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President's Message - August 2020

Laurence Abbott

 High Holidays play a key role in our spiritual lives and in our familial and social lives. Customarily, we come together as a community to pray and celebrate, and we look forward to seeing our family, friends, and other members of our kehillah in our shul. In any given year at Beth Shalom we have room to accommodate all our members and guests in our sanctuary. Typically, we can seat nearly 800 people for any High Holiday service, but this year is not like any other year. This year we will have a capacity closer to a maximum of 200 people, and assigning seating is far more complex than it has been in the past. Some tough decisions will be made, and some limitations may need to be imposed to ensure that we give all our members a fair opportunity to access seats in the synagogue for High Holidays this year. But for those who are not going to be present in the synagogue because they feel safer at home or because we may not have an available seat, we will have an alternative way to experience our service. Over the next month we will start live streaming from our sanctuary. Unlike Zoom and similar streaming platforms, this will be a one-way broadcast conforming with the halachic requirements set by the Rabbinical Assembly. Much more information on this new facet of our yom tov and Shabbat services will be coming once we’re ready to start broadcasting. 

Assigning seating for High Holidays requires that we find a balance among a range of considerations. We must ensure that we take measures to ensure physical distancing and only seat people together who are domiciled together and/or are part of the same cohort. We may be able to seat other family nearby and will make an effort to do so where this is possible. We will be limiting honours to aliyot to control the numbers of people coming and going from the Bima. Crucially, you may not be seated where you normally sit. Also, while we are planning to have some junior congregation programming, there will be no childcare offered at Beth Shalom this year.

We need you to help us with planning! Please contact our office no later than August 14, 2020, if you would like to book seats for High Holidays. Please let us know how many seats you will need and whether family members you normally sit with can sit close to you. We will do our best to accommodate all requests. Please contact The Beth Shalom office by email at or by phone at 780-488-6333, ext.301. The August 14 deadline is necessary to ensure our office staff have enough time to distribute seats and send tickets for those seats to Beth Shalom members.

Over the last few years we grew accustomed to Jerry Sorokin playing a very regular role in our daily and Shabbat services, and since we reopened for Shabbat services in early July, Jerry read from the Torah, or davened some part of the services, or read the Haftarah, or served as Gabbai. In a congregation like ours, where such lay leadership roles are part of who we are, we are always grateful to members of the shul who invest considerable time preparing to read Torah, Haftarot, or davening some part of our services. 

A little over a month ago, I learned that Jerry Sorokin was planning to return home to Iowa City to be with his family, and this past Shabbat he joined us one final time as a regular part of the lay leadership team, reading the Haftarah using the melody for reading Lamentations. Jerry -- We are going to miss you. On behalf of the board and the congregation, we wish you and your family good health and long life. Todah Rabah and Yasher Koach!

Laurence Abbott



Sat, 8 August 2020 18 Av 5780