March 12, 2020
16 Adar, 5780
Dear Congregants and Friends,
Our Talmudic Sages famously teach Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh. All the community of Israel is responsible one for another. By extension, under threat of a global pandemic, we are further responsible for our fellow citizens and for all humanity.
The Holy Blossom Temple community is doing its part to protect against the virus by modifying our routines. We are also preparing additional contingency plans, which we hope never to have to put into place. We are all responsible for one another.
To be clear, there has been no report of COVID-19 at Holy Blossom Temple. Toronto Public Health has not yet issued any guidelines for houses of worship and maintains that the risk of transmission is low. The following update, drafted with input from medical expertise from within our congregation, is intended to provide for the many needs of our Holy Blossom community while acting responsibly, given the news of the hour.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- If you feel unwell, if you are self-monitoring or if you are at a higher risk of infection, we kindly ask that you stay home. For the health and safety of every member of our community, including health workers and our most vulnerable populations, self-isolate until you return to good health. If you have any questions, consult your doctor. The same direction is being given to our professional staff, teachers, volunteers and lay leaders.
- Every time you visit Holy Blossom, you will be asked by our security staff to provide your name and contact information. Providing your name and contact information will allow Toronto Public Health to reach you in the event of exposure to COVID-19, God forbid. (Please note: your contact information will be used for this purpose only.)
- Avoid physical contact with others. People have already created new habits for warmly greeting one another, ideally from a distance of at least two metres.
- Refrain from kissing or touching our mezuzot or Torah Scrolls, even with your tallit or siddur.
- Remain vigilant about washing your hands, avoid touching your face. Public Health Ontario has a handy video to ensure that you’re washing your hands effectively.
WHAT HOLY BLOSSOM IS DOING
- We are closely monitoring the situation. We’re following regular updates on COVID-19 from federal, provincial and local health officials, taking guidance from Toronto Public Health and taking action as required.
- Our offices are open.
- We are holding all programs, services, and life cycle events in spaces large enough to maintain “social distancing.” We are fortunate to have many space options to choose from. As we monitor the situation, this may change.
- Our Youth Education Centre for children and teens is already closed for March Break. With guidance, we will reevaluate in the coming week and will clarify when classes will resume.
- Our Early Children Centre, including our Little Blossoms Program, is open tomorrow, Friday, March 13th. We expect to have more information to share with participating families on Sunday.
- We are suspending Shabbat Kiddush-lunch and weekday Shacharit breakfast until further notice. For Shabbat, servers with gloves will pour grape juice, tea, and coffee, but we will forego sharing meals together.
- We are planning to Livestream our services, classes, programs, and meetings early next week, so they can be enjoyed by members of our community who may be self-isolating or at risk. Check our website for instructions.
- We are taking extra measures to clean and disinfect our spaces. This includes disinfecting all doorknobs, light switches, hand railings and office spaces. Washing stations and hand sanitizers are available throughout The Temple.
- Our Out of the Cold Program is open this evening, but at the good guidance of the city-wide program, we are limiting the number of guests to fifty. All others will receive a meal-to-go.
- Our Rabbis and Cantor are here to support you. For the time being, they will refrain from making hospital visits, but they are available to speak over the phone or by Zoom.
Synagogues and all of Jewish life are for drawing people closer to one another. “Social distancing” is counter-intuitive at a time when people are in need. The wisdom of the book of Ecclesiastes, however, asserts: “There is a time for every experience under heaven…. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.”
We know that isolation and loneliness are also unhealthy. Please reach out to one another by phone or video call. If you are well, come gather with our mourners to help make the minyan for our daily services. (All times are listed here on our website.) Pray for a refuah shleimah for those who are ill and for those who love them. Be grateful for the healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of this battle. Be patient with one another as we find our way through these unchartered waters.
We will continue to provide up-to-date information regarding how COVID-19 affects the Holy Blossom community and how we can all do our part to protect one another.
Wishing everyone good health,
|Rabbi Yael Splansky||Avra Rosen||Ron Polster|
|Senior Rabbi||Temple President||Executive Director|
- Telehealth Ontario: For medical advice, contact Telehealth Ontario, a free, confidential service at 1-866-797-0000
- Toronto Public Health: For information or resources about COVID-19, consult Public Health Toronto here>>
- Public Health Ontario: Find provincial resources about COVID-19 here>>
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Learn more about federal guidance and responses to COVID-19 here>>