Messages from Our Leadership
Beth Tzedec
Jul 3rd 2020

Connection and Gratitude

by President Debbie Rothstein

July 3, 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.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Reopening Beth Tzedec while Protecting Our Community

June 9, 2020

Yesterday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford announced the provincial government's plans for the safe and gradual reopening of Ontario. Many of us were excited to learn that, as of this Friday, places of worship will be able to welcome a limited number of congregants, albeit no more than 30 percent of our building capacity.

While we are looking forward to gathering together once again, our first priority continues to be the health, safety and well-being of our entire community. Our lay-led Reopening Taskforce is working with health professionals and public health officials to ensure that any reopening is done in a manner that offers the most protection to our members as is reasonably possible.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Live Streaming: Frequently Asked Questions

June 5, 2020

We are thrilled that so many people joined us for our first live stream of Shabbat and Yom Tov prayer services this past weekend. We are even more grateful that so many of you found it meaningful.

To give you an idea of the impact of the experience:

  • 653 households joined our Shabbat morning service.
  • 165 people shared their opinion of the service in our post-Shabbat survey, and dozens more shared their thoughts in personal messages to us.
  • The service duration, flow and quality each received an average score of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • The majority of survey respondents found value in seeing familiar faces from across our community in the pre-recorded parts of the service.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Engaging Our Membership Online

by President Debbie Rothstein

June 1, 2020

When I went to sleep on March 12, I didn't expect to wake up in a world in which my husband and I would not be able to attend the next day’s minyan, or that he would not be able to say Kaddish together with other mourners and friends in shul. Just a few weeks ago, our world changed and we have been forced to find new ways to connect, to engage and to provide meaningful Jewish experiences for our community.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

President's Remarks from the Annual Meeting

by President Debbie Rothstein

May 26, 2020

This past year was a time of transition for Beth Tzedec. After the retirement (but not the departure) of our beloved Rabbi Frydman-Kohl, we welcomed two new rabbis – The Anne and Max Tanenbaum Senior Rabbinic Chair, Rabbi Steve Wernick and Associate Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin. I’m very happy to report that it has been a seamless transition.

Last year, after a series of learning sessions led by Rabbi Wernick, we saw the inclusion of the Imahot in our prayer services. We welcomed a new caterer, Apex Kosher Catering. We held increasingly popular Kabbalat Shabbat services and dinners for families, with more than 200 people attending every month, building community. And we began to roll out our programs under the Centre for Spiritual Well-Being. It was shaping up to be a very successful year.

Then COVID-19 hit.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Broadcasting Services on Shabbat and Yom Tov

by Rabbi Steven Wernick

May 14, 2020

In the face of sha'at had'hak, an extraordinary time of crisis, we turn to the core Jewish values that guide us as a kehillah kedoshah, a holy community. As we've repeated again and again over the course of the past few weeks, one of those values, pikuah nefesh, the preservation of life, is a bedrock principle of Jewish law, superseding most other obligations or mitzvot.

The time has come to acknowledge that many elements of our current state of being may continue for quite some time, including our ability to congregate en masse. Even as the city reopens and we are once again able to invite congregants into our building, some physical distancing measures will likely remain in place and many of the most vulnerable members of our community will have to stay away for the sake of pikuah nefesh.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

BT Small Groups Community Conversations & Survey

by President Debbie Rothstein

May 8, 2020

Beth Tzedec is constantly striving to be a vibrant, inclusive community where members feel strongly connected to our congregation and to each other. A caring community involves more than just membership contributions. We want Beth Tzedec to foster relationships that motivate members to live meaningful and impactful Jewish lives that include taking responsibility for caring for our fellow members.

To further this vision, over the past six months a group of creative lay leaders together with Yacov Fruchter, our Director of Community Building & Spiritual Engagement and Klara Romm, our Membership Engagement & Development Coordinator, have worked on creating our Small Groups plan.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Gratitude and Hesed

by Rabbi Steven Wernick

May 1, 2020

As always, we hope that you are healthy, safe and managing the multitude of emotions that crises such as these inevitably produce. We are here for each other and are continuing to reach out to our community to check in, connect and care. Please contact us if there is something we can do to make this moment a little bit easier for you.

BT All Access continues to be a powerful platform by which we create community, even while physically distant.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Standing Together

by President Debbie Rothstein

April 23, 2020

In the 10 years since I joined the Beth Tzedec board, the person I have turned to for advice most often has been my father, Paul Rothstein.

With his 60 years of history at Beth Tzedec and having been a past president, my dad has been a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. The best advice he ever gave me was to trust my gut – if a decision didn’t feel right, then it probably wasn’t. Knowing my dad has had my back every step of my leadership journey at Beth Tzedec has meant more than I can say.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Reflections from Pesah

by Rabbi Steven Wernick

April 19, 2020 – 

I hope you had a meaningful Passover. It certainly was memorable!

