Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, voiced his support for the UK government’s efforts to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus by requiring synagogues to remain closed during the High Holy Days.
In a statement reminiscent of the one he issued over Passover during the first lockdown, Mirvis pleaded with British Jews to remain vigilant in the fight against the coronavirus and obey the law, saying, "if we’re neglecting our health we could be posing a danger to the lives of others... As we enter into the forthcoming High Holy Days, sadly here in the UK, as is the case in many other places around the globe, cases of COVID-19 are on the rise and this is primarily due to irresponsibility – the responsibility that people have towards themselves and others.”
Chief Rabbi Mervis’ warning came after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a moving message to the Jewish community ahead of Rosh Hashana, where he acknowledged that that the government’s policy of limiting the amount of people who can attend religious services to six people affects the Jewish community in particular. “Being required to mark Rosh Hashanah without the close embrace of family will make this a difficult end to what has been a very difficult year. But, here in the UK and around the world, Jewish communities have never been ones to take adversity lying down. So I was not in the least surprised to see you responding to the challenges of coronavirus with typical vim, vigor and ingenuity,” Johnson said.
To accommodate social distancing protocols, Rabbi Mirvis will lead an online Yizkor service, a traditional prayer said to remember those who have passed way. The service will consist of a newly created prayer to commemorate the 500 members of the community who succumbed to the coronavirus.
In anticipation that this year’s high holidays will be different than ever before, the World Jewish Congress' Jewish Diplomatic Corps gathered a collection of sermons from Rabbis around the world, aiming to lift the spirits of our communities worldwide and provide soul food. To learn more click here.