High Holy Day services and gatherings: COVID-19 checklist

The UK Government has issued guidance for Jewish congregations in England: High Holy Day services and gatherings COVID-19 checklist, setting out “some key principles that should help us all make decisions that ensure we can all take part in special religious services and gatherings safely at this time”. It reminds readers that “It is against the law to gather in a group of more than six, indoors or outdoors, unless covered by an exemption” but that “Gatherings comprising the members of only one household or support bubble are exempt”.

Specifically on blowing the shofar:

  • It should only be handled by the person blowing it and “Where possible they should bring their own shofar and take it home with them after the service”.
  • If more than one person needs to touch it, hands should be thoroughly washed before and after the exchange.
  • The shofar blower should maintain 2 metres distance from other worshippers.
  • Under no circumstances should more than one person blow the same shofar.
  • It should not be blown towards worshippers.
  • If shofar blowing events” are arranged to enable more people being able to hear the shofar outside of services, they should follow the guidelines for Gathering outside.

The guidance also gives specific advice for tashlich rituals, building and using sukkot and handling Torah scrolls during Simchat Torah.


Jacob Gifford Head @gifford_head subsequently tweeted:
“Rather bizarre to see a reference to ‘single use alternatives’ to prayer books: the liturgy for Yom Kippur runs to many hundreds of pages & there is no tradition of worshippers having anything less than the entire text…”

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