A Message to Jewish Institutions in the Greater Toronto Area
In light of the potential spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in our city, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto is offering the following information to facilitate a coordinated approach to maintaining a safe environment at Jewish institutions. Our goal is to help protect the health of our community and ensure the continued vibrancy and vitality of Jewish life in the GTA.
For many in the community, this is a period of significant anxiety and uncertainty. We want to underscore the crucial importance of making decisions – and communicating them clearly – based on the guidance of health authorities, notably Toronto Public Health and York Region Public Health. We remain in ongoing communication with Toronto Public Health, which (as of yesterday afternoon) noted that “the virus is not circulating locally.”
UJA Federation is taking reasonable precautions and preparing contingency plans to adjust operations should circumstances warrant. We strongly encourage community institutions to adopt a similar approach, in consultation with public health authorities. We applaud those organizations that have already done so.
We also urge rabbis and community leaders to consider how they can encourage others to practice Jewish traditions and mitzvot in a manner that is most conducive to protecting health. This is especially vital given the significant number of community members with vulnerable health circumstances (the elderly and/or those with particular conditions) who are attending synagogue services and events, including upcoming Purim celebrations.
Measures that UJA Federation has adopted, and which Jewish institutions should immediately consider, include the following:
- Reminding all staff, volunteers, and guests to exercise additional vigilance when it comes to their own health and that of others. Individuals feeling ill or experiencing symptoms of the cold or flu should be asked to stay home and, if necessary, seek medical attention. For synagogues and day schools, for example, this could include posting a message to this effect prominently on all bulletins and email newsletters.
- Reminding staff, volunteers, and guests – where appropriate – about the importance of hand-washing.
- Adopting a policy against hand-shaking, hugging, and kissing. For synagogues, this could also include specifically asking congregants to refrain from kissing the Torah and mezuzot.
- Instructing maintenance staff to devote greater attention to disinfecting key touch-points in the building, including doors, elevators, reception desks, light switches, fridge handles, computer keyboards, etc.
- Providing hand sanitizer at appropriate locations throughout the building and replenishing it on a regular basis.
- Preparing contingency plans to enable staff, if possible, to work remotely should it become necessary.
- Enabling staff who have a close family member experiencing cold or flu symptoms to work remotely so they can care for their loved one and to prevent transmission of infections.
Thank you for taking the time to read this message. We appreciate your vigilance in doing your part to keep our community – and all residents of our city – safe. We remain deeply thankful for our city’s robust public health infrastructure and the many dedicated medical professionals who are working to address this challenge.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach,
President & CEO
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto