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Yom Tov options still somewhat limited for those seeking in-person services despite government easing of Covid restrictions

By MYRON LOVE Last year, around this time, I began my annual report on upcoming High Holiday services with the observation that, while “our Provincial Government may have substantially eased restrictions imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19 – Winnipeg synagogues are still taking a cautious approach to in-person Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur services.

The concensus appears to be limited numbers with requirements that all in attendance must be synagogue members, have had two vaccines and wear masks throughout.”
While the situation is somewhat improved this year, a variety of restrictions are still in place – athough differing from synagogue to synagogue.
That leaves few, if any options – other than following a service online – for the majority of members of our community. Congregation Etz Chayim, for example, is planning for between 350 and 375 in-person worshippers – about one-third of capacity – as compared to 50 people in attendance for each of the two days of Rosh Hashanah last year and 100 for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur.
This year, too, junior congregation and family services are back, reports Jonathan Buchwald, Etz Chayim’s executive director, as well as the in-person choir.
Of course, for the third year in a row, worshippers can follow the service online – an option that is appealing to a growing number of people. Last year, Buchwald estimates that close to 200 screens were watching the service, including many from out of town. “This would translate into about 500-600 people watching our services at any given time,” he noted. “Congregants were also able to offer special readings live via Zoom.”
He adds that while the popular Rose Family Service – a staple of High Holiday services which had been led by Rabbi Neal and Carol Rose for many years in the synagogue’s lower level – was available online last year, the service will not be taking place this year. Buchwald says that he is hopeful that the Roses might resume offering the alternative service next year.
As for Covid restrictions, it will be the same as last year – masks and proof of vaccination required.
Etz Chayim is our community’s second largest congregation and the largest by far in the North End.

The Chevra Mishnayes Synagogue, North Winnipeg’s only other Conservative congregation, will again be limiting numbers for the High Holidays – although, as with last year – family members will be able to sit together… and masks will be compulsory.
“We did reasonably well last year, all things considered,” says Chevra Mishnayes President Rob Waldman. “We understand that people are still cautious.”
Once again, Chevra Mishnayes High holiday services will be led by Al Benarroch.

Last year, The shul’s president, Gary Minuk,, reported that about 30 men and a few women were in attendance for Yom Tov services. He estimates that the number will be much the same this year.
(Incidentally, the Ashkenazie still has morning services Mondays and Thursdays year round.)

In contrast to the Ashkenazie’s Covid precautions, south Winnipeg’s Orthodox congregation, Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation will require High Holiday worshippers to be up-to-date with their vaccinations, but the wearing of a mask will be a matter of personal choice. Unlike last year, though, there will be no limit on the number of people who can attend for the High H­olidays.
“Our capacity is about 300,” reports congregation president Jack Craven. “We are expecting to have normal services.”
Speaking for the Lubavitch Centre, south Winnipeg’s other Orthodox shul, Rabbi Boruch Heidingsfeld reports that the synagogue will not be requiring masks or vaccines for those wanting to attend. “We are following provincial health guidelines,” he says.
The Lubavitch Centre also doesn’t charge to attend services.
Heidingsfeld reports that capacity is between 200 and 300.

Temple Shalom, our community’s only Reform Congregation, is also requiring worshippers in attendance at the High Holidays to be vaccinated and masked.
“Some of our members are still hesitant,” Congregation president Ruth Livingston reports.
“We have already had a number of people who have called the office about purchasing seats for Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur,” she adds.
She notes that members are not required to pay extra for High Holiday seating.
Seating capacity is about 200.
Livingston points out that while there will be no choir this year, there will be three chazans involved in leading services. Readers can also choose to follow the services online. Rabbi Allan Finkel, the congregation’s spiritual leader (who is soon to be retiring) reported in an interview last year that up to 600 people followed the Temple’s online 2021 High holiday services.

As for Shaarey Zedek Congregation – our community’s largest congregation – most readers will be aware that the congregation has embarked on a major expansion project and that regular services have been moved to Temple Shalom while Yom Tov services are scheduled to be held at the Campus. Just recently Shaarey Zedek members were informed that high holiday services will be held in the Berney Theatre, which holds 200 people. There will be two sessions each day of the holidays, as was the custom years ago when there were too many people to be accomodated in one session alone. As with last year though, all members of the community are welcome to participate online. There will be no charge and no tickets or passwords will be needed. The machzorim will be digital, the aliyot virtual and viewers will be able to chat online with other viewers.

There remains one more option for those seeking to attend a High Holiday service. After a two year absence, Camp Massad is resuming its innovative Rosh Hashonah service. Daniel Sprintz, the camp’s executive director, is pleased to announce that Massad will be hosting its usual Rosh Hashonah program on the second day.
“We offer a creative and interactive service that combines some traditional prayers with contemporary readings, folk music and our usual Camp Massad ‘shtick’,” Sprintz says. “Our services will be followed by a kosher lunch and Tashlich at the Lake.”

Sprintz notes that past Rosh Hashonahs at Massad have attracted as many as 150 participants, “We are hoping to have 100 or more for this year,” he says. “It depends on people’s comfort levels.”
Registration deadline (massad.ca) is September 19.

Yom Tov this year begins on Monday, September 28, in the evening.
Wishing all readers a sweet new year.

The only other North End synagogue offering High Holiday services this year will be the Orthodox House of Ashkenazie – which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2022. Whereas last year, the synagogue board required that all who were thinking of attending must be vaccinated, while masks were optional – although highly recommended, this year, masks are required but not vaccinations.

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