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Jewish ritual bath in Cote-Saint-Luc closes following visit from Montreal police
Published Tuesday, March 31, 2020 11:27PM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, April 1, 2020 6:17PM EDT
MONTREAL -- Montreal police were called to a ritual Jewish bath in Côte-Saint-Luc Tuesday night to ask a group that had gathered there to leave, which they did without incident.
The public health emergency stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic forbids gathering in groups, even for religious purposes.
“The Côte-Saint-Luc Orthodox community is trying to cooperate with all the rules, so this is just a sad moment because their intentions are not bad,” said Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. “They surely thought in their mind they were not doing anything wrong.”
Montreal police visited the orthodox Mikveh Israel on Kildare Road just before 8 p.m. after residents reported people gathering at the bath.
Officers found two employees, two volunteers and a woman, inside the building and told them they were not allowed to be there.
Montreal police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant said the women left and closed the bath.
“The order is a full lockdown -- synagogues, schools, mikvahs, everything. You shouldn’t go,” said Alex Werzberger, president of the Coalition of Outremont Hasidic Organizations.
But when informed by CTV News about the gathering at Mikveh Israel Tuesday, he noted it is impossible to control every individual.
“If you go alone and take a bath alone, if there are, say five people there, and some are waiting in the vestibule and you keep six feet from everyone else and it’s big enough, I don’t see the problem,” he said. “Like any meeting, there shouldn’t be a lot of people.”
As of Wednesday morning, it appeared the bath was still taking reservations on its website, stating that a woman could not attend mikvah only if they are in quarantine, have flu-like symptoms or live with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
“All others may attend the mikvah. However, all preparations (including final shower) must be done at home,” the statement on the website said. “Please bring your own towels and hairbrush. When you arrive at the mikvah, just recomb your hair and re-inspect yourself before immersion. If you do not have a bathtub available at home, then ask your Rov how to prepare properly at home.”
It went on to say that the bath will be maintaining “stricter hygiene measures and deeply disinfecting preparation rooms between use.”
Despite the website message, Chana Mockin of Mikvah Israel said in an email to CTV News, “Mikvah Israel was closed as of (Tuesday) night, in accordance with the instructions of the authorities. No appointments were being taken. The voicemail was not disconnected until this morning, creating the impression that we were taking reservations.”
NO GATHERINGS FOR PASSOVER
The Federation CJA, a Montreal Jewish community organization, issued a reminder Monday to follow strict public health measures and avoid gathering for Passover, which begins April 8.
The organization reminded Jewish people to not go to prayer or other religious ceremonies.
Last Saturday, police were called to a building housing a men's mikvah in Montreal’s Outremont borough after someone said they saw people going inside, but found no one.
Côte-Saint-Luc has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, accounting for the highest per capita infection rate, along with the Town of Hampstead.