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Survey Feedback 

We would like to thank all those who completed “Our Synagogue – COVID-19 and Beyond” Survey. The results were very informative and will assist us in our planning for the near future and post-COVID. 

Survey Highlights - “Our Synagogue – COVID-19 and Beyond” 

Here are some of the survey results and highlights: 

•    315 people responded to the survey
•    30% were from households with children at home and the remaining 70% were from households with no children at home.
•    45% of respondents were under 65 years of age and 55% were over 65.
•    77% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with our response to COVID, while 7% were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
•    74% have attended online services, either weekday or Shabbat and Holidays and 26% have not.
•    65% of those who participated in online services were satisfied or very satisfied with the services, while 10% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
•    36% of respondents felt less connected to the synagogue, 14% were more connected and the remaining 50% felt the same as they did before COVID.
•    Just under 50% of respondents attend online programming and study sessions at BEBY, and just over 50% do not. The comments indicate a generally favourable opinion of our programming, but some felt that we could do more and better programs.
•    Online programming did not change the majority of the respondents’ relationship with our synagogue.
•    44% of respondents would consider coming to synagogue for in-person services this coming High Holy Days, 8% would not come and 24% would prefer the livestream. The remainder were unsure. The vast majority of people commented that vaccinations would be the driving factor as to whether they would return to in-person services.
•    As to the question of keeping livestream or Zoom services going, even after we return to the synagogue, 43% were in favour and 57% against.
•    About 51% of respondents were in favour of continuing online programming even after we are able to return to in-person programming.
•    We thank the 30% of respondents who volunteered to participate either in a focus group on our COVID response or in a focus group to discuss the synagogue’s strategy for the future. These committees are in the process of being formed and we hope to convene these sessions soon.

A Little Background

Who are we?
We are a traditional Conservative synagogue whose leadership draws strength from all age groups to combine the wisdom and experience of our founding members with the energy and professionalism of younger generations. This core of dedicated volunteers works with the clergy and staff to safeguard the aims and purposes of our constitution. Armed with the valued traditions and achievements of the past, that have earned us the name "The Synagogue with a Heart", we look forward to meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

Our Journey through COVID at BEBY

March 16, 2020 - As the COVID pandemic began worldwide, our Synagogue suspended all in-person services starting with that evening’s services.

March 17, 2020 - The City of Toronto went on lockdown and our synagogue building was closed.

March 17, 2020 - Various committees worked quickly to implement virtual services and we initially went online with Facebook Live weekday services

April 1, 2020 - Zoom weekday services started up.
This was a learning experience for the synagogue and we were able to offer our members daily services as a way of keeping connected. Due to the unavailability of livestream equipment and the inability to halachically make use of Facebook or Zoom on Shabbat and Yom Tov, we were unable to provide services outside of weekdays.

April 15, 2020 - Three task forces were set up by the Ritual Committee to develop protocols for how to properly reopen the synagogue when we were permitted to do so and how to best maintain the synagogue-member relationship. These task forces, Health, Ritual and Technology, met at least weekly and tried to keep up with the ever-changing COVID landscape.

April 15, 2020  -  We started offering online programming such as continuing education, music and concerts, rabbis’ study classes, movies, Boomers and others soon after. Many in-person programs had already been scheduled, and where possible these were presented as virtual programs, while others had to unfortunately be postponed. For members who were willing to attend and participate, we continued to offer a variety of interesting and engaging programming.

April 27, 2020  - The Ritual Task Force had its first High Holy Days planning meeting.

May 14, 2020  - The Conservative Movement Law Committee ruled that livestreaming on Shabbat and Yom Tov was permissible under the exigent circumstances of the COVID pandemic, as endorsed by Rabbi Morrison.

May – June 2020  -  The Ritual Task force studied the Teshuvah and determined that with certain provisions we would investigate livestreaming for our Shabbat and Holiday services. The goal was to be ready for the High Holy Days. There was a worldwide shortage of livestreaming equipment, but we placed our order and waited in line to get our system.

July 1, 2020 - The synagogue opened for weekday Mincha-Maariv services to test out our health and safety protocols with a small group. This was later expanded to weekday Shacharit. Attendance was not sufficient to warrant continuing in-person Mincha-Maariv.
With rising COVID numbers, we found that Shacharit attendance also started going down, and we rarely had a minyan. The Task Forces decided to concentrate on Shabbat and Holiday openings so that we could ensure a safe High Holy Day service, when more people were expected.

August 1, 2020 -  Livestreaming equipment was rented to ensure sufficient testing time before the High Holy Days. A robust COVID safety program was implemented and we started allowing 20-25 congregants for Shabbat Services and a halachic livestream service.

