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March 13, 2020 2:06 pm

‘We Follow Guidelines of Medicine and Science’: Synagogues in Manhattan Close for Shabbat Services as Coronavirus Spreads

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

A man in a face mask rides the subway in Manhattan, after further cases of coronavirus were confirmed in New York, March 5, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Andrew Kelly.

Synagogues in Manhattan joined Jewish houses of worship across New York City, the nation and the world on Friday as they closed for Shabbat services amid an escalation of the global coronavirus crisis.

“We have been liaising with the New York State Department of Health and other authorities and, after much, much discussion, we have decided to close the Shul for Shabbat services for the foreseeable future,” wrote Shaul Robinson — senior rabbi of the Lincoln Square Synagogue — in an email to congregants on Friday.

“That means there will be no services on Friday night, Shabbat morning or Shabbat afternoon,” Rabbi Robinson wrote.

Rabbi Eli Babich of the Fifth Avenue Avenue Synagogue told worshipers in an email on Friday morning that they, too, would have to celebrate Shabbat’s arrival in isolation.

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“With a heavy heart, we write to share with you that we have made the difficult decision that, effective immediately, Fifth Avenue Synagogue will be closed until further notice,” Babich wrote.

Rabbi Babich then explained that the Torah “mandates that we follow the guidelines of medicine and the principles of science and the Rabbanim have made clear that even a single ‘pikuach nefesh’ is a mandate for extreme measure of communal accommodation. Our decision has been made in light of our overarching commitment to the sanctity of all human life, but we pray that these will be temporary measures.”

Several synagogues are offering virtual Shabbat services using social media platforms, among them Congregation Beth El of Manhattan.

“Please do not come to the building shown below until we issue the ‘all clear,'” the synagogue said on its website. “We look forward to returning to holding our services in our lovely building as soon as Public Health policy says it is prudent and safe to do so. Hope to ‘see’ you on our Service Broadcasts starting Friday, March 13th, at 7pm! Shalom — and health to all!”

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