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Health Ministry: Only those with vaccine booster should blow shofar in synagogue

In prayer guidelines for Rosh Hashanah, health experts urge shofar blower to aim the opening away from congregants and cover it with a mask in some cases

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

A Jewish man blows a shofar in Meron, northern Israel, on August 9, 2021, ahead of the Jewish New Year. (David Cohen/Flash90)
A Jewish man blows a shofar in Meron, northern Israel, on August 9, 2021, ahead of the Jewish New Year. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Health Ministry instructed worshipers to hold prayer services over the High Holidays outside where possible and called on synagogues to ensure that those leading and partaking in the services — including the shofar blower — have received a third, or booster, dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In detailed instructions ahead of Rosh Hashanah, which begins Monday evening, health officials laid out recommendations for worshipers and synagogues. Above all, authorities urged congregants to hold prayer services outdoors, and noted that the weather should allow for comfortable conditions.

The ministry instructions also urged synagogues to ensure that those leading the prayers — including the hazzan, the Torah reader and the shofar blower — had received a booster shot. If they have not, the ministry said, then they should at least have a recent negative COVID test. Regardless, except for the shofar blower, they should wear masks while praying, like the rest of the congregation.

When it comes to the shofar blower, the ministry said the individual should only bring a shofar from home, and not use one provided by the synagogue. In addition, the shofar blower should aim the opening of the shofar toward an open window, or at least away from the congregation. A shofar blower who has not received a third booster dose should cover the opening of the shofar with a mask, said the ministry.

Health officials also said synagogues should refrain from holding a kiddush — a post-prayer gathering with food and drink — following services.

The ministry reiterated that all indoor prayer services with more than 50 worshipers are required to operate under the “Green Pass” system, in which everyone must show proof of being vaccinated, recovered or have a recent negative test. Health experts also urged those praying indoors — who are required to wear masks no matter how many individuals are present — to practice social distancing by leaving empty seats, avoiding physical contact and maintaining appropriate hygiene habits.

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