Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton updated guidelines for houses of worship Tuesday, April 21. The guidelines (which can be read in their entirely here), allows for synagogues and other houses of worship to open under specific guidelines, though it encourages everyone to conduct services remotely whenever possible.
Synagogues throughout North Texas have decided to stay closed for the near future.
“Religious communities, with their heavily social communal lives, are at greater risk for reinfection during this pandemic, and its members are most likely to represent vectors for the spread of the disease once again to the general population. As such, it is premature to reopen shuls at this time,” wrote 11 Orthodox rabbis representing nine synagogues and Dallas Area Torah Association.
All North Texas Chabad locations will remain closed as well as Conservative and Reform congregations.
Stuart Snow and Michael Kapin, board members of Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington told the TJP that the synagogue follows “Jewish law in that pikuach nefesh, preservation of human life, overrides virtually any other religious rule.” Beth Shalom has an Emergency Response Committee which monitors local, state and federal guidelines and will recommend to the board when it believes it is appropriate to open. “Currently no such timelines have been planned and the Congregation will continue to protect its congregants and neighbors by closing all in-person activities for weeks to months ahead,” said Kapin and Snow.
Rabbi Andrew Bloom, of Congregation Ahavath Sholom, in Fort Worth added that it is said that based upon a Talmudic principle it is “OK to cancel one Shabbat in order to celebrate many Shabbats together in the future.”
Bloom indicated that Tarrant County and Fort Worth will likely start slowly opening around May 18, and his synagogue will adapt based on the best public health guidelines available.
The TJP will continue to update the community when synagogues begin to reopen.