A quarter of coronavirus infections from synagogues, Health Ministry says – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on March 26, 2020

One quarter of Israelis who have contracted the coronavirus in Israel have been infected through contact with another infected individual in a synagogue, figures released by an advisory group to the Health Ministry on Tuesday revealed.According to the newly released data, the most common place to contract COVID-19 in Israel is synagogues, where 24% of all infections to date have occurred, with another 5% contracted in yeshivas. Another 15% of infections were contracted in hotels, 12% in restaurants, 7% in supermarkets, 7% in other shops, 5% in medical clinics, 3% in educational institutions, 3% in old age homes, 3% in day care for children, 2% each in youth groups, events halls, clubs and shopping malls, and 1% each in gyms, mikvehs, election ballot stations and personal meetings, with the remaining 2% contracted elsewhere. The new figures prompted several groups to call on the chief rabbis to ban prayer in synagogues due to the clear evidence that communal prayer helps spread coronavirus. Chief rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau have so far refrained from calling on the public to cease attending prayer services in synagogues, but have insisted that such services include no more than 10 men, with a distance of two meters between worshipers, and that the synagogues be well ventilated. "Following the release of the new figures, the chief rabbis said it was forbidden to hold prayer services in synagogues and other locations where those conditions could not be met."Lau and Yosef have also called for a half-day fast and day of prayer on Wednesday because of the pandemic. The religious-Zionist Tzohar Rabbinical Organization said it welcomed this initiative, but said that the chief rabbis should tell people not to go to synagogue, saying that such gatherings are "completely against the regulations of the Ministry of Health.I applaud the Chief Rabbinate on their goal to increase prayers and fasting in response to this crisis, but urge them to also instruct people not to gather in synagogues where people can potentially infect others, said Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, co-chairman of Tzohar.Director of the Itim religious services advisory group Rabbi Seth Farber said that the new Health Ministry figures demonstrated that closing synagogues is a real obligation for protecting public health.Farber added that rabbis Lau and Yosef should be stringent on saving lives, referencing the precept in Jewish law putting saving a life above other commandments. We call on everyone to pray at home, despite how painful this is, said Farber. Incorrect behavior could bring us God forbid to a point of no return regarding the spread of the disease.The Yachad liberal Orthodox synagogue in Tel Aviv has begun holding virtual prayer services over the Zoom online video conferencing service, and other similar initiatives have also been set up to allow communal religious life to continue as best as possible despite the restrictions on public gatherings.

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A quarter of coronavirus infections from synagogues, Health Ministry says - The Jerusalem Post

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