Melbourne’s cautious lockdown reopening
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Melbourne’s cautious lockdown reopening

With the first services since the Shabbat of July 30-31 set to take place this week, shules swung into action to prepare COVID-safe worship for their congregants.

Photo: Dreamstime.com
Photo: Dreamstime.com

RABBIS and shule presidents have welcomed news of restrictions being eased from the end of today (Thursday), amid plans to reopen synagogues this Shabbat under the new, more relaxed guidelines.

With the first services since the Shabbat of July 30-31 set to take place this week, shules swung into action to prepare COVID-safe worship for their congregants.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the end of Melbourne’s sixth full lockdown, which began on August 5, would be brought forward from October 26 to October 22, on the back of faster than expected take-up of vaccinations, and lower than anticipated hospitalisations of infected individuals.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, religious gatherings, weddings and funerals can take place with up to 50 people outdoors and 20 people indoors, subject to density limits, and only if all attendees are fully vaccinated. If vaccination status is unknown, 10 people will be permitted indoors for funerals, weddings and religious gatherings.

Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said St Kilda Shule’s daily and Shabbat services would recommence Friday morning with Shabbat services starting that evening. The shule has planned numerous bar mitzvahs, weddings and social events to take place over the coming weeks.

“Feedback from our members and from other shules about St Kilda Shule’s online engagement during lockdown has been phenomenal, but we are keen to hit the ground running in a COVID-safe way as soon as lockdown ends,” he said.

“The end of my long-service leave coincides with the end of lockdown, so I am excited to reconnect with my shule members in person.”

Mizrachi services will resume with Shacharit on Friday morning followed by Shabbat minyans, said president David Brykman. At least six Shabbat services with staggered starting times have been planned. Shiurs in the Beit Midrash and Bnei Akiva will also resume.

“I am proud of the leadership role that Mizrachi has played throughout the pandemic in liaising with government and advising other communal bodies,” said Brykman.

Rabbi Daniel Rabin, who is set to come on board as Caulfield Shule’s new senior rabbi, told The AJN, “With 246 days of shules being closed, it is incredibly exciting to be back this coming Friday. For me personally, having lost my father last December, not being able to say Kaddish for him has been challenging. I am glad I’ll be able to do so again this week.

“Davening at home has had some benefits, being with family and some quiet time, but it has also magnified just how much it means to me, and others I’m sure, to be able to pray as part of a congregation. Let’s hope all our personal prayers and communal ones will be heard and we are blessed with good health, happiness and simchas going forward!”

Temple Beth Israel (TBI) president Joanne Loewy Irons said the shule will reopen with services outdoors for up to 50 guests for a bar or bat mitzvah.

“Each Shabbat until the end of December, 14 children will become b’nei mitzvah at TBI. We will welcome congregants back to our sanctuary on November 5, and will continue using streaming technology to connect our community.”

Noting TBI’s online shule services, she said the synagogue “has not missed a single Shabbat service for the duration of the pandemic and our educational programs continued”.

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