Edmonton’s Beth Israel Congregation rolls out a planned phased re-entry for services

Beth Israel Synagogue is a Modern Orthodox Congregation in Edmonton.

(Edmonton) – It has been some time since attendance at synagogues in Edmonton has been allowed due to the COVID virus pandemic.  Edmonton’s Modern Orthodox congregation – Beth Israel Synagogue (lovingly referred to by congregants as the Family Shul) is preparing to change that – starting this month. Following considerable work by the BI COVID Task Force, chaired by Dr. Sam Marcushamer, they presented their May 28, 2020 planned phased re-entry to the shul.

“Plans evolve, as we have seen on numerous occasions in the past few months, so please stay tuned for updates in the next few weeks,” noted BI Board President Dr. David Vickar.

“Thank you to the Task Force and thank you to all of you for your patience and understanding. This document deals with the limited readmission to the shul for minyanim only, for the first two phases. Although Mark and Roxanne are working in the office, the entrance doors remain locked and no general access to the shul will be allowed until further notice.

“Again, these conditions are to ensure the health and safety of each and every one of us.”

Beth Israel is a modern Orthodox Jewish congregation and a member of the Orthodox Union. The following plan was sent to BI members in a recent shul bulletin.

Phase 1 of Minyan Protocol (May 28, 2020) 

Alberta Health and the Government of Alberta plan to gradually remove restrictions on meetings of groups of people in various locations in the province. Decisions to proceed with Beth Israel’s phased reopening plan will be based on societal responses and government tracking of COVID19 incidence. In concert with the recommendations of our public health officials, the Beth Israel Synagogue is proposing a gradual phased approach to reopening our doors. As the outcomes of the gradual lifting of restrictions cannot be predicted with certainty, this process is very fluid and may be modified or cancelled at any time, depending on circumstances beyond our control.

The principles contained in this document are in accordance with the most recent Government of Alberta guidelines for restrictions on gatherings as well as published recommendations of the Orthodox Union (OU) and Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) with specific consideration for the Edmonton pandemic status.

The first “in person” minyan on our return to the Beth Israel will be in June.

1).    Minyanim will consist of no more than 11 men who are members of the Beth Israel.

2).   Attendees should be under 65 years of age (and over 13 years of age, no children) and not have any chronic medical condition affecting heart, lungs, kidneys or liver, hypertension, obesity or being immunocompromised by condition or medication.

3).   Anyone with any symptoms of respiratory illness (cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat), even if symptoms appear to be mild or resemble a cold, MAY NOT attend. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 or that have travelled internationally in the last 14 days are prohibited by law from entering the shul.

4).  Participation will be planned rather than spontaneous. Pre-registration for attendance will be required.

Please call the office at least 48 hours in advance if you would like to attend these daily morning minyanim.

You will be asked to sign up for a specific minyan that you will attend regularly and exclusively. If you are not signed up in advance, you may not be allowed to enter.

5).  Seating will be assigned with your name on the seat in the main Shul, with spacing greater than 2 meters between individuals.

6).   All attendees must wear a mask at all times within the building covering the mouth and nose and must maintain a space of at least 2 meters between attendees while entering and leaving both the building and the sanctuary.

7).   Upon entering the building, attendees should use hand sanitizer and try to avoid touching your face and mask. If your mask needs to be adjusted, please use hand sanitizer after touching your face/mask. You may want to bring your own small bottle of hand sanitizer with you.

8).     All inside doors to the sanctuary will remain open (to minimize touching of common elements).

9).   Participants will be asked to bring (and take home) their own Siddurim, Tefillin, and Tallit each time they attend, as these items will not be available at the shul. No personal items should be left in the synagogue.

10).   Arrival into the sanctuary, with appropriate spacing, will be from the side and centre aisles (doors A,B,C) depending on the location of your assigned seat . Your seat will be assigned by the shul.

11).   Departure will be the reverse direction, so that you must leave on the same aisle from which you entered to avoid proximity to others exiting. There will be no congregating before or after minyan in the shul, foyer or exit area. Individuals must ensure maintaining a safe distance (at least 2 meters) upon exiting. A document of specific instructions on how to enter and depart from the seating area will be circulated and posted and MUST BE ADHERED TO BY ALL. Please follow the instructions of the volunteer providing directions.

12).   Please leave the mehitzah doors open to avoid touching.

13).   Washrooms will not be operational during this period.

14).   Use of other areas of the shul is not allowed and all must obey the signs and barriers to ensure the safety of everyone.

15).   Personal protective practices (coughing and sneezing etiquette, hand hygiene) should be observed and using hand sanitizer is encouraged. As stated above, the use of masks covering mouth and nose is required.

16).   Avoid all physical contact with fellow congregants.

17).   No kissing the mezuzot.

18).  The shul will increase the frequency of cleaning of surfaces that are touched in the sanctuary but please touch as little as possible and not beyond the seat in which you sit.

“The situation continues to evolve and thus these recommendations and guidelines are formulated solely on current available information and advice,” explained Dr. Marcushamer and Dr. Vickar.

“The Shul will strictly follow the guidelines provided by the provincial government. As the position paper by the OU and RCA states: We hope and pray that our decision going forward maximizes both communal safety and our service of Hashem.

“By phoning the office and asking your name to be added to the list for the minyan, it will mean that you agree to abide by and follow all the above rules and regulations. It is agreed as well that you understand the risks inherent to attend services in a non-cohort scenario (people outside of your immediate household family).”

“Remember to wear a mask and keep appropriate distance from others,” they add. “These detailed instructions are provided to ensure the health and safety of each one of us, staff and congregants.

“Thank you for your cooperation. Be safe and remain healthy!”


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