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Services Curtailed in Britain; Dietary Laws Relaxed

September 17, 1939
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

With Germany threatening unrestricted aerial warfare, the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a circular to all synagogues with instructions to be followed in the event of air raids during services. New Year services had earlier been ordered curtailed by Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz.

Immediately the warning sirens are heard, services must stop, the instructions said. In addition, worshippers should not congregate in groups near the synagogues and should, before leaving their homes, make sure that the windows are covered the the lights dimmed. “For the duration of the war, it is strongly urged that top hats should not be worn for synagogue,” the instructions added.

Meanwhile, because of the difficulties involved in supplying kosher food for thousands of Jewish children among the half million evacuated from London, Dr. Hertz announced that “in a national emergency such as at present, all that is required of them is to refrain from eating forbidden meats and shellfish.” This is one of the few recorded times when the rabbinical authorities have sanctioned the eating of non-kosher food by Jews.

Earlier, Dr. Hertz had ordered Jewish High Holiday services drastically curtailed because of the war. The Kol Nidrei services on Yom Kippur eve, Sept. 22, were cancelled altogether, while the Neilah (closing) service was advanced to an hour before the actual end of the Yom Kippur fast.

The Chief Rabbi also ordered a special prayer of supplication for Britain’s victory in the war, to be recited at every Sabbath festival after the prayer for the King. “A spirit of perverseness has come over a renowned nation,” the prayer states. “Its rulers proclaim the idolatry of race and blood. Strife, desolation and destruction are in their paths: they violate the boundaries of nations and the way of peace they know not.”

In a New Year message, Rabbi Hertz declared that none would respond more whole-heartedly to Britain’s call than the Jews.

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