Italian synagogues and churches reopen, but with fewer worshippers allowed

Synagogues and churches have reopened in northern Italy, where they had been shut down since that area went into knockdown following the first major outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe.

The main synagogue of Milan reopened on May 18 per guidelines agreed-upon last week with government officials, Moked, the Italian-Jewish news site, reported. Synagogues also have reopened in Rome and Florence at least.

Italian shops, hairdressers and restaurants also opened on May 18, ending a 10-week lockdown. About 32,000 people in Italy have died from COVID-19.

In Milan, congregants must register in advance with the rabbi’s office to ensure their number does not exceed the new capacity of each synagogue under social distancing protocols, said the community’s president, Milo Hasbani.

At Hasbani’s Beit Menachem synagogue, the capacity was more than halved to a limit of 28 worshippers in the men’s section and 12 in the women’s.

Worshippers at Milan synagogues are not allowed to bring their own kippot, prayer shawls or other religious items. Instead they receive a sanitized kit at the entrance, which they leave for disinfection when they go. They must wear face masks and sanitize their hands before entering.

Children under 13 may not enter the Beit Menachem synagogue for the time being. Its doors remain open during services.

To reserve a seat for Shabbat prayers, worshippers must register by noon Tuesday, according to instructions sent to community members.

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