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The last number of months have proven to be challenging for us all as we navigate the outbreak of COVID-19. We are fortunate to be in a province that overall has been minimally affected by this worldwide pandemic due to the stay-at-home initiatives and travel restrictions, and the phenomenal work of essential workers. We are also proud of what we have done as a congregation to keep our community alive – virtually, through social media, and by telephone with one another. Yasher Koach to our clergy, board, volunteers, staff, and most of all, to you for your ongoing commitment to the shul and the community.
As was announced by the provincial government last week, we are in the early stages of the reopening of the province. No one can say with certainty what the coming weeks, let alone the Fall, will look like.
What we do not know
We do not know if the government will allow Mass Gatherings by September
We do not know if Social Distancing will still be in place even with Mass Gatherings
We do not know how many would attend even if numbers are allowed
What we do know
We do know the High Holy Days will take place beginning September 18th (Erev Rosh Hashanah)
We do know what our Services will look like this year
We do know that our congregants are waiting to hear from us
We do know that we are capable of Live Streaming all our Services
We do know that we can provide on-line password access to our HHD Services
Subject to government approval, we may have the capabilities to provide limited in-house seating for our Service for those who wish to attend – ****(this may not be determined until the beginning of September)
We do know that the revenue earned from High Holy Day ticket sales is critical to the well-being of our synagogue
For this reason, we have determined our best course of action to is to strike a balance between continuity and adaptability when it comes to High Holy Day Services.
Together with our clergy, board, and staff, it has been decided that our primary service option is to provide online services with unique passwords as our base plan for this Yom Tov. We will offer one service, in the traditional time slot of the 1st (early) service, that everyone will be able to access online. We will also be able to provide one High Holy Day Machzor (prayer book) per household to allow you to follow along with our services.
How will this work
In the coming weeks you will receive your High Holy Day Confirmation asking for you to renew your seats for this year. We ask that you support the synagogue by purchasing the same number of seats as you did last year. As in prior years, once confirmed the next step will be to contact you with your on-line access password (ticket). These will be provided directly to you by the end of August.
Each household that purchases tickets will be provided with a unique password to be able to login to watch services live at home from your computer, tablet, or smart phone. Families that purchase multiple tickets will be provided with multiple access codes, as required.
What if people are allowed to attend
Should the province’s regulations on mass gatherings be relaxed as we approach the High Holy Days, we may be able to allow hundreds of people to attend in person. This will be based on input from our clergy, board, and staff and subject to social distancing policies as well as our ability to provide a safe sanitary environment. If we were permitted to have people in our facility our staff will be in contact with each household that purchased tickets, to determine interest in attending in person.
Once we receive feedback as to the numbers interested in attending, we will determine the best way to meet the demand. If the expected numbers are reasonable, we would process tickets for personal admittance, with the understanding that there would still only be one service, to allow for time for social distanced / staggered entry and exit of the building.
In the unlikely case the province allows for mass gatherings of any size, and many of our congregants do wish to attend in person, the Rabbis, board, and administration will determine the attendance policy. If agreed at that time, we would revert to our traditional 1st Service and 2nd Service with on-line viewing with password protected log-in for those who are not comfortable to attend.
What we are asking
When you receive your High Holy Day Confirmation, it is our hope that you will purchase your seats for this year’s services as you did last year. As noted above this tax-deductible donation for seats contributes to Shaarey Zedek’s most significant annual fundraiser accounting for greater than 40% of our overall annual donations. It is vital to the operation of the synagogue that we retain this revenue.
We will continue to keep in touch with you regarding our plans for this year’s High Holy Days and will do our best to ensure the process is as smooth as it has been in past years.
If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us at email@example.com and we will respond as quickly as possible.
WATER FOR FLOWER PLANTING AND MAINTENANCE AT SHAAREY ZEDEK CEMETERY
This year as families will be visiting the cemetery to plant their own flowers, we wanted to provide helpful information regarding water resources and more.
You will need to bring your own gardening tools including a watering can to the cemetery.
Water is available from the Cemetery Maintenance Building on Armstrong from Monday to Friday between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
Water taps within the cemetery grounds will be turned on by the City of Winnipeg, the afternoon of Tuesday, June 9th. Faucets are located along most sidewalks. The water is turned on Monday to Friday between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, excluding Canadian holidays and non-working Jewish holidays. If you come to the cemetery outside of these hours, please bring your own water.
Cemetery staff will not be doing specific watering at individual grave sites. Cemetery staff will not be maintaining individually planted flowers, including weeding or the removal of dead flowers during the summer. To ensure the best possible result, we ask that you please check on the flowers you have planted, on a regular basis.
If you need to discard any leftover plastic containers, soil, or plants, a garbage bin is located in the northwest corner of the cemetery property.
We hope this is helpful. Should you have any questions, please reach out to the shul at 204-452-3711 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our team will be of assistance.
