In order to fight the spreading of the coronavirus, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar, has instructed all the Jewish community centers, synagogues and educational institutions for all age groups, to close down temporarily and transfer as much of the activity as possible to online.
The Rabbi’s directive has preceded some of the health instructions in order to save as many lives as possible and not to waste valuable time. This was explained in length to dozens of the community rabbis in a conference call and in a letter that followed.
Similar actions have been taken in Ukraine and across the FSU, each country according to the restrictions applied by their local government.
All the lectures and Judaism classes and every type of activity, including prayer services, that involve public gatherings have been postponed until further notice. Kosher food stores within the community centers selling matzah for the upcoming passover for example, will remain open and take the required precautions to protect both the sellers and clientele. The soup kitchens serving the needy and elderly population will also continue to operate with takeaways or deliveries to the recipients’ homes.
Classes in the ‘Or Avner’ formal Jewish educational institutions, activities for youth and teenagers, lectures for young adults and students, and Sunday and afternoon schools – are all switching to online activity using technology and phones to continue inspiring and reviving Judaism, despite the crisis, but without risking contamination. Classes and clubs for community members have also turned to phone or online solutions.
In a few communities, an online ‘Minyan’ took place over the phone or online in order to allow the prayers to continue from home. These are, of course, not considered a halachic prayer service but are certainly a powerful tool in helping those less familiar to pray and to unite the community.
Under the circumstances, in which most of the population is forced to stay at home for their own good, the new online activity has quickly become popular and participation is high. Many expressed their gratitude for the continued activity that helps them overcome this difficult time.