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Message from UJA & Toronto Board of Rabbis

2020-04-02 10:06:27 AM


This week, Kol HaCovid Toronto Jewish Community COVID-19 Task Force issued an urgent statement calling on community members to exercise strict physical distancing to protect lives during Passover.

Kol HaCovid, which consists of dozens of Toronto’s top Jewish medical professionals, warned that community members are putting lives at risk if they fail to follow key guidelines around the safe observance of Passover. While the full guidelines may be read here, the group emphasized three crucial points for community members:

  1. Only members of one’s household should attend one’s seder, without exception. This applies even if all have been self-isolating for 14 days, as COVID-19 is routinely spread by individuals who have absolutely no symptoms. Those who live outside your home – be they extended family, out-of-town guests, nannies, household help, barbers, etc. – should not be invited, without exception.
  2. Public gatherings – be they small or large, indoors or outdoors – are not permitted. This includes for prayer, burning of chametz, and gatherings for the fast of the firstborn. To be clear: spending time with individuals who do not live in your home would pose an unnecessary risk to your health and that of others.
  3. Everyone, regardless of age or health circumstances, should be strictly vigilant when it comes to physical distancing. Younger, healthier patients are also at risk and have died from COVID-19. Others have unknowingly spread the virus to large numbers, tragically causing loved ones to die. No one is immune from this deadly virus.

Kol HaCovid and the Kashruth Council of Canada (COR) also issued important warnings and practical instructions on safe shopping techniques.

We strongly urge community members to closely follow Kol HaCovid’s guidelines to ensure a safe Passover for all. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Kol HaCovid and all medical staff who are working tirelessly to save lives during this crisis, all while enduring constant risk to their own health.


How is this Passover different than all other Passovers?

On all other Passovers there were no pandemics, but on this Passover, COVID-19 plagues the world.

Passover is a time when many gather with friends and family or join together in community seders. Barring a major downgrading of COVID-19 concerns by Public Health Toronto, it is clear that such gatherings should not happen this year.

The best public health advice at this moment is for everyone to stay home as much as possible. This is for your own health and the health of society at large. As such, Passover Seders should only be celebrated with the members of one’s immediate household. To be clear, especially since those over the age of 65 are at increased risk of death from COVID-19, seniors in our community should prioritize taking care of their health over family celebrations for the duration of this crisis, even if that means not spending seder night together with the family. We understand that this will be a heartbreaking reality and a major disruption for many.

There are many wonderful ways to celebrate Passover, even as we limit human contact. Please speak with your local rabbi for guidance.

To paraphrase the Talmud: Better we should have one less-than-ideal Passover, so that we can celebrate many Passovers in the future.  (Yoma 85b)

24 Adar 5780

March 20, 2020



Wed, January 27 2021 14 Shevat 5781