Reconnecting at Solel

by John Lewsen, October 1, 2022

As Brenda and I watched Rabbi Pollack trying to start the Rosh Hashana morning service over the buzz of animated chatter in the sanctuary, we realized there was something very special happening at Solel. We had approximately 180 people attending in person, with many of us seeing each other for the first time since we were last together at High Holiday services in Solel three years ago. We alsofelt the presence of another 50-plus households on our Livestream. We then had excellent attendance at our afternoon family service and second day L’dor V’dor service.

It was fitting that in her Rosh Hashana morning D’var Torah, Rabbi Pollack spoke about the disconnection we have felt, and the unexpected difficulties and challenges we have all faced in trying to reconnect to activities and life that once felt so normal. By way of a personal example, I must have walked past several members whom I know well but didn’t recognize, perhaps in part because we are all three years older, but also because we haven’t fully figured out face recognition when the face is behind a mask.

The good news is that Solel is steadily re-experiencing its purpose both as our local Reform synagogue and as an important hub in our broader community. Here are a few of the many examples of how we are managing to reconnect and grow our community:

  • We have recently signed up 11 new families and are still working with some additional prospective members
  • When we reopened Bet Sefer Solel, we had to do it without access to our usual use of the separate school board facilities. However, with the growing number of enrolments, we are now revisiting our options for returning to these larger school board facilities.
  • Our next meeting of the Solel Board will be in person for the first time since February 2020. It was at this last in-person meeting that the Board approved the final scope of work and budget for our renovation of the entrance and washrooms.
  • Many of you who finally got to see the renovation at Rosh Hashanah commented favourably on the new carpeting and lighting in our freshly completed lobby area. Also, for the first time at a high holiday service, there were no washroom lineups…
  • A local chapter of a community women’s group that was tired of meeting on Zoom is now renting our space for its monthly meetings — and it’s fitting that this group’s mandate is dedicated to improving the status of women and promoting human rights, public education, and social justice.
  • We recently accommodated an approach from the office of Iqra Khalid, our local Member of Parliament, to use our facilities for a round table consultation on public safety with local faith leaders and the federal Minister for Public Safety. Minister Mendicino, who was accompanied by several other local MPs and federal Ministers, spoke about concerns about recent incidents of online hate targeting visible minorities, female journalists, and public representatives. This opened the way for constructive dialogue around some of our concerns and to hear accounts from other faith leaders about their concerns including racial discrimination they have faced at airports and borders.

Community meeting at Solel

In concluding her Rosh Hashana D’var Torah, Rabbi Pollack pointed out that finding out our way out of the dark forest of the pandemic will be so much easier if we do it together. Then, once again hearing that evocative sound of the Rosh Hashana shofar from inside our sanctuary felt to me like a further powerful call for us to move forward together as we rebuild our community and plan Solel’s celebration of our first fifty years. I invite you all to join us and be part of the many volunteer groups we are setting as we welcome and engage new members into our community, reconnect with old members, help mend what is broken and start new Tikkun Olam and other initiatives as we navigate towards better times.

G’mar Chatima Tova


PS: Let me know by e-mail at about any volunteer activities that would be of interest to you or skills you are willing to share, and I will get back to you.

Filed under: President's Message

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