British chief rabbi orders synagogues closed over coronavirus


(JTA) — British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis ordered the closure of all synagogues affiliated with United Synagogue, the largest network of Orthodox synagogues in the country.

“These extraordinary times call upon us to take extraordinary measures,” Mirvis said in a letter issued Tuesday.

“(O)ur Torah obligation to protect the sanctity of life transcends all other considerations. 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,” he wrote.

The order includes prayer services as well as educational, cultural and social gatherings.

Mirvis stressed that he will be praying all weekday, Shabbat and holiday services by himself at home.

He added that specific guidance for Jewish communal life and the upcoming Passover holiday would follow soon.

The U.S. president of United Synagogue, Michael Goldstein, said in a statement that “The community should not facilitate, support or publicize any minyanim or services in members’ homes,” and that Torah scrolls should not be lent for that purpose.

Goldstein said there is an exception for weddings, but that “restrictive regulations will be in place.”

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