Welcome to the Toronto Board of Rabbis

Rosh HaShanah during COVID-19

This is the time when we want to get together with family and friends, sit down to a lovely meal and celebrate together.  If you were planning on expanding your bubble, or changing the protocols for it, please don’t.

Holidays and simchas are ideal ways to spread COVID-19. It has been spreading via family and friends. Your bubble must be limited to ten people. You can catch this from people you love. According to Dr David Kaplan, Chief of Clinical Quality at Ontario Health: “We are seeing transmission among family and friends because people are letting their guard down and being lax (the perception that we know our family and they are not a risk).”

Don’t take chances, follow the protocols.  You owe it to yourselves, to your loved ones and to the greater community.

Please have a happy, healthy and safe new year. Shana tova.

Statement on Food Donations

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us but for those who are hungry the situation has become even more difficult.

Every year during the Yamim Nora’im, the Toronto Board of Rabbis encourages members of the Jewish community to bring donations of non-perishable food items to their local synagogues.  Given the reality of Covid-19 this is currently impossible.

This year, the TBR encourages you to directly support food banks across the GTA so that others may have a happy and healthy New Year.

These are some of the local sites that are accepting both food and financial donations. The latter is preferable as it allows the food banks to stock the items that are needed the most.

North York Food Harvest             Daily Bread Food Bank

Many of our synagogues work with specific food banks. Please check with your synagogue for additional ways to support the vulnerable in our community.

You may also consider these worthy Jewish organizations:

Mazon Canada                             Leket (Israel’s National Food Bank)

In whatever you can give, you know that you will be making a difference in the lives of those in need.

 

Statement Regarding Communal Reopening

We are living in difficult times. Jewish community is built around gathering together in prayer, ritual, and relationship. And yet, during this Covid-19 pandemic, we are unable to do these things together in the ways to which we are accustomed. We have seen remarkable innovation, creativity, and lovingkindness from the individuals and institutions of the Toronto Jewish community, which have risen to meet this moment–all the while, looking forward to the day when we are able to resume gathering and celebrating our rituals together in person.

The time has not yet arrived when we can welcome each and every person back into our communal spaces. With new Ontario guidelines coming into effect on June 12, 2020 allowing houses of worship to reopen only up to 30% of capacity and with physical distancing, we reaffirm the need for patience and caution as we each consider plans for reopening our in-person synagogue and communal functions. As we begin to reopen and return to our holy spaces, we must be guided by the recommendations of public health officials. 

Our main concern is for health and safety. Our tradition teaches “You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which humans shall live.” (Leviticus 18:5).

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יַעֲשֶׂ֥ה אֹתָ֛ם הָאָדָ֖ם וָחַ֣י בָּהֶ֑ם

The purpose of our rituals and mitzvot are to live by them. The mitzvah of pikuach nefesh–saving a life–is paramount to all discussion of reopening. Each institution should make decisions that are appropriate both for its facilities’ capabilities and communal needs, and with strict adherence to the guidelines of public health officials.

We do not advocate to expedite the reopening of congregations, religious schools, and other Jewish community gathering places beyond what is recommended. Our gatherings, once allowed, will continue to be subject to public health restrictions, and we commit to abide by those conditions for as long as they are in force.

We know personally the sacrifices that each person has been making during this pandemic. We have, G-d-willing, many Shabbatot and holidays ahead of us to spend together in person. For now, each of our communities will explore reopening when possible, but with an abundance of caution and consideration.

To all of us, we share the words of G-d to Joshua as he charged him to lead the people into the impossible, a new land: “Be strong and have courage; do not be terrified or dismayed, for the Lord your G-d is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

חֲזַ֣ק וֶאֱמָ֔ץ אַֽל־תַּעֲרֹ֖ץ וְאַל־תֵּחָ֑ת כִּ֤י עִמְּךָ֙ ה’ אֱלֹקיךָ בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תֵּלֵֽךְ

16 Sivan 5780/June 8, 2020

 

Statement on Racism 

As Canadians, we are proud of our multicultural society, though we recognize that within it also exists unresolved issues of hatred, racism and inequality.

As Jews, we are committed to the notion that all people are created in the “image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27) and are fashioned from a single human being so that no one may say, “My ancestor is greater than yours” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).

We stand, therefore, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Black community including Black Jews and Jews of Colour in our own communities, and in all communities experiencing inequality, denouncing racism and prejudice and calling for justice and peace.

We call upon all people of faith and good conscience to deepen our commitment to these ideals and work together to eliminate systemic racism and advocate for a more just and peaceful society.

חֶֽסֶד־וֶאֱמֶ֥ת נִפְגָּ֑שׁוּ צֶ֖דֶק וְשָׁל֣וֹם נָשָֽׁקוּ׃

Love and Truth shall embrace.  Justice and peace shall kiss. (Psalm 85:11)