3 Tishrei 5782

In response to the news reports of Jewish People gathering on Rosh Hashana - the Jewish New Year.

This unfortunate state of affairs is a direct result of the inflexibility of the Victorian Government. They have been petitioned too many times by the Rabbinate both this year and last year to allow Prayer Services to be held under COVID Safe conditions (10 outdoors with masks and other appropriate restrictions) on these most holy days for Jewish People, however they have not made any concessions under any conditions whatsoever. Other industries, for example construction, are considered “essential” and are allowed to have many workers together even indoors (whilst there are large outbreaks associated with construction), whereas religious ceremonies are not considered “essential” and are being banned for months on end even in COVID Safe conditions. How is this equitable and fair consideration of the essential needs of minorities?

Jewish People have survived throughout their history many restrictions on practicing their religion even under the threat of imprisonment and even death. The current Health restrictions are seen by many in the community as draconian and excessive. We in Victoria are probably one of the only places in the world where Jewish People cannot pray together on their most Holy Days for the second year in a row.

We recognize the need for the Government to protect their citizens from the COVID virus. The Government also recognizes the need for Essential Services to continue under safe guidelines. Our concern is that the Government doesn’t recognize our spiritual needs as being essential, whilst for many of us they are no less essential than food and drink. We fail to comprehend how Construction sites are recognized as essential and therefore allowed even indoors, whilst Religious Services cannot be allowed even outdoors with Social Distancing and other Covid Safe measures.

If the Government would recognize that Religious Services are Essential for a section of the community and allow them to proceed under COVID Safe conditions and guided by Health Authorities, then the Jewish community (and other communities of faith) would be more confident that the rules being imposed are in their best interests, which would result in less people flouting the rules and ultimately we would all be safer.

We are members of the Jewish Community in Melbourne and we are concerned that this matter if not dealt with correctly will escalate in more ill will towards the Jewish Community who are law abiding citizens and deserve that their essential needs are respected by the Government and the community at large.