Dear Fellow Congregants and Friends,
I hope that you have all been continuing to keep as well as possible, along with your families.
It has continued to be a very strange and difficult time, and we all missed the usual opportunities to gather as we normally would to socialise and have a knees-up at Purim and Pesach; but the apparently successful roll-out of the Covid vaccine programme and the increasingly mild and fine Spring weather give cause for some cautious optimism.
The shul has been open for regular weekly services on Saturday mornings – thanks to the religious leadership of Rabbi Mendy and, on occasion, Clive Lawton – as well as for the festival services on Pesach, and as they say: the audience has been small, but loyal.
We continue to hold shabbes services, truncated slightly in accordance with the Chief Rabbi’s guidelines, commencing at 10.30am every Saturday and always followed by a “light” kiddush with pre-wrapped foods in the open air courtyard behind the main synagogue building. We would love to welcome as many of you back as would like to attend, and have two causes for celebration coming up immediately: this shabbes, there will be a rather fine whisky at the kiddush to celebrate the recent award of my PhD (which has been quite a struggle for me over the last couple of years), and the following shabbes a bat mitzvah will be celebrated in the shul!
I hope you will forgive me if I restate once again the conditions attached for attendance, just as a reminder and for absolute clarity:
- all Covid-safe protocols continue to be applied as before
- we ask all attendees at services to please register in advance using the easy online form at www.jewishbristol.com/
- the wearing of face masks inside the synagogue building is obligatory (unless exempt)
- please use the hand sanitisers located in various places around the building, especially on entry and exit
- please respect the one-way system for access in and around the prayer hall, indicated by tape strips on the floor
- please respect physical distancing of 2 metres between people from different households (unless part of a “bubble”), and in particular do not shake hands and/or exchange kisses as is the usual custom
- in the prayer hall, please sit only in places not marked off by tape
- during the service, please try not to join in the singing at the top of your lungs – it is counterintuitive for us all, I know, but the virus is spread primarily by aerosols which travel on the human breath, so voice projection inside the building, at least, needs to be avoided
In addition to the above, at the present time the Office of the Chief Rabbi continues to recommend and request congregants above the age of 70 and/or with underlying health conditions NOT to attend synagogue services, for their own safety and that of other congregants – unless they have been vaccinated and feel comfortable attending.
Also – and I know this is a statement of the obvious – please do NOT come to shul if you have any of the Covid symptoms; or if you have tested positive for the virus, even if you do not have any symptoms.
If and when you do return to shul, the first thing that will strike you is the amount of building work going on – currently scaffolding adorns the outside, soon to move into the main prayer hall (at which point services will temporarily move upstairs into the Frank Cohen Hall). The shul Council recently approved a comprehensive programme of exterior and interior renovation of the shul building, for the first time in at least 20 years, in part so that when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Park Row Synagogue in October (about which, more in due course!) we will really have a building in a condition to be proud of and which will last us for many more years to come. The renovation programme is scheduled to last a few months and should be completed around the middle of the summer.
Hoping to see as many of you as possible again in the coming weeks,
With best wishes,
President, Bristol Hebrew Congregation