How many Zoom jokes did you share?

What dayanu, it would have been enough, of thankfulness did you add to the traditional list? When Elijah came to your door, did you let him in? Did you make sure he was masked and gloved? Did he look like Bette Midler?

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Life in Unprecedented Times

by President Debbie Rothstein

April 6, 2020 – 

To say that we are living in unprecedented times would be an understatement. I am writing to you from my home office, a room that I have barely left in the last three weeks. I cannot imagine that there is a family in our kehillah left untouched by COVID-19, health-wise or financially.

As we look for a light in the darkness, it is easy to spiral into anxiety and despair. I know that it has been a constant struggle for me over the last three weeks. That is why I have found my connection to Beth Tzedec to be so important at this time in which physical distancing has become a fixture of our lives.

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

COVID-19 and Physical Distancing During Passover

April 4, 2020 – 

We hope all the members of our Congregation and the community are coping well in these difficult times.

The leadership and staff at Beth Tzedec are working hard to keep you up-to-date with information and protocols related to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the importance of strict physical distancing over Passover. This year, it means staying home and conducting seders only with members of your own household. This is particularly crucial given the warnings of medical experts that COVID-19 is spread by individuals with absolutely no symptoms and can be deadly to those infected, regardless of age or health conditions...

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Coping in Community

by Rabbi Steven Wernick

April 1, 2020 – 

The Beth Tzedec community continues to inspire me.

My colleagues, friends, lay partners and others are working hard to check in with our congregational community and identify the support they need at this difficult time. In the last two weeks, 80 of us have called more than 1200 Beth Tzedec households to ask how everyone is coping...

To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Celebrating Passover in a Time of Crisis

by Rabbi Steven Wernick

March 25, 2020 – At this point, we are deeply familiar with the rabbinic understanding of sha’at d’khak, a time of crisis, and pikuah nefesh, the preservation of life—the mitzvah that pushes aside all other commandments. We are living these values as we practice social distancing, self-isolation and follow the mandate from governments and health experts to stay home and limit excursions to essential matters only.

Stay Home. Stay Healthy. We at Beth Tzedec continue to urge you to fully comply with local, provincial and federal authorities as we seek to provide spiritual nearness through personal phone calls and contacts, Zoom Minyanim, Coffee with the Rabbis, ...

To read the rest of this article, click here>>


Celebrating Passover During a Pandemic

March 25, 2020 – During sha’at d’khak, a time of crisis, we are tasked with finding new strategies and ideas for celebrating Pesah with our loved ones. We hope that this list of resources helps inspire and educate your family.

  • The Rabbinical Assembly Pesah guide is a brief outline of the policies and procedures relevant to the preparation of a kosher for Pesah home. Find it here>>
  • Apex Kosher Catering offers an extensive menu for your Passover seder, although the deadline to place your order is Monday, March 30. Find their menu here>>
  • If you don't already have a favourite haggadah, take this opportunity to customize your own family haggadah with They also offer an excellent webinar with tips for feeling connected and inspired at your seder, whatever form it takes. Watch it here>>
  • Inspire your little ones to get in the spirit of the season with holiday colouring sheets, available here>>
  • You can always find activities and resources for celebrating Passover with young children from PJ Library! Find them here>>

If you have resources to recommend that aren't on this list, please send them to Linda Marleny Dow. We would love to share them with our community.

Protecting Ourselves and Our Community

March 20, 2020 – We are entering a time of unprecedented personal restriction, and being good global and community citizens, we are all striving to do our part to both protect and support our families and communities. But even with the vast majority giving that extra bit of effort to aid and assist, there remains that very small minority who seek to profit and abuse the public good.

We have been made aware of a number of unscrupulous scams regarding COVID-19, especially within the GTA, including:

  • Door-to-door sales of COVID-19 testing kits.
  • Texts/emails/phone calls from companies offering fast test results.
  • Texts/emails asking the recipient to “click a link” to claim their free face mask from the Red Cross or similar organization.
  • Texts/emails that the recipient is suspected to have come in contact with/be infected by COVID-19 and requests credit card information to ship medication.
  • Offers to invest in stocks related to the illness.
  • Soliciting on-line donations for COVID-19 related work.

Please remember:

  • Only seek information from trusted sources, including the World Health Organization, the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto
  • Currently only hospitals are authorized to conduct COVID-19 screening tests. Do not respond to any offers to buy COVID-19 testing kits etc. whether through text/email offers, over the phone, or at your door step.
  • Do not open unknown emails/texts and NEVER click on any links from unknown senders. If you do not know the sender, nor recognize the email address or phone number, delete it!
  • When in doubt, research it. Before you respond to any request, especially one for money, you should confirm to the best of your ability that the request is legitimate, for example by contacting the organization on your own to verify the details. If you are being solicited at your door step, DO NOT allow anyone into your home. Excuse yourself, for example by saying you will need time to consider the offer/appeal, close and lock your door, and report the incident to police.
  • Report it. If you have been targeted by any of these scams you should report it to local police. If it is an emergency call 911, otherwise you can reach police at:
    • Toronto Police Service (non-emergency): 416-808-2222
    • York Regional Police (non-emergency): 866-876-5423
  • Once you have reported it to police, please contact the Community Security Hotline (416-635-5600) so that updated and relevant information can be shared more broadly across our community.

