A Victoria synagogue says it has received government approval to restart limited in-person services due to specific religious needs.
Chabad of Vancouver Island, located near Topaz Park, will hold indoor services Saturdays – on the Shabbat, or Sabbath – because people who practice their Jewish tradition are unable to use electronics on Shabbat, which includes the use of Zoom.
This religious exception is one that has been approved in other synagogues across the province, according to Chabad Rabbi Meir Kaplan.
“The reason we got this exemption is because it’s part of our observance of the Sabbath, which is Saturday,” he said. “We don’t use any electronics, and therefore we are not allowed to hold service over Zoom.”
Previously, the synagogue was holding in-person outdoor services on the same grounds, but now it has received approval to move indoors.
Several restrictions apply, including restricting services to a maximum of 25 people and keeping seating at least two metres apart. Everyone must wear masks during the duration of the service, and children are only allowed to attend if they can keep a mask on for the whole time.
Service-goers are also restricted from socializing before, during, or after each service.
Kaplan says the synagogue is going beyond what the province requires by also keeping all windows to its sanctuary open, and modifying its HVAC system to use fresh air, rather than recycled air.
Many doors will be propped open to avoid high-touch services, and door handles will be sanitized after each use. Kiddush lunches remain suspended at this time.
“We take this very seriously,” said Kaplan. “We want to (hold services), keeping in mind that we want everyone to stay safe and healthy.”
Under B.C.’s current health restrictions, religious services are suspended, though people are still allowed to visit their places of worship individually.