Letter to the Community in Response to COVID-19
Shalom Friends, We are writing this letter in response to the spread of the coronavirus, in Montreal and around the world. In Judaism, preserving life is of utmost importance. Our healthcare providers need our help to slow the spread of this disease before their resources are overwhelmed. Please remember that, even if COVID-19 patients will be treatable, we may deplete our resources and other patients who suffer from other serious illnesses will not be able to get the necessary care, putting their lives in danger. Slowing the spread of the disease will allow our hospitals to best manage this situation. The health and safety of our congregation and community is also of paramount importance during this challenging time. Given this, we would like to update you on the precautions we are taking to maintain a safe environment.
1. Just as it is a mitzvah to attend services as a community, preserving our health and the health of our community takes priority. Given this, we ask that the following people should, under no circumstances, attend synagogue during the current pandemic:
Anyone who is not feeling well
Anyone who has any symptoms of illness (including dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, etc.)
Anyone whose age or pre-existing health condition renders one vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19
Anyone who has returned to Montreal from outside Quebec in the past 14 days (even if asymptomatic), as per Health Canada recommendations.
2. Additionally, we expect those attending synagogue to:
Wash hands frequently. We have made disinfectant soaps available at the entrance to the synagogue.
Maintain, wherever possible, a distance of six feet from other people
Respect those who prefer, in these times of heightened sensibilities, to not shake hands, kiss or embrace.
3. Kiddush this week will be prepared with our usual high levels of hygiene and safety standards. People are requested not to touch any food. Thereafter, we will not be serving any food in the synagogue until further notice. Hence, there will be no Seuda Shlisheet at synagogue this week and until further notice.
All events, other than services, are postponed until further notice.
At services, the Torah will not be walked around but will stay on the bimah.
We have just celebrated Purim, the holiday which emphasizes togetherness. To our sorrow, the necessary precautions that we need to take mean that we will not be physically together as much as we would like. At this time, I call on us all to live the message of Purim, of togetherness. Just as Esther was alone in the palace and removed from her people but still felt a connection to her people, each of us must know that we are not alone. If you know someone who is staying home, please give them a call to see how they are and, if appropriate, to be of assistance. For those who feel anxiety or who need any kind of assistance, please know that we are here for you. Rabbi Knopf’s phone number is 514-714-6559. If you, or someone you know, is in need of assistance to ease the stress of isolation, please reach out to him for support. We respect that, at this time, some people may be unable or feel uncomfortable attending services to say Kaddish. If this is the case, please call Rabbi Knopf so he can arrange for someone else to say Kaddish on your behalf. When we do see each other in synagogue (and elsewhere) and feel compelled to keep a distance, let us maintain the sense of warmth, care and friendship which is a hallmark of our community. Please find at the bottom of this letter, a number of online resources which may be helpful. Amidst all our own precautions, our thoughts and prayers are with all those who are unwell and suffering at this time. May Hashem bring healing to all those who are afflicted by this illness. May Hashem continuously bless all of us with good health and safety. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony Knopf Howard Yancovitch Useful Online Resources Government of Canada Government of Canada travel advice CDC COVID-19 factsheet