This Month’s Buzz

by Roselyn Allen, February 23, 2022

As Spring is approaching, Covid-19 public health measures are being reduced by governments all over the land. I see in my minds eye a flower opening up to release a little bee whose been trapped there. Now we’re being released into the wide world and the spring to go back about our business. We hope. A lot has happened during our entrapment.

One of the things that this pandemic has made more poignant than in the “before times”, not that these issues didn’t exist before, are the challenges to the Jewish Community and the synagogues in general. From a broad perspective, our world seems to becoming more divided. The truckers’ occupation of Ottawa, and continued protests throughout the country, have been polarizing. The carrying of Nazi and Confederate flags during these demonstrations was shocking to many of us, because it’s here, in Canada. Yet, only a few short weeks ago there was a hostage taking in a synagogue in Texas.

Today on an afternoon drive program in Toronto, they discussed the rise in Anti-Semitic incidents here in the GTA. Besides antisemitic graffiti, middle schoolers are throwing Nazi salutes; people are comparing vaccine passports to the yellow Stars of David Jews were made to wear and masking mandates are compared to Jewish enslavement during the Holocaust. These are only some incidents noted in recent weeks, though we’ve been seeing a rise in hate crimes against Jews, since the beginning of the pandemic. Of course, Anti-Semitism’s been going on since there’s been Jews, but perhaps, as people sit behind their computers during this pandemic, isolated in so many other ways, hate groups become alluring and these incidents are on the rise again.

There are books written about the methods used to indoctrinate the far right. In the meantime, other movements are suffering. People are becoming separated from the institutions that bring us moral compass. Of course, for synagogues all over the world, declining membership numbers has been a concern for decades. Younger generations look for different things and, as much as I wish it, spirituality is no longer attached to a building or its rituals for many. Add to that a prohibition on attending services in person with COVID-19, the challenge of making our rituals safe in a time of masking and social distancing, and quickly having to provide all the religious and pastoral services of a synagogue on line or through hybrid methods and membership and those active in synagogue life have diminished further.

To that end, we’ve held focus groups with Solel Congregants, to discuss what people do want from their synagogue community. We want to be here for the Jewish Community and we rise to the challenges. We want people to call and voice their concerns. We want to serve the community around us fully again – we would love to participate again in social action initiatives, youth programming, summer camps and interfaith events. When the synagogue opens we want an Invite Your Neighbour Service and children planting flowers on the property during Shavuot.

We want to bring sweetness back to the world as things reopen. Despite the darkness we’ve been trapped in, just like the flower and the bee, it was meant to protect us until we can fly again to colour the world.

Filed under: President's Message

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