We write to you today with new guidelines for funeral and shiva observance to meet the urgency of the current health crisis due to the spread of COVID-19. These are extraordinary times and they do call for measures we would never contemplate under other circumstances.
We take very seriously our obligations to our loved ones and the desire to honour those who have died. Equally so, we take seriously our obligations to the living to protect and keep us all in good health as long as we can.
We therefore advise under the strongest possible terms the following approaches to the observance of funerals and mourning in our community:
- All funerals should be private and by family invitation only.
- Attendance should be limited to the innermost circle of loved ones only, ideally solely the primary mourners.
- Funerals should be graveside only.
- Anyone experiencing the following should not attend a funeral or public gathering
- fever, cough, sore throat, or other flue-like symptoms
- contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or symptoms
- return from outside the country within 2 weeks
- Shivas should be private and those wishing to offer their condolences should do so by phone or other means of communication.
We wish circumstances were different. However, as we read in Kohelet, there is “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” Each embrace we refrain from now is potentially a life saved later. Let us embrace each other by other means in these days and weeks ahead, attending to each other by phone, letter, email, and virtual communications.
We pray for speedy healing to all those currently experiencing the virus. We ask the Holy Blessed One, ufros aleinu sukkat sholmeicha, spread over us the shelter of your peace as we continue to navigate this moment.
The Toronto Board of Rabbis
20 Adar 5780
March 16, 2020