(JTA) – In a call with Orthodox rabbis, the U.S. surgeon general encouraged the spiritual leaders to take precautions when planning High Holiday services this year.
Dr. Jerome Adams also assured the rabbis that the pandemic would not last forever.
His remarks were part of a call organized by the Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization for Orthodox synagogues, to discuss safe High Holiday practices for this year.
Adams advised synagogues to consider virtual services, though they are not an option for Orthodox synagogues, or organize outdoor services with strict distancing and mask wearing. He also cautioned about reopening in places where COVID test positivity rates are still high.
Adams also offered advice about specific holiday practices, for instance bringing your own bread for tashlich, the practice in which many throw pieces of bread into a body of water in a ritual casting away of sins. He also suggested keeping the shofar blower far from others at Rosh Hashanah services, citing examples of cases where coronavirus spread through the playing of instruments.
But with all the restrictions needed for this year, Adams was hopeful that services next year would be simpler.
“Know that this, too, shall pass,” Adams said. “I fully expect that by next year we will be back to normal and able to bring people back to be able to worship in person.”