Our Return Committee 3 years later

by John Lewsen, February 28, 2023

Three years ago on February 29, 2020, Brenda and I hosted a celebration with family and friends. Twenty-four of us crammed into our home. Over the course of the evening, we walked around, hugged, and shared a meal together. We chatted about what was going on in our lives including the unfolding news of the Coronavirus, as COVID-19 was then known. When the evening ended, little did we know that within two weeks, by March 13, we would be in a full lockdown and not be gathering again in the same way for the foreseeable future.

The trajectory of COVID was completely unknown at that stage. None of us could anticipate how intense and disruptive the pandemic would be for our lives, our communities, and our working-from-home adaptions. Solel’s leadership knew had a special role to play, but like everyone else, we had no templates to follow. Fortunately for Solel, we were able to quickly strike a new committee from our own members who brought the right blend of expertise leadership, and dedication to advise, develop and adapt appropriate policies and protocols that enabled us to safely continue fulfilling our sacred mandate through the pandemic.

Although the committee’s starting point was the closing of our facilities, its name, the Return Committee, reflected our ongoing positive vision for the future. The committee grappled with multiple complex challenges, decisions, and recommendations. As we approach this three-year milestone, I want to acknowledge our gratitude to those who serve or served on this committee: Dr. Roselyn Allen, Arliene Botnick, Robbin Botnick, Joel Brown, Sue Dean-Norton, Rabbi Audrey Pollack, Emma Weizenbluth and Dr. Michael Zajdman. It has been an honour for me to be part of such a strong, thoughtful, and task-oriented committee.

Our special thanks also go to:

  • Sue Dean-Norton for her steady and efficient leadership of this committee,
  • Rabbi Pollack and Joel Brown for coming into Solel for every virtual service to facilitate our ability to worship and participate remotely,
  • Arliene Botnick and the dedicated team of Solel teachers and tutors who adapted to online teaching, and now a combination of online and in-person teaching,
  • Carol Van Thyn and Nillon Ross for their support and flexibility,
  • Solel’s Executive Committee and Board whose work continued unabated, and
  • Roz Allen for serving as our President with such care through the height of the pandemic.

Going forward, the need for our committee will continue for as long as COVID and the potential for other contagious outbreaks remain. While we hope the worst is behind us, the committee has in the meantime agreed to provide support and guidance to the board on some of the other safety and security and security-related challenges that we face. We recently welcomed Lisa Smith, who brings expertise in security matters, to the committee — and look forward to welcoming other participants as we continue our work.

In conclusion, I want to thank our congregation for your commitment and generous support of Solel over the past three years. As a Jewish community, we continue to have an important role in Mississauga and beyond and will have much to celebrate going forwards.


Filed under: President's Message

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