Back in business

May 27, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Sydney’s The Great Synagogue closed its doors in March for the first time in 142 years.

Stephen Rothman

But it is now open again for services, albeit with restrictions on attendees.

President Justice Stephen Rothman told J-Wire: “The Great has had morning services each weekday last week and again this week.  We expect them to continue.  We held a Bar Mitzvah last Thursday morning and another on Shabbat.

We also had our first Shabbat service last Shabbat and that will also continue each week.  We have services on Thursday and Friday evenings this week and both mornings of Yom Tov.  Next week we hope to re-introduce Minchah each weekday and test the waters for a weekday Ma’ariv probably trying for that either later in the week or the week commencing 8 June.

We’re very excited at the take-up and getting the process moving to a sense of normality.

This week, under the auspices of the Board of Deputies, Emanuel, Central, and The Great Synagogues met with Government representatives from the Premier’s Office, Multicultural NSW and the Emergency Medical Team advising the State Government to seek a rational opening of services under strict controls.  At the moment, services are limited to officiants plus 10 congregants, but there seems no logical reason related to health or the safety of the community for Synagogue services to have less than pubs. There is also good reason that the larger synagogues should be able to have services in each of their buildings or major facilities.

All synagogues will be (and The Great is now) implementing social distance requirements.  All Siddurim are disinfected and attendees are requested to use only their own books.  Distances have been measured out for the Torah reading and the people called up for that purpose.  The seats are disinfected and the attendees use hand sanitisers that the Shule makes available.

He added: “The issue yesterday with a Moriah student is unfortunate for the student, to whom we wish a Refuah Shaleima, and the College, but makes little or no difference to the necessity to return to some form of normality.  It was to be expected that there would be some cases, and Moriah College is to be congratulated for handling this so well.  I expect this case will be confined and will have almost no impact on the wider community.  On present information, it has no impact on the holding of Synagogue services at The Great, and probably not at many other synagogues.”



3 Responses to “Back in business”
  1. Dr. Rodney Gouttman says:

    The Great Synagogue closed its doors to regular prayers during the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1919. See my AJN article@!!!

    • Benseon Apple says:

      Dr Gouttman – thank you for your informative article on the subject in the AJN which I read with interest. I think it has been some 18 or so years since our time at the ADC – my how time flies!

  2. Robert Gescheit says:

    G-d forbid that one of the congregants of the Great, Emanuel or Central synagogues has come into contact with the poor Moriah school student who has tested positive to Covid-19, or has come into contact with anyone who he may have unknowingly infected prior to him being diagnosed.

    By saying that the case of the Moriah student testing positive has almost no impact on the community, and no impact on the holding of services at the Great and many other synagogues is an over-simplification of the situation and simply not true.

    After this unfortunate news, the Sydney Beth Din, after receiving advice from medical experts, made a ruling that it was not worth the risk to open up synagogues when there was even the slightest risk of infection. I do not understand why these three synagogues are flouting the ruling from their rabbinic roof body, and willing to take a risk with their members and congregants, even after meeting with government officials.

    Taking certain health risks when it comes to commercial considerations with the economy is perhaps understandable, but surely we should be more vigilant when it comes to the congregants of our synagogues where health risks really need not take place at the moment.

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