Quebec shutters houses of worship in response to Omicron variant

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MONTREAL (JTA) — The Omicron coronavirus variant has made Quebec the only Jewish community in North America with no synagogue services for the foreseeable future.

Quebec Premier François Legault ordered all houses of worship, including synagogues, to close on New Year’s Eve, as a possible way to slow down the spread of Omicron.

The decision, said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, spiritual leader of the mainstream Orthodox Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron, is “overreach” and “epidemiologically indefensible,” he told The Canadian Jewish News.

“Nowhere in North America… have places of worship been shut down. This anomaly has to be justified, but it can’t be because there is no logical explanation,” Pouplo added. “This is not March 2020. A lot more is known about COVID and we all know how t0 behave to take care of ourselves.”

Quebec synagogues first shut down during the first thee months of the pandemic in 2020 and then again at the start of the first curfew in January, 2021. Quebec, home to around 100,000 Jews, is also the only known North American jurisdiction with a curfew currently in place.