In our last message to the congregation sent out May 3rd we advised of the following “An area yet to be determined will be the planting of flowers on our graves, as this requires a significant amount of money, time and manpower. The Board of Directors in conjunction with the Cemetery Committee will need to determine whether thisshould be a consideration for this year.”
The Cemetery Committee met on May 11th, 2020 to discuss this matter. The Board of Directors met later May 11th, 2020 to determine a final resolution for this year.
Several factors needed to be considered before any final decision would be made on whether to proceed with the flower planting for this year. Factors that were part of the discussion included our Perpetual Care obligation to our congregation; the actual cost of purchasing the flowers; the cost of labour to plant and maintain the flowers; the overall expense of cemetery operations – Revenues/Expenses (now and going forward) in terms of our operational stability; the availability of the flowers;’ the number of additional employees required in terms of Government workplace guidelines; the status of our Perpetual Care Fund and the amount of revenue available:
The Perpetual Care Agreement states the following:
“The Perpetual Care shall include the planting of flowers, cutting of grass, changing the soil and sod, renovating of concrete (if same surrounds the plot), as determined necessary by the Cemetery Committee in its sole discretion.”
The cost to purchase flowers to meet our current needs is approximately $33,000.
The cost of labour to plant the flowers is over $215,000 (based on 2019 expense).
The cost (Maintenance & Administration only) to operate our cemeteries in 2019 was $773,000 (This does not include funerals)
As we had not yet committed to the purchase of flowers this year, the question of availability is a potential factor.
Can we hire an additional temporary 14 employees as flower planters only, in addition to the already hired seasonal employees (grass cutters, maintenance, etc.) and stay within government guidelines as to maximum numbers allowed in close proximity in our workshop (current guidelines are 10 people).
Our Perpetual Care Fund allows for the Cemetery to draw only the Interest generated annually to offset Perpetual Care expense. This year’s revenue is projected to be approximately $245,000.
As the Cemetery operations are now a part of the overall Synagogue operations, determination of revenues and expenses based on current conditions are a significant consideration.
As one can see there were many points to consider. After a lengthy discussion and in consideration of the unique situation this year due to the Coronavirus, the Cemetery Committee agreed unanimously to suspend the purchase and planting of flowers for this year. However, the Cemetery Committee wanted to ensure that except for the flower planting for this year, the remainder of our obligations related to Perpetual Care be maintained. This includes grass cutting, replacing soil and sod, and renovations and repairs of concrete strips and borders, as well as other ongoing maintenance of the Cemetery to include, tree trimming, fence and road repairs, and general maintenance of all equipment and property related to the cemetery.
In addition, the Cemetery Committee agreed that any friends or families of those buried at our cemeteries be permitted to plant and maintain their own flowers, if they wish to do so. This recommendation was forwarded to the Board of Directors.
As indicated above, the Board met and had a lengthy debate and discussion regarding this topic. They all agreed that this was an extremely difficult decision to make. They all understood the financial ramifications and impact of this decision, while at the same time realizing the emotional aspect it would have on our congregation.
The board reviewed all the information presented and made the following motion: Stern/ Schacter “That in light of Covid-19 that we suspend the procurement and installation of flowers at our cemeteries for this year, with the understanding that individuals who wish to purchase, plant and maintain flowers at individual gravesites be allowed to do so. ” CARRIED
Based upon the above please be advised that for this year we will not be purchasing or planting flowers at our cemeteries.
However, the Board of Directors wanted to ensure that except for the flower planting for this year, the remainder of our obligations related to Perpetual Care be maintained. This includes grass cutting, replacing soil and sod, and renovations and repairs of concrete strips and borders, as well as other ongoing maintenance of the Cemetery which includes, tree trimming, fence and road repairs, and general maintenance of all equipment and property related to the cemetery.
As stated above we all understand the impact of this decision and how it may affect those with relatives and friends interred at our cemeteries. The Board is charged with both fiduciary and fiscal responsibilities for the short and long-term sustainability of our synagogue and cemeteries. We are fully aware that not all congregants will be pleased with this decision. During these unique times there will be difficult decisions to be made, and we want to assure you that our sole focus is to ensure the ongoing well-being of our Congregants, Synagogue and Cemeteries. Our goal is to emerge at the end of this pandemic a stronger and vibrant Congregation and Community.
First, I hope this message finds you all well and safe.
Last week the government of Manitoba announced the relaxation of some restrictions that have been imposed on our province since Mid-March.
Effective, Monday May 4th, the measures that have been relaxed are listed below. Critical public health measures and current travel restrictions will remain. This includes mandatory self-isolation upon one's return to Manitoba and limits on travel to the north. Priority elective surgeries have been restarted, diagnostics screening will resume and some non-essential businesses will be reopened:
schools will remain closed
non-urgent surgery and diagnostic procedures restored
therapeutic and health care services restored
retail businesses reopen
restaurants - patio/walk-up services restored
hairstylists and barbers reopen
museums, galleries and libraries reopen
outdoor recreation and campgrounds reopen
If results during or at the end of phase one or any future phases are not favourable, the province will not proceed with further easing of secondary public health measures and may reintroduce others. If disease activity remains low, the government will give serious consideration in mid-May to reducing the restrictions on group size.
