Connection and Gratitude: A Message from the President
Jul 3rd 2020

In the last three months, we have all had to adapt to a new way of life. For me, it has meant that much of my day is spent in my home office.

After the first few weeks of shock, I find I have eased into a semi-routine, although I have pretty much lost all concept of time. Most importantly, I have found that I have much to be grateful for. The people I care about most⁠—Michael, Emma and Zach; my parents; my mother-in-law; my siblings and their families⁠—are all healthy. There is nothing more important than that.

I have great friends who check in on my well-being. I am baking hallah for the first time since I was a teenager. And I have found a true appreciation for the beauty of Shabbat, as I unplug my brain for 25 hours and just enjoy the quiet and peace of mind.

There is much to be grateful for at Beth Tzedec. I need only look to our core priorities at this time of physical distance but social nearness, even as we all begin to move about a little more freely.

We are continuing our work in creating a caring community. Under the banner of the Centre for Spiritual Well-Being, Rabbi Fryer Bodzin, along with Debbie Berlin, has been leading a bereavement group for people who have suffered a loss since the COVID-19 crisis began.

I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak of having limited (if any) people at a funeral, or of not being able to hug a loved one while sitting shiva or of starting the weighty routine of saying kaddish without the physical and emotional embrace of our community. Rabbi Fryer Bodzin has told me that this has been one of the most powerful and beautiful groups she has had the privilege to be a part of. What a powerful way to connect and to provide comfort and care for each other.   

We are enhancing our digital engagement. Given that our only means of staying connected remains online, we have had to move quickly to find the best technology with the broadest reach so that you, our members, can still “come to shul”.

Starting on Shavuot, our live streamed Shabbat and haggim services have beautifully complimented our more intimate Daily Minyan services on Zoom. Thank you to our Spiritual Leadership Team, who have been working tirelessly to ensure that our services remain meaningful while we remain physically apart.

And thank you to Daniel Silverman and Terri Humphries, who make all the technical aspects of services seem so effortless. These are exciting, daunting and unchartered waters for us as we have had to expand our horizons beyond Zoom, Facebook and YouTube. More to come about our exciting initiatives for the High Holy Days in the coming weeks.

Engaging with our members. Under the professional leadership of Yacov Fruchter and the Chair of our Small Groups committee, Debra Wolfe, we are beginning intimate conversations with members. The goals of the Small Groups initiative are to learn from each other, to deepen community, identify and develop future leaders and discover common interests, passions and concerns.

As we reported last week, a Reopening Task Force has been formed, chaired by Lawrie Lubin, to look at the protocols and safeguards which need to be in place before we can open our doors once again. I know that many of you are anxious to return to shul. As I have said since the day we closed, our main concern is for the health and welfare of our members and our staff. This is our guiding principle as we look towards congregating together again. We will continue to update you on our progress.

I am grateful to the many members who have reached out to me with both positive and critical feedback since I started writing these regular messages. It’s not always easy to hear criticism, but I truly value every form of feedback.

This is a strange time. As I said in my first message, we may make mistakes along the way⁠—it is impossible not to when we are dealing with such a fluid situation. What I can promise you is that your lay leadership, your spiritual leadership and your administrative teams are working tirelessly to support and uplift our kehillah. You can find ways to connect and participate at and in our weekly email newsletters.

Early on in the crisis, Leanne Matlow, a cognitive behavioural therapy counsellor and Beth Tzedec member who sits on the Advisory Council for the Centre for Spiritual Well-Being, gave a Facebook Live presentation, during which she laid out some guidelines on how to cope with the feeling of being overwhelmed while confined to our homes. Leanne said to start your day by asking yourself three questions:

  • What must be done today?
  • What should be done today?
  • What could be done today?
I am so grateful to Leanne for giving me this perspective. I have these three questions on a sticky note attached to one of the monitors in my office. It is one of the first things I look at every morning, and probably the last thing I see when I finally shut down my computer for the night. Some days I don’t even get through my musts, but other days I get as far as my shoulds. I’m hoping to one day soon get to my coulds. It keeps me hopeful, positive and, most of the time, feeling not quite so overwhelmed.

My hope is that you and your families are finding the things to be grateful for while staying safe. I wish you continued good health and well-being. As always, you can reach me at

Shabbat Shalom,

Debbie Rothstein