With many states beginning to relax the stay at home orders and planning on allowing sectors of their economy to reopen, Jewish organizations have released a set of guidelines for the eventual reopening of shuls in the future.
In a conference call on Thursday, Rabbanim and representatives of Jewish organizations spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force about formulating these recommendations for their affiliates in order to provide them with recommendations how to proceed when the authorities begin reopening.
Dr Fauci showed deference to the spiritual aspect of gathering for tefillah betzibur, and commended the attitude of the Jewish community which despite the longing to join together for communal davening, nevertheless showed their fealty to preservation of life and pikuach nefesh.
The organizations stressed that these proposals are meant to be implemented only after local authorities allow such gatherings to take place. On the suggestion of Dr. Fauci, it was suggested that the shuls should not commence any minyanim until a minimum of 14 days after the authorities allow gatherings to take place. This would allow for a reasonable amount of time to see the results of the loosening of restrictions, and allow the Rabbanim to assess the best way to go forward.
The guidelines stressed that all rules of social distancing and safety, including wearing masks and hand washing, is a pre-requisite for opening the shuls. It also suggests that seating be designed to allow a minimum of 8 feet separating congregants during davening, and staggering minyanim in a manner which will limit the participants of any given minyan. It also cautioned the Rabbanim to appoint responsible people to maintain compliance and to keep order, especially while entering and exiting the shul.
Additional recommendations concerning limiting the times of the tefillos were mentioned, including possibly donning the tallis and tefillin before coming to shul, and left for the poskim to determine this and other issues when the time comes. Other issues of halachah were brought to the attention of the minyanim, including the difficulty in performing krias hatorah and several related issues.
Acknowledging that keeping these instructions may be difficult with the amount of people involved, it was noted that it may be necessary to stagger not only the minyanim, but also to devise a method of rotating which people can attend any particular tefillah.
Due to the serious nature of the virus and its effect on certain groups, including the elderly and those who have compromised health or any sign of illness, the guidelines stressed that any people in these groups not attend minyanim at this time. In addition, children under bar mitzvah who are not obligated to daven with a minyan should not be included.
The guidelines also cautioned that no social gathering, such as a kiddush, should be allowed at this time.
A discussion about permitting outdoor minyanim, both on shul premises and on private grounds, was included, with the caveat that any such minyanim should be organized under the auspices of the Rav and with people assigned to ensure all safety measure are kept. If it is deemed that there is a lack of compliance, these types of minyanim may need to be reassessed.
The guidelines stressed that the opening of shuls will not be accomplished as a one-time event, and it will be necessary to implement this over an extended period of time.