MONTREAL -- Quebec's Orthodox Jewish leaders say they have, for the first time in their history, decided to close the doors to their synagogues.

In a statement, the Council of Hasidic Jews of Quebec said, "In the eyes of the rabbinical authorities in our communities, (Quebec Premier) François Legault's request to close all places of worship is deemed necessary to ensure the well-being of all Quebecers, including that of our communities."

"In this sense, we act as responsible and united citizens, as we did last week when it was decided to close our cultural centres and our schools."

The Council said it had set up a crisis management committee that will provide community members with real-time information on measures to be taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Hasidic communities.

"Closing our synagogues was not an easy decision, believe us," the council said in its statement. "However, by doing so, we are conforming to the divine and earthly laws that command us first to preserve life.

"We will continue to pray with all Quebecers so that our country can pass through these difficult trials."