COVID-19 – WA Guidelines for Reopening Shule

Sunday, 17 May 2020

The WA Government has issued guidelines for a gradual reopening of WA businesses and activities. These directions allow for reopening of places of worship, including synagogues, with a maximum limit of 20 patrons and still maintaining social distancing of a 4 square metre per person capacity and a minimum of 1.5m between people. The directions form part of Phase 2 of WA’s roadmap for easing of restrictions and come into effect on Monday 18 May 2020.  Considering these directions, this document outlines the actions to be taken by Perth Hebrew Congregation and Dianella Shule – Mizrachi Perth in lifting restrictions associated with management of COVID-19. 

As is well known, each country around the world, and indeed each state within Australia, has its own unique set of risks and rules in relation to COVID-19. The decisions and guidelines outlined here have been set in consultation with WA medical health advice specifically considering the situation in Perth and guided by the following three principles: 

(a)    Halacha – the Halachic imperative of caution and stringency regarding safek pikuach nefesh (possible life preservation) that arise due to the unique nature and interconnectedness of the Jewish Community and shule activities, and the Halachic mechanism of establishing a chazaka (legal presumption) of safety before initiating a course of action.

(b)    Health – recommended medical advice of 14 days as a sensible timeframe to confidently assess the impact of COVID-19 transmission and spike in cases following a relaxation of restrictions. 

(c)    Harmony – the interaction and connectedness between the different shule communities and the importance of communal unity and togetherness in reopening shule activities.

1.    Timeline
1.1.    Reopening of shule facilities and activities will take place in a cautious, measured and staged fashion. The following timeline is currently proposed:
1.1.1.    Sunday 31 May
Weekday minyanim only will recommence in the shule. 
These will be under the limitations outlined in the sections that follow. 
Some shiurim and activities will recommence in the shule, as described in the relevant sections below. 
1.1.2.    Shabbat Morning 13 June
Shabbat minyanim will recommence in shule, starting with Shabbat morning. 
These will also be under the outline of the limitations in the sections that follow.

2.    General
2.1.    Entry into the Shule will be limited to activities listed in the sections below or otherwise approved by the president or rabbis. 
2.2.    A register will be kept of all activities and attendees, to enable traceability and ensure that at no point in time will there be more than 20 individuals present. 
2.3.    Upon entry, every individual will have their temperature taken. A person who registers a temperature above 37.2 degrees will not be allowed entry. 
2.4.    Minyanim and other activities will be restricted to the following people:
2.4.1.    Attendance is restricted to healthy individuals, who do not have a temperature or any cold or flu-like symptoms, have not been in contact with anyone who has the virus and have not returned from travel in the past 14 days.
2.4.2.    Congregants at high health risk, such as the elderly or those with significant medical co-morbidities or immune-compromised, should consult their doctor before seeking to attend shule. 
2.4.3.    People are encouraged to download the Government’s CovidSafe App, to ensure it is active on their phone and to bring their mobile with the active app to weekday services and activities. This app can be downloaded for free from the Apple Store or Google Play.
2.5.    All individuals in the shule building must maintain the required social distancing and hand hygiene procedures. These include:
2.5.1.    Thoroughly sanitizing hands upon entry, using the hand sanitizer that has been placed at the main entrance. 
2.5.2.    People should cover their nose and mouth with tissues or their elbow when coughing and sneezing and must dispose of tissues in the dustbins provided in the shule.
2.5.3.    At all times maintain a social distance of 1.5m from other persons. Physical contact is to be avoided, including handshakes, hugs and high fives.
2.5.4.    Sifrei Torah, mezuzot, siddurim and all other shule books are strictly not to be kissed under any circumstances (even if they fall to the ground). Touching them should also be avoided.
2.5.5.    Siddurim – wherever possible, people should bring their own siddurim/chumashim from home for use at shule. If this is not possible, one siddur should be chosen from shule and kept in your drawer to be used by you only. 
2.5.6.    Other books – people should use their own books for learning (e.g. chavrutot, individual learning). Library books are not to be used without express permission from the rabbis or president. There is a wealth of digital and online options, please contact the rabbi for advice. 
2.6.    There will continue to be no kiddush or seudah until further notice. 
2.7.    The shule kitchen is off-limits and not to be accessed.
2.8.    These directions are subject to change at any time any section of this document may be revoked or amended on a temporary or permanent basis at the discretion of the rabbis and president. 

3.    Minyanim – Prayer Services
3.1.    Minyanim  
Minyanim will resume for each shule according to their schedule provided in the Appendices. 
3.2.    Seats 
Seats that are available for use during tefilla will be marked with a GREEN sticker or label. No other seats are to be used. We realise that due to this restriction, some may not be davening in their usual seat. We appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation.
3.3.    Attendance 
Minyanim attendance will be by sign up only. Details on how to sign up will be forthcoming. Priority will be given to individuals that need to say kaddish or are otherwise critical for the running of the tefilla. Attendance will be managed by the president or rabbi during the week and by CSG on Shabbat. The president and rabbis have final authority regarding tefilla attendance and we thank everyone for their understanding and cooperation.
3.4.    Private Minyanim
Other than those minyanim being conducted at the shule premises, there are to be no other minyanim held in any manner, private or public, indoors or outdoors. This decision is made for the following reasons:
3.4.1.    Coordination of minyanim in shule has been conducted with an analysis of the square metre area available for each person and the ability to maintain social distancing and hygiene according to government directions. The potential for confusion, error and lack of control and the accompanying risks to health and Chilul Hashem are such that preclude the possibility of conducting any minyanim outside the shule space at this point in time.
3.4.2.    An individual can fulfil their requirement of davening with a minyan by connecting to the established shule minyan via Zoom.
3.4.3.    Individuals that need to be present at the minyan, eg. to say kaddish, can be granted priority and attend in person.
3.5.    For further details regarding specific procedures in tefilla, please refer to Appendix A – Tefilla Procedure Details below.

4.    Shiurim and Other Activities
4.1.    Some shiurim and activities will gradually recommence while others will remain virtual for the time being. 
4.2.    Details for PHC specific activities are in Appendix B – PHC Specific Activities.
4.3.    Details for Dianella Shule specific activities are in Appendix C – Dianella Shule-Mizrachi Perth Specific Activities.

5.    Shavuot
5.1.    There will be no minyanim or communal activities held over Shavuot. Learning and activity packs that have been compiled jointly by Dianella Shule, PHC and Bnei Akiva will be available for order and sent out to homes. Details will be forthcoming.

Dr Michael Levitt - PHC President                                                                 Rabbi Daniel Lieberman