Synagogue (illustrative)
Synagogue (illustrative)iStock

The World Synagogue Organization (WSO) has recommended that synagogue sextons, rabbis, and community leaders prepare in advance for the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) prayer gatherings, in light of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the prayer services on these holidays are significantly longer than usual, the World Synagogue Organization suggests taking extra precautions in order to protect worshipers' health, and especially the health of those who are older or are in high-risk groups.

In their recommendations, the Organization suggested that only those who have received the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, are recovered and have a Green Pass, and those who present a recent negative coronavirus test be allowed to enter the synagogue. All other worshipers, including those of any age who received just two doses of the vaccine, should pray in an open area.

It is recommended that worshipers avoid kissing the Torah scroll and shaking hands with each other.

WSO emphasized that masks should be properly worn throughout the prayer services, and that sextons must ensure there is proper ventilation and enough space between worshipers. There should also be a set location in the synagogue where worshipers can sanitize their hands.

WSO also urged that places for prayer be set up in open areas, for those who are not included in the above or who would prefer not to attend prayers in enclosed areas. These services should preferably be held near the synagogue in order to preserve the connection to the regular prayer services and to the community, the organization added. In addition, the locations should be safe and properly shaded, and include comfortable seating appropriate for lengthy services. As much as possible, care should be taken to avoid disturbing neighbors, and this should also factor into the decision of where to hold the prayers.

Prayers during the High Holidays should begin as early as possible, and be shortened as much as possible, in order to ease the difficulties faced when praying outdoors in intense heat.

A "coronavirus manager" should be appointed both in synagogues and for prayers held in open areas. This person should ensure the coronavirus precautions are kept.

In a statement, WSO said: "Safe prayers, with intentions straight from the heart, will reach the Throne of Glory and G-d willing it will be 'a time of mercy and a time of desire before G-d.' May we merit to see complete recovery, good news, salvation, and comfort.