British Chief Rabbi announces closure of United Synagogue amid coronavirus epidemic

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis says Torah obligation to protect life transcends other considerations in closing of synagogues throughout Britain

Gary Willig ,

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Yoni Kempinski

British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis announced Tuesday night that the United Synagogue would be shutting down and ending all services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is now clear from the government’s latest guidance that congregational activity of any kind, including those of religious communities, poses a significant danger to the vulnerable and will serve to hasten the spread of the virus,” Rabbi Mirvis said in a statement.

“With this in mind, our Torah obligation to protect the sanctity of life transcends all other considerations. Therefore, with much pain and with the heaviest of hearts, in consultation with the Dayanim [rabbinic judges] of the London and Manchester Batei Din, I have concluded that we have a halakhic imperative to suspend all activity at all of our synagogues until further notice,” he said.

As a result of the ruling, prayers at all Orthodox synagogues under the United Synagogue will be cancelled, including Shabbat services. In addition, all programs, cultural activities, amd children's programs will be cancelled as well.

“Let us guarantee that the physical distance that this virus creates between us will be bridged through compassion and kindness,” Rabbi Mirvis concluded,