September 18, 2020 - High Holy Days begin.
Our synagogue was open for limited in-person attendance.
Every person who requested to attend High Holy Day services was assigned a seat for services. About 70% of those accepted to attend services came.
Cantor Lipa Glantz, Rabbi Howard Morrison, Rabbi David Grundland and Shlomo Wanounou led our High Holy Day Services.
Over 1000 households attended our services via livestream.
Our congregants were offered a complete, stimulating service, including study sessions, sermons and inspirational cantorial music.

November 23, 2020 -  City of Toronto went in lockdown.

November 23, 2020 - In-Person Shabbat Services were suspended.

March 15, 2021  - The City of Toronto is still under restrictive measures, which prevent us from fully reopening.
We continue to offer a full range of online services, classes, programming, including Shabbat and Holiday livestreaming.
Our Ritual Task Force continues to meet weekly to, among other issues, plan for various High Holy Day scenarios.
We await the city moving to the Red Zone or further easing restrictions, which will allow us to re-institute in-person Shabbat and Holiday services.

March 16, 2021 - Beth Emeth leadership decided to gradually reopen for in-person Shabbat and Holiday services.

At all times the synagogue’s decisions regarding reopening and health and safety protocols are based on Ontario and Toronto Public Health recommendations and regulations.

FAQ

In the survey, respondents brought up many common themes. We have addressed these in the following FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).
This document will be updated from time to time. Document last updated March 23, 2021

How are we maintaining our connection to our congregation?

The Beth Emeth website at www.beby.org is updated daily with the latest synagogue information including descriptions and links to all upcoming programs and services.
Every Thursday afternoon, all members who have emails registered with the synagogue receive an eBlast with the latest information on our religious services, including a message from the rabbi and other relevant information.
On Mondays, an email blast about upcoming programs is sent out with registration information and links.
Calls have been made to all at-risk seniors by an extensive group of volunteers, to connect and check on their wellbeing.
The BEBY Connector is mailed monthly to all members who do not have an email address registered with the synagogue.
The Kesher is published quarterly online and mailed to those without emails.

How is Beth Emeth dealing with simchas during COVID?

Based on current safety protocols, Beth Emeth has allowed in-person lifecycle celebrations subject to the city sanctioned maximum number of people permitted in the sanctuary. Remaining guests join on livestream (available 24/7) or Zoom (weekdays only).

Why are we saying a different Kaddish on Zoom?

During this challenging time, many of us are not able to attend synagogue due to health-related concerns. Now and in the days ahead, some of us may be mourners or may be observing a Yahrzeit and wish to recite mourner's Kaddish. Traditionally, Kaddish is recited in the presence of a minyan. For those who cannot attend a Minyan at synagogue, we endorse reciting Kaddish L'Yachid, an individual Kaddish, from the 10th century Siddur of Rav Amram Gaon, which does not require a physically present minyan.

When we are on a Zoom or livestream service, am I part of a minyan?

Most of us understand that from a traditional point of view, the concept of minyan necessitates the requisite number of ten being in physical and visual presence of each other in a shared space. Once that is maintained, individuals may join in remotely if necessary. Admittedly, more liberal congregations than our own are not relying on Halacha (Jewish Law), or they are relying on contemporary responses from caring rabbis who are stretching or breaking the limits of Halacha because we are living nowadays in exigent circumstances.
In North American synagogues, some like ours consider a Zoom service without ten in the same physical room as a collective private service. Others see their Zoom service with ten or more online as a minyan. Some congregations, which allow a Zoom minyan on weekdays, will not Zoom or livestream on Shabbat, while others may Zoom or livestream on Shabbat. Are these differences any greater than other religious and ritual distinctions among synagogues that exist on a regular basis in the best of times? Without judgement, each community must make sensitive decisions based on its customs, principles, and collective conscience.

What are the synagogue’s plans regarding a chazzan?

Similar to last year, we will have a chazzan for the upcoming High Holy Days. A search committee was established last year, but due to the uncertainty as to when we would return to a semblance of normalcy, the search was put on hold. We are currently evaluating our needs and future direction and the cantor position is featured prominently in this discussion. We are aiming to start the cantor search in the fall of 2021

How has Beth Emeth been managing Shabbat services this year?

Once livestream equipment arrived in August, we were able to provide Shabbat services for everyone. In the summer, Toronto allowed a small number of people, based on the seating capacity, to physically gather. From mid-August to late November, an average of 20-25 people attended services on Shabbat. An average of 100-120 households watched weekly via livestream.
In late November, Toronto limited in-person services to a maximum of ten people in total. The following decisions were made at that time:

Services would be conducted from the Sanctuary with clergy only.
• A synagogue member could join the clergy to chant the Haftarah or lead part of the service, provided that the total number of people in the sanctuary did not exceed ten people.
• The service would be conducted without the presence of a minyan. The liturgy would be comprised of Psukei Dzimrah, Shacharit, Silent Amidah, full Torah reading, no Aliyot, full Haftarah without blessings and Silent Musaf Amidah.