This message was adapted from an email from UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

An Important Message from Your Leadership Team

March 16, 2020 – 

Dear Friends,

Communal crises were not unknown to our ancestors. They discussed the challenges of maintaining Jewish life and observance during times of war, plague, famine and the like. These times are known as sha'at d’khak, times of crisis. And in each of those cases, based on the verse in Leviticus 18:5, that states "You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD”. At the same time, our ancestors ruled that pekuah nefesh, the saving of a life, supersedes all of the commandments.

We are certainly living in a time where these two values are guiding our decision making. We at Beth Tzedec, following the guidelines of public health experts and authorities, will refrain from public gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes religious services, classes, programs and life-cycle events.

We expect that we will be isolated for the foreseeable future and we've made plans for how we can use technology to continue to be spiritually nearwhile maintaining social distance

Daily Services

We are suspending all in-person services. 

Daily services will be offered via Zoom at the regularly scheduled times, with the exception of Friday Minhah, which will be hosted at 4:00 p.m. Since our minyan is virtual, we will not be reciting those prayers that typically require 10 people. 

However, since this is sha’at d’khak, a time of crisis, we will recite the Mourner’s Kaddish in its entirety. For those who might prefer an alternative, we will make available the Rabbinical Assembly’s "Prayer in Place of Mourner's Kaddish". 

Find links to join our daily services here>>

Shabbat Services

We will not be hosting or streaming Shabbat services. We invite you to join us for a weekly "Watch Party" on the Beth Tzedec Facebook page every Friday at 6:00 p.m. for a musical Kabbalat Shabbat experience. We encourage you to join us virtually and to pray Ma'ariv or personal prayers privately at home.

We will also host Havdalah on Facebook Live at the times indicated on our website calendar.

Programs, Events & Learning Opportunities

We are suspending all in-person programs and events. This means that some of our programs will be postponed while others will be available online. We're working on updating our website calendar with information about the programs we'll be moving online, so please check back regularly.

We are also developing a number of new online-only programs to help us stay connected while practicing social distancing. These include online Healing Services, programs for children and families and opportunities to learn from our spiritual leadership and our community.

All of our current classes and learning opportunities will move online. This includes our Monday Night Learning classes and the upcoming semester of Lishma. If you are registered for any of these classes, you will recieve an email shortly with more information.

Families who have planned smahot that are to take place in the next two months will be contacted and we will do our best to support you in making alternate plans.

Pastoral Activities

We are commited to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community. Therefore, we are suspending in-person bikkur holim and shiva visits. We will continue checking in on our members over the phone. Our top priority is ensuring that responsible social distancing doesn't result in feelings of social isolation.

If you or someone you know is in need of conversation or support, our spiritualprofessional and lay leadership is here for you on the phone or online. Contact any one of us directly and we will respond. 

If you would like to volunteer to call members of our community who would benefit from such outreach, contact Rosalie Hartenberg Watson and we will help put you in touch with someone.

Should there be a need for funeralswe will officiate at graveside ceremonies and practice social distancing. We strongly encourage families to limit participants to immediate mourners and their families.

Shiva visits should be held on the phone or with video conferencing technology. Families reciting Kaddish may join us for our regularly scheduled minyanim via Zoom.

If you would like to access the building for private prayer, meditation or a one-on-one meeting with a member of our leadership, our doors are open.


We know that Passover is coming and is a source of anxiety for all of us, regardless of what's happening in the world. As we consult with our colleagues and consider the opportunities to approach the holiday during this sha’at d’khak, we will communicate our recommendations.

A Final Word

Despite the anxiety surrounding COVID-19, we would like to end on an optimistic note. Scientists the world over are working on vaccines and other remedies. An extraordinary number of people in our community, country and around the world are cooperating to slow the spread of the virus and to address the social and economic impact it will have. It is uplifting to witness the kindness that we are showing each other.

El na refah na la – May the source of Healing heal us. May God grant the medical professionals, scientists, civil servants and leaders of government the wisdom to guide us through this challenging time. And may God grant us the patience, wisdom and inspiration to draw nearer to God, to Torah, to each other and to the values that help us to live meaningful Jewish lives.


Rabbi Steven Wernick, Senior Rabbi
Debbie Rothstein, President
Bernie Gropper, Chair of the Board
Randy Spiegel, Executive Director