MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – A prominent Montreal rabbi is urging the city’s Jewish community to be more mindful of public-health guidelines as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
COVID has been relentless in Montreal’s Outremont borough, home to a large proportion of the city’s Hasidic Jews – and it was recently high holidays.
“We continue to be stubbornly loyal to our traditions and our faith, coming together to pray, coming together to celebrate, and coming together in times of need,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Quebec. “It is very difficult for us to rewire our hard drive on a dime.
“There’s no question that community suffered serious contagion in the second wave.”
In the past two weeks, Outremont has seen a rate of 329.8 cases per 100,000 people – one of the highest rates of infection among Montrealers.
“Part of the reason is population density, multigenerational families, large families living in close quarters and people not following the rules,” said Poupko.
Public health officials are working with community leaders to stop transmission of the virus.
“We brought that to the table and said, ‘well what’s happening here and what could we do about it,’” said Dr. David Kaiser of Montreal public health. “With community leaders, we were able to get that under control. What we see now, it appears transmission is decreasing in Outremont.
“We hope to see that in other neighbourhoods.”
The borough wasn’t a hotspot during the first wave, but an Outremont man part of the Hasidic community was the city’s first recorded death linked to the virus.
“There were certain dynamics in that community that certainly expressed itself in the spring where they didn’t have access to the information,” said Poupko. “The Quebec government has radically changed their approach to the ultra orthodox community for the first time in history.
“Information was sent out in Yiddish by the Quebec government, which was interesting. And they are trying very hard to communicate. They’re in constant touch.”
Outremont resident Astrid Arumae founded the COVID-10 Help Hub during the first wave. Backed by the borough and Centraide, the goal was to help the neighbourhood’s most vulnerable.
“We ended up mobilizing 65 people, various teams, people that did outreach, phone calls, coordinating, volunteers doing shopping, volunteers doing deliveries,” said Arumae.
The help hub also guides people through isolation and how to cope, which some say is crucial for survival and beating the virus.