Coronavirus: Quebec premier orders all synagogues to close amid COVID-19 concerns

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Montreal Hasidic community adjusting to new reality'
Coronavirus: Montreal Hasidic community adjusting to new reality
No social gathering in big groups is making getting together for religious ceremonies difficult. Global's Olivia O'Malley spoke with religious leaders of Montreal’s Hasidic Jewish community to learn how they are adjusting – Mar 19, 2020

With new preventative measures such as social distancing and self-isolation in full effect across Quebec, the province has instructed all places of worship to close.

After a personal phone call with Premier François Legault on Wednesday, rabbis from synagogues across Quebec have shut their doors.

It’s something members of the Hasidic Jewish community have never seen in their life.

“I’ve never thought in my life I would see all synagogues close,” said Council of Hasidic Jews of Quebec member Max Lieberman.

Even in his parents’ lifetime, he said synagogues have never closed.

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For members that are used to attending synagogue to pray three times a day, the closures are affecting the whole community.

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“For everybody it’s been a very emotional time,” said Lieberman.

Prior to the mandatory closure Wednesday, a Jewish Coronavirus Committee, made up of officials from several Montreal Jewish communities such as Outremont, Côte-des-Neiges, and Hampstead, distributed information posters to synagogues in English and Yiddish.

“The idea was to disseminate for Yiddish-speaking people that maybe don’t have TV at home, don’t have the internet, so everyone has the ability to get the up to date information,” he said.

The posters encouraged people 60 years and older to stay home, for members to practice social distancing, and to practice proper handwashing techniques.

Two of the Yiddish informative posters that were displayed in synagogues. Olivia O'Malley/Global News

Lieberman said the posters displayed inside synagogues were, “to make sure that everybody, everybody, knows that this message is important and that they follow all the directives that we get from public health.”

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A Yiddish coronavirus hotline was even established. Members can call 514-700-8927 for information and to ask questions they may have about the virus.

Lieberman says thousands of individuals have used the service.

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Despite previous measures being taken, Lieberman realized in order to flatten the curve. synagogues had to close.

“It is the right thing to do and we’re happy that it was done,” he said

The Hasidic community is now encouraging members to stay healthy and safe by praying at home.

“We gotta do our part and our part is now the same God that told us to pray tells us now go home and pray, don’t come to synagogue.”

Members of the community are reminded that if they choose to pray outside, to practice social distancing and keep six feet away from the next worshipper.

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