Some of the thinking that led to the decision included:
The requisite number of ten would be limited to men, who comprise a Minyan. As a result, women would be excluded from attending. The ten attendees would have to be identified before Shabbat begins without the assurance that all would attend, such as one not feeling well in the morning. Everyone who is unable to attend in-person services is encouraged to participate from home via livestream.

How is Beth Emeth managing Shabbat Services going forward?

Based on Ontario and Toronto Public Health decisions in mid-March to allow inperson attendance at religious services (based on a percentage of seats in the sanctuary), Beth Emeth has decided to reopen on Shabbat morning starting March 20 as it did from August through November. We anticipate 20-25 people, including men, women, and children, will attend.

Can we have access to recorded versions of online programs?

We are currently investigating the feasibility of posting, with speaker permission, recordings of our online programs.
Classes and services are broadcast and posted on Facebook Live.
Shabbat and Holy Day services, for halachic reasons, cannot be recorded.

What are our Health and Safety Protocols?

The health and safety of our Beth Emeth Community is a top concern during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. We have strict protocols in place to ensure everyone feels safe when coming into our synagogue. We have followed Ontario and Toronto Public Health guidelines and added some additional measures to make Beth Emeth a safe environment.
Please follow the direction of one of our volunteers when entering and exiting the building to ensure we keep everyone safe. Available seating is limited and has been set up to ensure a distance of greater than 2 metres between attendees in different households while in the sanctuary.

 

Physical distancing and masks are mandatory at all times when in the synagogue 
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 please do not come to the synagogue. Immediately self-isolate and contact your local public health authority or healthcare provider. Wear a mask, stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others, wash your hands, avoid crowds, and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Why is program registration and religious service access so complicated?

Most of the synagogue programs take place on Zoom. We are currently in the process of implementing the use of the built-in Zoom capability for program registration. This would allow a more consistent registration experience, including pre-program reminders.
We have experienced several unfortunate instances of “Zoom bombing” over the past year. This has made it necessary for us to either use a waiting room or a password or both in order to maintain the security of our programs and religious services.

What do you get for your membership dues?

Judaism isn’t just about believing, it’s also about belonging. Judaism is not only about a cemetery plot at a time of need. Judaism is being part of something greater and your synagogue community provides many opportunities for connection to you, its members. We provide numerous options for learning, study, engagement and community building. Your Beth Emeth community is important, not just for you but for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You are a part of this through attendance at our AGM (Annual General Meeting) and voting in our elections. Your voice counts. Our clergy provide you with services and support at milestones, in times of mourning, when life gets you down; there is always someone here for you.

What is the synagogue doing for our youth, young professionals and families?

When the pandemic began, we started calling our families to see how the transition to virtual work and school was working. Starting May 1st, we started an 8-week pre-Shabbat Family Sing-along and Stories. We spent the summer creating a meaningful family program for Jewish Holidays, including a Lag BaOmer community bonfire kumzitz, and Shavuot games with our Shinshinim.

We held a well-attended High Holy Day town hall to find out how to best reach out to the NEXTgen community over the holidays. Based on the input, provincial guidelines and the health and safety needs of our congregation we were one of the few shuls in the GTA to offer in-person High Holy Day services specifically geared to Young Families. We introduced a second livestream feed in the shul for the families who were not attending in person. There was also an outdoor shofar blowing specifically geared for the young families, with around 100 people in attendance.

Since then, we have drastically revamped and improved our Bnai Mitzvah Program, had Chanukah and Pesach songs and stories, a joint pre-Purim sing-along with Adath Israel. We are now also running weekly pre-Shabbat parties. There are many other programs currently being offered for all demographics.

Rabbi David has maintained the weekly e-blast, including his personal reflections, a weekly Dvar Torah and discussion questions, NEXTgen programming updates, and NEXTgen Community updates.

How can I increase my involvement with the synagogue?

Without volunteers our synagogue does not exist.
Volunteers are always needed for committees, member outreach, synagogue board and executive, religious services and programs.
Whether you want to be an usher at Shabbat or High Holy Day services, sing in the Purim play, help with the important work the Chesed committee does, assist with programs or join the board, there is room for you.
Any way you can help the synagogue is welcome.

Contact the office for more information.

Thu, 24 June 2021 14 Tammuz 5781