Following a careful review of current levels of COVID-19 infection and hospitalisation locally, and in full compliance with Government and United Synagogue (US) guidance, we have taken the decision to increase our provision of services to include weekday Shacharit, Friday night and Shabbat morning services, beginning this Friday, February 12, which is Rosh Chodesh Adar.
As you will be aware, we took the difficult decision on January 10 to reduce our provision just to weekday afternoon services, at a time when infection levels were rising rapidly and a critical incident had been declared in London. This decision was taken out of an abundance of caution, to eliminate any risk that we might add to the pressure on hospitals and emergency services. As has been the case since we reopened after the first lockdown in July 2020, our Shul building remains safe for services, with stringent social distancing and hygiene procedures in place.
As well as following Government and US guidance, we are also in regular contact with government officials and Public Health Barnet who have recognised the safety of our building and the value of continuing to hold services. Having conducted a risk assessment, we feel confident in being able to scale up services, in line with decisions being taken by several other US communities. As always, the priority in these difficult decisions is to keep the community safe, while balancing the need to provide services to those who need them when it is safe and permitted to do so.
If you choose to attend services, please be mindful that we remain in a strict lockdown and you must only be in close proximity with those in your own household or support bubble. You must maintain a 2m distance from all others, not congregate or socialise upon entry or exit, sanitise your hands upon entry and exit and wear a mask at all times. Given the current weather conditions, please also dress warmly as the windows and doors will be open for ventilation. The ladies gallery will be open to provide additional seating and space for men and women. If you have COVID symptoms, feel unwell or are clinically vulnerable, please do not attend services – it is your obligation to stay at home and protect yourself and others from illness.
We regret that we are unable to offer programming for children or youth at this time, but will continue to offer enhanced provision online. To minimise the time we spend in Shul, we will for the time being begin Shabbat morning services with Barchu rather than Pesukei d’Zimra – this week at 9:30, next week at 9:40.
As Purim approaches, we recognise it will be very different this year, but we are working on the final details of the programme. Full details and halachic guidance for Purim will be circulated by Rabbi Belovski on Sunday.
Stay safe and well,
Naomi Verber, Chair
Rabbi Belovski, Senior Rabbi
Professor Benny Chain, Chair, GGS COVID Advisory Group