed whole, not cut, with individual honey jars.

That was some of the guidance from the New York State Department of Health on Wednesday as Jews prepare to celebrate Rosh Hashanah beginning Friday night.

The guidance is in line with what the Centers for Disease Control has advised over the past several months regarding the importance of social distancing and mask use.

While some Reform and Conservative synagogues are gathering for short outdoor activities, like the tashlich service, which is usually performed near a body of water and is meant to symbolically “cast away” sins, or with outdoor shofar blowings, most non-Orthodox synagogues are holding services over Zoom this year. Most Orthodox synagogues, however, will meet in person, with some synagogues holding multiple services to accommodate people with social distancing.

For services held indoors, the Health Department recommends filling synagogues to no more than 33% capacity indoors and keeping 6 feet of distance between worshippers whether indoors or outdoors. For services involving singing, the department recommends a distance of 12 feet.

According to the guidance, masks should be worn at all times, though they may be removed when seated at a distance of 6 feet from others. Masks must be worn, even when seated, during singing and should be encouraged throughout the entire service.