What does this mean for us at Shaarey Zedek? Very little in terms of the activities within our building which remains closed to the public. However, for most of you, this is hopefully the beginning of the transition back to a more "normal" way of living!
Over the last number of weeks, we have been working to mitigate as much as possible the impact on our congregants and community during this pandemic. The need to still be your synagogue during these times was paramount in all our decision making. Our Executive was very mindful in terms of the financial impact this was and continues to be on the well-being of our institution. Obviously, our revenue streams have been affected in many areas. With the closure of the building many events scheduled to take place in our synagogue have either been postponed to later dates or cancelled outright. All Bar / Bat Mitzvahs for May & June have been postponed. Rabbi Leibl, the head of our B'nai Mitzvah program has been working directly with the families impacted by this decision, to reschedule to a more suitable date. Major Dinners, Galas and celebrations scheduled to take place at the shul have been postponed. This includes the Gray Academy Graduation Dinner and Dance, which we were all looking forward to hosting. All the above translates into significant reduced revenues to our Catering department.
Some of our other revenue streams, such as Membership Dues, Donations, Programming Registrations, etc., have all been drastically reduced with the shutdown of the building.
To offset a great deal of this loss in revenues, we have significantly reduced many of our ongoing expenses. It was decided and agreed that rather than layoff some staff with uncertainties as to their expected return, for the short term all staff would have their salaries drastically reduced. We will also be applying to the CEWS (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy) which should help retain our staff, at least until Mid-June. We have created new, albeit reduced, revenue streams through our catering department. Joel Lafond and staff prepared and supplied significant Passover meals to many of our congregants. After this, he developed a Takeout Menu with Friday pickups, which has been greatly received by many. Thank you to all who are supporting us in this initiative. I encourage you to check out our Takeout Menu on our website if you have not already done so.
Our cemetery operations have not been affected as much by Covid19, as we are still able to perform funerals. However, with the coming of spring it remains to be seen as to how we maintain our cemetery over the summer due to reduced resources. All major projects at the cemetery, which include maintenance and repair of concrete stripping and borders, and headstone repairs are done in the summer months when warm weather better allows for the work. Also, the main tasks of cutting the grass and removal of weeds and diseased trees account for much of the labour expense incurred over the summer. An area yet to be determined will be the planting of flowers on our graves, as this requires a significant amount of money, time and manpower. The Board of Directors in conjunction with the Cemetery committee will need to determine whether this should be a consideration for this year.
With the closing of our building to the public, our expenses have dropped significantly. We want you to know that overall, we are doing okay and are preparing for the safe return to activities in our synagogue and community. Our Executive Committee and senior staff have been working on scenarios and preparing various budgets based upon when and how we emerge from these most unusual times. We are beginning to plan for scheduled B'nai Mitzvahs in the Fall and Spring and have rescheduled many of the earlier events that were postponed. We are now in the planning stages for our upcoming High Holy Days and want you to know that we will do everything possible to ensure we are able to celebrate together in a healthy, safe environment.
We continue to live stream all our services daily and on Shabbat, to greatly increasing numbers. We also have added informational and performance videos all available on Facebook, YouTube, and our website. We are trying to reach out to all our congregants just to ensure their safety and well-being. If you know of someone who needs assistance in any form, please let us know!
Obviously, the success of the relaxed restrictions will determine when and how more options become available to us. We still encourage safe social distancing and ask that you do not attend gatherings of more than ten people. With the warmer weather now upon us, you do have the opportunity to get outside for some fresh air and exercise. For those who golf, now that the courses are opening the opportunity is there for some much-needed physical activity in a restricted environment. Take advantage of all of this if you can but be safe and be careful.
We have learned a lot about ourselves and our capabilities during these times and truly believe we will not only survive but flourish at the end of the day. We look forward to the time when we can return to our synagogue to celebrate our faith together.
IMPORTANT -- The synagogue is currently closed to the public and all programs, services, and meetings have been cancelled --
We are doing our part to help slow the Coronavirus outbreak. Please read the official synagogue announcement by clicking here (PDF)
Thank you for your understanding -- Shabbat Shalom and be well.
Shabbat Morning and Minyan Services held live online - click here
Monday to Thursday - 7:30 AM, 6:00 PM, Friday - 7:30 AM, 5:30 PM,
Saturday - 10:00 AM, 6:00 PM, Sunday - 9:00 AM, 6:00 PM
Events: Weekly Playgroup - Cancelled indefinitely
Weekly Family Service - Cancelled indefinitely Weekly Torah L'Chayim Torah Study - New online class coming soon. Contact Rabbi Mass at email@example.com.