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Announcement by the Board of Directors

Beth Shalom Reopens!

We reopened for Shabbat services on June 19 and, in consultation with our member Dr. Stephen Shafran, who has generously given us his professional advice since the pandemic began, we are delighted to announce our plan for full re-opening, step by step. As we have done at every stage, we are intentionally being more cautious than the law requires, because Jewish law mandates pikuach nefesh, the taking of far-reaching steps to preserve life. At the same time, we are guided by the data (and Stephen's expert analysis of it), and the plan below reflects the same balancing of these values that has guided us all along.                                                     

  For each step below, "fully immunized" means someone who has received both vaccinations and is 14+ days past the  second vaccination.                                                                                 

   July 1: Leiners and daveners can remove their masks while on the bimah if fully immunized. The Torah       procession resumes. We ask that only fully immunized people touch the Torah.

July 17: Olim/Olot reciting the Torah blessings for an aliyah can stand next to the Torah reader if fully immunized. The tape blocking off rows of seating can come down from the pews.

July 31: If case numbers continue to go down and immunizations continue to go up, masks become voluntary for everyone who is fully vaccinated. Anyone not fully vaccinated should continue to mask. Kiddush may be possible, but not buffet-style.

August: If case numbers continue downward and immunizations continue upward, full reopening with no further restrictions.       

 Of course if, God forbid, a new spike in cases occurs, we will adjust the plan  accordingly.                                                                       


During the long months of the pandemic, many writers addressed the social and psychological issues that were immediately apparent: loneliness, isolation, frustration with not being able to be with loved ones at times of need, couple and family issues, educational issues, and more. Now we have a new issue to recognize and work through: the very natural fear of resuming social contact. We have been in the bunkers for over a year, and it can be hard to exit them. It's something we all feel. Even as we have been yearning for the return to normal, now that that return is happening, we also feel apprehension.

These feelings are normal, and I think are shared by everyone. We recognize that people need to re-enter at their own pace. Even when restrictions are removed, it is okay for individuals to choose to keep following those restrictions. We want everyone to feel comfortable in coming back to shul, and we know that this will happen at different times for everyone. For another example, even when masks are no longer required, it's fine to keep wearing one if you prefer.

What about the livestream? We will continue broadcasting our Shabbat and holiday services on the livestream for our members and others (including people from other parts of Canada, the US, and elsewhere) who can't join us in person or who don't feel ready to. This will be a permanent part of our services.

And what about minyans? These will stay on Zoom for the foreseeable future, because their success has been phenomenal. In pre-pandemic days, we rarely got a minyan during the week. On Zoom, in 14 months, it's been exceedingly rare that we don't get a minyan, something like three or four times in over a year.

This is a time of transition...and it is a good transition. We are emerging from darkness back into the light of normal life. The light may startle us a bit at first, but we are adaptive creatures, and I think we will quickly get used to it, as we should.

We will delight in seeing our friends again in shul. We'll delight in being able to visit family (as Bettina and          I will in Israel this month). We have been through a difficult time, and now that dark period is coming to an end. 

As we read every morning in Psalm 30, a psalm for dedicating the Temple:

הָפַ֣כְתָּ מִסְפְּדִי֮ לְמָח֢וֹל לִ֥י פִּתַּ֥חְתָּ שַׂקִּ֑י וַֽתְּאַזְּרֵ֥נִי שִׂמְחָֽה׃ 

You will turn our lament into dancing - You will undo our sackcloth and gird us with joy.

Rabbi Steven Schwarzman




Tue, 23 April 2024 15 Nisan 5784