(JTA) — Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue will be closed during the High Holidays for the first time since it opened more than 60 years ago.
In a statement on Sunday, the synagogue cited the risk of worshippers passing the coronavirus to others. Israel is currently in the process of implementing a second nationwide lockdown in response to an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases.
“The deciding consideration was the personal safety of every one of you,” the statement said. “Even if we stand by these [lockdown rules], there is still a risk. One person makes a mistake; one person is positive [for the coronavirus] and did not know; one person who can infect another. The Great Synagogue wants to prevent this risk [from affecting] every one of you.”
The Orthodox synagogue, which first opened for prayer in 1958, seats 850 men and 550 women.
The congregation was founded in 1958 within the Heichal Shlomo building, which was at the time the seat of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. As the number of worshippers grew, a larger synagogue was built on the property next to Heichal Shlomo, in the style of the Temple in Jerusalem, and dedicated in 1982. Chief Rabbis, Israeli presidents, Prime Ministers, Knesset members and judges have attended services at the synagogue. Tourists frequently visit on Friday night to hear the Orthodox synagogue’s cantor and choir.
The government on Sunday evening announced the regulations for the upcoming three-week lockdown, which wall start on Rosh Hashanah and last until after the Sukkot holiday in early October.