In an unprecedented step, the Chief Rabbi of the UK Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis announced Tuesday night that the United Synagogue, the largest network of Orthodox communities in the country, would be shutting down all activities until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic.
All daily and Shabbat prayer services as well as any other events and activities will now cease at the more than 60 synagogues of the association, which comprises 40,000 members.
“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,” 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 halachic imperative to suspend all activity at all of our synagogues until further notice,” the chief rabbi concluded.
Mirvis said that this meant all on-site and off-site prayer services, educational, cultural and social meetings and activities for all ages would be suspended.
He noted that he and the rabbinical judges associated with the United Synagogue would be praying at home.
“Let us guarantee that the physical distance that this virus creates between us will be bridged through compassion and kindness,” the chief rabbi concluded.