Hebrew Synagogue, a Scottish-based authority for its Jewish Community membership has today published its Religious Ruling (Psak Din *) on the subject of mass vaccinations; specifically, the COVID19 vaccination, effective for any of its synagogue membership and the individual members of those synagogues, anywhere in the world.
The subject of mass vaccinations has been discussed widely within the global Jewish community for many years, with some congregations accepting mass vaccinations generally, while others have taken the view that vaccinations should be considered individually in consultation with a person's private or personal doctor, after weighing all of the published data and taking into consideration the risks involved in the balance against likely or anticipated benefits.
Hebrew Synagogue's Ruling makes clear that such decisions may only be made by the individual and not on behalf of anyone else. In the case of COVID19, and the current 2020 pandemic, the risk of contracting the disease, suffering from the associated illness, and the potential for requiring hospitalisation, or the potential for serious lasting illness or death is not universal. The individual health and wellbeing of a person will have a tremendous impact on each stage and the identifiable risk. This is not a one-size-fits-all scenario and therefore, Hebrew Synagogue's position is that the response should not be universal.
The concept of Pikuach Nefesh (watching over the soul) is a principle that the preservation of human life overrides virtually every religious rule or ruling. However, there are limitations to the concept. The individual, whose life is to be saved or at risk, must be a specific, identifiable individual, rather than an abstract or potential beneficiary or group of beneficiaries. It is simply not acceptable to require or otherwise encourage the general population to receive vaccination under the guise of protecting others within the community generally, who may or may not be at risk or may not be subject to the same levels of risk.
* Members wishing to receive a religious exemption certificate should contact their Hebrew Synagogue synagogue Rabbi or the Hebrew Synagogue administrative office directly.