Massachusetts rabbis: Synagogues should not rush to reopen
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Massachusetts rabbis: Synagogues should not rush to reopen

With state order allowing places of worship to resume services, rabbinical body urges caution both among government officials and Jewish congregations

Illustrative: Rabbi Mayer Zarchi, left, shakes hands with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker prior to the ceremonial lighting of a Hanukkah menorah at the Massachusetts State House in Boston on December 23, 2019. (Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Illustrative: Rabbi Mayer Zarchi, left, shakes hands with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker prior to the ceremonial lighting of a Hanukkah menorah at the Massachusetts State House in Boston on December 23, 2019. (Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

JTA — Rabbis in Massachusetts say they are not rushing to open their synagogues even though the state’s governor has said houses of worship may resume services.

Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, included houses of worship in the first phase of Massachusetts’ plan to resume operations after bringing coronavirus infections under control. He announced Monday that churches, synagogues and mosques could reopen immediately.

A handful of religious leaders said they would reopen quickly, but as in other states that have begun to allow gatherings, rabbis are not among them. Instead, the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, a membership organization for rabbis in the state, issued a statement urging caution both among Jewish congregations and government officials.

“At this challenging moment, we also call upon our government officials to prioritize human life above all else. We do not want our family, friends and neighbors to become statistics,” the group’s statement said. “Just as we will rely on expert medical opinions as we proceed with extreme caution, we encourage the leaders of our Commonwealth to do the same.”

Churches in at least two states where houses of worship are now permitted to operate, Georgia and Texas, have closed again after people who attended them developed the coronavirus. Studies have shown that religious services, where people sing together in close quarters for sustained periods of time, are prime vectors for transmission.

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