THE Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ) is urging all synagogues to close their doors for all social and religious gatherings, including prayer services, as soon as practicable due to the ongoing coronavirus threat.
In a statement on Tuesday evening, RCANZ said, “Jewish law states unequivocally that life threatening situations and even suspected life threatening situations override all other considerations and given the rapid rate at which COVID-19 is spreading throughout the community, regular gatherings at shule presents an unacceptable risk.”
RCANZ added that all shiurim and talks which can be facilitated online should proceed.
“We encourage an increase in the number of shiurim and Torah study online.”
The advice comes after an earlier statement from the Sydney Beth Din (SBD), which recommended “all minyanim in all [NSW] synagogues be suspended from now until further notice” due to the coronavirus threat.
In a letter to shules this afternoon, the SBD said it made the decision due to the “difficulty of maintaining social distancing in [a synagogue] environment, the difficulty of turning away the elderly, or the difficulty of enforcing fixed numbers, together with the confirmed cases of COVID-19 already in the Australian Jewish community”.
“We recommend, and believe it to be a halachic imperative, that all minyanim in all synagogues be suspended from now until further notice,” the letter stated.
The letter added that “appropriate arrangements have been made at all the mikvaot to enable their safe use. Please contact your Rebbetzin or mikva attendant for further details”.
The SBD said it will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“Together with all the Rabbis of our community, we will be there to advise and help particularly our elderly and particularly in relation to individual prayer at home.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Sydney’s Central Synagogue announced it was closing its doors “for the foreseeable future” due to the coronavirus threat.
“This action today, taken because of this global pandemic, has never occurred in the history of our spiritual home,” Central’s Rabbi Levi Wolff said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our government has been very clear that this is a national and global health emergency. This we take very seriously.”
The advice from the Sydney Beth Din comes into effect immediately.
Full coverage in this week’s AJN.