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Vancouver's Jewish community looking forward to easing of restrictions for Passover

The Or Shalom synagogue in East Vancouver (Source: Google Maps)

Restrictions on indoor religious services being loosened temporarily in B.C.

Jewish community says changes to public health order come at important time in that faith

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Some synagogues in B.C. will finally be able to open their doors to worshipers this weekend.

B.C. is temporarily easing restrictions for religious gatherings. Between March 28 and May 13, indoor services will be allowed on four days, with a maximum capacity of 50 people, or 10 per cent of the worship space capacity (whatever is less).

Saturday night is the start of Passover, so Ezra Shanken with the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver says the changes come at an important time.

“We’re very grateful for this opportunity to try to bring this really, what we believe, is a critical connection back to people’s lives,” he told NEWS 1130.

Shanken adds some synagogues may not open this weekend in order to give themselves more time to plan.

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As part of the temporary changes to the public health order, multiple services are allowed to be held on each of the four days chosen by faith leaders, provided there is enough time between them to make sure groups don’t mingle.

“Really, it’s not about easing restrictions as much as recognizing that at this phase in the pandemic, we need to focus on those things that we can do safely,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Thursday.

The temporary easing of restrictions also coincides with Easter, Ramadan, and Vaisakhi.

Shanken says he and other faith leaders have worked closely with the province to ensure a safe return to indoor services.

“This is a very delicate thing — we want to make sure we’re doing this safely. At the same time, we want to be able to provide for people to have spiritual connectedness, especially at this time of festivals in so many different faith communities,” he explained.

He notes some outdoor and virtual services are also taking place, with precautions in place.

-With files from Lisa Steacy