By David Saffer
Rabbonim, political figures and community leaders have released guidelines to celebrate Purim safely this year.
The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregation has called on educational institutions not to send students or charity organisations out in groups of vans collecting for Purim. Donations should be given to teachers to minimise people on the streets whilst a seudah should be restricted to family members.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has called on communities to safely celebrate and hear the Megillah at synagogues but if that is not possible then listen to a live online recital rather than a recording.
To fulfil the mitzvah of mishloach manot, people should leave a gift on doorsteps of a recipient while charity should be given online.
The United Synagogue, meantrime, has delivered a range of programmes to enable members to celebrate Purim safely and in full.
‘Purim in a Box’ fulfils three of the four mitzvot of the festival. The US will arrange for Mishloach Manot to be sent. And the organisation will distribute Matanot Laevyonim (charity to help people in need) on behalf of anyone who wishes. All initiatives are open to the wider community and US members.
In Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and UTJ MK Moshe Gafni have agreed that synagogues can open with a maximum of 10 worshippers indoors, 20 outdoors or 50% capacity for people with ‘green’ passports who have recovered from coronavirus or been fully vaccinated.
On Purim, a seudah is restricted to ‘nuclear’ families. Parades, and other gatherings are banned. Restrictions are limited to gatherings, but there are no restrictions of movement on Purim.
US Director of Education, Rabbi Michael Laitner said, “Nearly 12 months on from the first national lockdown, many of us might find it more challenging to feel joyful. It will certainly be a different Purim to what we’ve known in the past. But to help us celebrate, our communities have been busy planning wonderful local programmes and to complement them.”
The London Beth Din was asked by the Rabbinical Council of the US for a ruling.
US guidance states, “Ordinarily, adults have an obligation to hear the megillah in person both in the evening and day of Purim. If you can hear a reading in shul or from somebody else whilst complying with government and US Covid regulations, or if you can read it yourself from a kosher scroll, then you should do so. If owing to Covid restrictions it is not possible, then you should listen to one of the live recitals we are broadcasting, rather than a recording.”
Dayan Menachem Gelley added, “Given that Covid poses a grave threat to our health and is putting immense strain on the NHS, it goes without saying that all government health directives should be strictly adhered to.”
Next Thursday and Friday, members can join the US for a feast of Purim events online including a variety of live Megillah readings. Options include a Women’s reading, a fast reading, an explanatory reading and a family reading by Tribe. Other highlights include a Tribe Purim Adventure with Captain Calamity, a Purim musical extravaganza, cocktail making for young professionals and a presentation from Illusionist and TV’s Britain’s Got Talent Finalist, Josh Horus.
The US will be broadcasting events via its Facebook page and live on TheUS.tv.
Michael Goldstein, US President, congratulated the US team for its innovative programmes and commended Dayanim of the London Beth Din for working sensitively with the Rabbinical Council of the US to issue Purim guidance enabling members to fulfil halachic requirements in a safe and meaningful way.