Local worship leaders weigh in on president’s essential services announcement

HUDSON VALLEY – After President Trump’s announcement on Friday ordering places of worship to start opening to the public again this weekend, local religious leaders shared their thoughts.

Rabbi Yael Romer of Congregation Emanuel in Kingston discouraged fellow rabbis from following suit.

“I have profound concern over the safety and health of our congregants,” she said.

Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley has been offering all services virtually since the pandemic hit and will continue to do so.

Rabbi Romer understands the need for meeting together again but cautions against reopening too quickly.

“We will continue to offer virtual services,” she said. “We recognize how important faith is to people, but we need to be prudent and patient.

Father Chuck Kramer of St. James’ Church in Hyde Park, the Episcopalian church where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his family worshipped, dismissed Trump’s announcement altogether.

“I don’t know what he’s doing other than just doing a PR stunt,” he said. “We don’t listen to the president when it comes to when we open.”

Father Kramer also referred to the move as a “violation of the separation of church and state.”

Despite the virtual reality, worship leaders like Rabbi Romer are looking to help their congregants affected by COVID-19 directly, even if they have to maintain social distance.

“I am shopping for people, and visiting families by staying outdoors from a distance,” she said. “I will do anything I need to do.”

President Trump has issued this directive to state governors specifically. Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a separate directive Thursday that would allow gatherings of up to 10 people in places of worship, without opening entirely.

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