MONTREAL -- The current limit on gatherings is still 250 people, but health authorities in Montreal met recently with Jewish leaders to ask them a favour: to go above and beyond during the holidays.

With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur coming up, they asked that gatherings be limited to just 50 people indoors.

In fact, many synagogues were already being very conservative with their numbers, though not necessarily quite that much.

Reuben Poupko of the Beth Israel synagogue in Cote-Saint-Luc says the congregation will have two services, one indoors and one in a tent, each with 100 people.

The details matter, though, he says: they’re insisting that masks be worn at all times, even in the tent, and the spaces are set up to keep people well spaced inside huge areas that normally hold many, many times more people than that.

Like some other Jewish leaders, Poupko says he has also asked people to “tone down” their family gatherings.

“We understand how important family is at this time, but we need absolute compliance,” he said. 

“When people are lax, people get sick.”

Local families do seem to be taking infection risks very seriously. Mitchell Brownstein, the mayor of Cote-Saint-Luc, told CTV that many backyard celebrations are planned for this weekend in the neighbourhood, despite the cool weather.

Other synagogues and Jewish community organizations have found their own creative ways to encourage people to stay home, from hiring production companies to produce livestreams to dropping off thousands of holiday food baskets.