VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A Vancouver synagogue is opening its doors for in-person services to celebrate Passover as public health restrictions in B.C. are temporarily eased.
A variance to the Provincial Health Order is allowing limited, indoor, in-person services between March, 28 and May, 13. Places of worship can gather on four dates, and must limit attendance to 50 people or 10 per cent of capacity. Pre-registration is required so contact tracing can be done in the event of an exposure to COVID-19.
Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt with Congregation Schara Tzedeck says the synagogue will hold services this weekend to mark the beginning of Passover and next week as it comes to an end.
“Allowing us to have some indoor services is certainly helpful, but unfortunately, it really is just a fraction of what we were hoping we would get,” he says.
“It’s now about 13 months into this and we still don’t know what kind of toll it’s going to take on the future of the community but certainly the mental health of the community, and the kinds of support that people find by being able to come together in worship services, the spiritual meaning the emotional meaning, those things have all been very compromised.”
The sanctuary can hold 1,100 people. The 50-person limit means about 5 per cent occupancy for Passover services, something Rosenblatt finds frustrating.
“When I walk past the gym and see 20 people working hard — heart pumping lungs, churning — I wonder why is it that gyms get that kind of variance and houses of worship get a very different variance,” he says.
“I understand that [Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry] believes that older people tend to frequent houses of worship and younger people tend to frequent gyms, but it’s really very hard for us to square that circle, because we know that we can operate safely.”
Still, being able to have some limited contact with the community during such a significant holiday is welcome.
“Passover is really a touchpoint holiday for many people,” he says. “The holiday itself is really a cornerstone of the Jewish year.”
Serving or consuming food is not allowed under the variance to the order, meaning a communal Seder meal — which Rosenblatt says is the most important ceremony — is not allowed.
Rosenblatt would like to see the easing of restrictions extended and expanded.
“As a Rabbi, I see the mental health effects of this prolonged period of stay-at-home and failure to come together. We have to be cognizant of some of the costs,” he says.
“It’s very much my hope that the rollout of the vaccine and good behaviour, following public health orders, and doing all the things we can do to help keep the virus under control will allow us to come back indoors on a regular basis.”
With files from Tim James