Photo Credit: Chicago Loop Synagogue / Facebook page
Chicago Loop Synagogue in downtown Chicago on Clarke Street, 2010

The rabbonim and other leaders of Jewish communities around the United States are rising to the challenge of how to deal with the new threat to the lives of their fellow Jews posed by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, and are beginning to issue instructions for congregations.

Rabbinic councils and entire regional groups of rabbis are even crossing various group lines in order to organize a consistent, effective response against the threat.

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In Chicago, Illinois, the Chicago Rabbinical Council ordered all synagogues closed, effective immediately. “Individuals should daven (pray) alone at home,” the instruction letter said. Torah learning and Torah classes “should be conducted exclusively by phone or videoconferencing. Non-essential gatherings for children or adults should be canceled.”

In addition, special events (such as weddings, bar mitzvas, etc.) are to be “limited or postponed, to be celebrated publicly when safe to do so.”

On a more sobering note, “While kaddish cannot be said without a minyan, yahrtzeits can be commemorated by learning mishnayot.”

Public prayer is being curbed to protect the very life of that public, the letter pointed out. “We recognize the emotional impact of this decision, which must be considered in terms of the lives it can save. This is a weighty and unprecedented short-term decision to protect life and allow us to continue our regular routines in the long run.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.