Synagogue organization: 'Don't forget the children'

World Synagogue Organization calls for continued outdoor prayers, suggests giving under-16s key roles in leading outdoor prayer sessions.

Orly Harari ,

Praying outdoors during the coronavirus outbreak
Praying outdoors during the coronavirus outbreak
David Cohen/Flash90

Many synagogues reopened last week under the Green Passport plan, allowing entry to those vaccinated against coronavirus or recovered from it, but barring children under 16 from entering, unless they have recovered from coronavirus.

In response, the World Synagogue Organization has issued a call to the public, calling on them not to "forget" the children, and to continue holding prayers in open areas.

"Our children have suffered greatly in the past year," the organization said in a statement. "They almost didn't go to school, they were prevented from going to meetings and social activities, and they were distanced together with us, the adults, from synagogues as well."

The statement noted that young boys, traditionally called to read from the Torah at their bar mitzvah celebration, prepared for many months to read from the Torah scroll, only to have to read from a printed book during a family-only celebration.

"Now, when synagogues are reopening under the Green Passport plan, the children - up until age 16 - who cannot receive the vaccination find themselves outside synagogues yet again. Our obligation as adults, as parents, as rabbis, and as sextons, is to be sure and certain that we are not forgetting them. We must at the same time organize prayer sessions in open areas, in the permitted capsules, for the sake of the children. The spiritual and religious harm of leaving them out can thus be minimized.

"In such a prayer session, we can appoint these children sextons, let them read from the Torah, lead the prayers, and give Torah speeches. In this way, we will be able to turn the difficulty into a challenge that teaches and connects.

"We pray that we will all be able to return to joint prayers within the synagogues, together with the entire family, in good health and strength."