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Visitors' Information

Beth Sholom Synagogue, founded in 1947, has traditionally welcomed visitors of all faiths who came to join our congregation for worship. Please feel free to walk around the building and admire the numerous works of art and the artifacts in the museum. Our clergy, members, officers and ushers will be more than happy to answer your questions about any aspect of our religious services or our historic building.

Upon arrival, all men must wear a skull cap (kippah) which are located in the front entrance and in the Main Lobby for your convenience.  Please return skull caps when leaving the building. Since prayer in the Jewish tradition is an individual exercise in a communal framework, you may enter the Sanctuary even if the service is in progress. There is, however, a structure to the service and proper decorum, such as not leaving while the Torah Ark is being opened or closed, and when the Rabbi is speaking.

While there is no particular significance to the arrangement of seats, you will find ushers at the entrance who will assist you in finding a seat. If you advise them that you are attending a particular event, such as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they will seat you in the same section as the celebrants. Please help yourself to a bulletin of events in the synagogue just outside the doors to the sanctuary.

Men and women are welcome to sit together and the women are not required to cover their heads, unless they choose to. They are requested not to wear sleeveless dresses, skirts above the knees, or blouses with a low neckline.

General Information

In our Sanctuary, our main place of worship, you will find two books on the back of the seat in front of you for your use during the services. One is the prayer book (known as a Siddur, literally 'order' - the order of the prayers) and the other is the Chumash (the Five Books of Moses) in book form. Both are printed in English and Hebrew. The Rabbi will announce when the Chumash will be used and discuss at various times the contents and significance of the weekly readings from the Torah. He will also frequently announce the current page in the Siddur.

In the Sanctuary you will note the elevated area with the pulpit and reading table. It is called the "Bimah" and on it is the Holy Ark in which a number of Torahs, each of which contains handwritten copies of the Five Books of Moses, are kept.

The readings from the Torah are apportioned so that the entire Torah is completed by the end of the Jewish calendar year. Of interest is the fact that the Torah is written by hand on a parchment by a highly skilled and specially trained scribe. No punctuation or signs to assist the reader appear in the text. Some congregants of the synagogue will be given an honour, known as an Aliyah, and they will be requested to recite a blessing before and after the reading of each passage from the Torah.

There are various times during the service when the congregation is asked to rise. This includes when the Holy Ark is open and for certain prayers. The Rabbi will make announcements to assist you.

Bar / Bat Mitzvah

On any particular Saturday a young man will become a Bar Mitzvah or a young lady will become a Bat Mitzvah. This is a coming of age, and not a ceremony in itself. Therefore, upon attaining this age a young man or woman becomes a full fledged member of the Jewish community, able to participate in all aspects of its religious expression.

The Jewish tradition of welcoming children into the religious community in a formal ceremony dates back to the 13th Century. When a boy reached his 13th year, he was called to read from the Torah in front of the congregation. The rabbis believed that a child developed a conscience no later than their 13th year. They were now considered old enough to carry the burden of religious responsibility. For a girl, her 12th year was considered her time of conscience. From this day forth, our children will be expected to perform good deeds and share the religious obligations and prerogatives of an adult.

The Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a simcha (a happy occasion). As such, it is appropriate that it be shared with family and friends; and in the Jewish tradition, a simcha is observed by a Seudat Mitzvah, a feast of celebration. The concluding portion to be read from the Torah is assigned to the Bar Mitzvah boy or Bat Mitzvah girl who are participating that day. They will have studied so that they can read (and chant) their portion from the original text. Following the Torah reading, the Haftorah (concluding teaching) is chanted by the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah participants. It is chosen to reflect a theme in the Torah portion.

The Sabbath

Shabbat, or the Sabbath, which begins just prior to sundown on Friday and ends just after nightfall (some 45 minutes after sunset) on Saturday each week, is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Shabbat is a celebrated day of rest, relaxation and prayer devoted to restoring our spiritual well being. Demands of work are set aside on this day, and this day that is ordained as "holy" in the Ten Commandments is respected.

Out of due respect for the Sabbath day please note the taking of pictures is not permitted. No writing, smoking or use of telephone is permitted, nor can gifts of money be exchanged. We ask that you co-operate in keeping with the spirit of our Sabbath in accordance with our traditions.

Head Covering & Prayer Shawl

As noted before all men are required to wear a skull cap (kippah), which is available in the front envtrance for your conveince. The kippah is to remain on the head throughout the service and for the meal which follows the service. Women do not have the same obligation to cover their head in our synagogue. While there are differing customs in Judaism, in our synagogue, only Jewish men past the age of Bar Mitzvah are asked to wear a prayer shawl, known as a Tallit.

Order of Service
 

  1. Preliminary services (Psukei Dezimrah): This contains various prayers and psalms and will be led by a reader rather than the Cantor. You will find this service in the prayer book.

  2. Morning services (Shacharit): These are led liturgically by the Cantor with the assistance of the Rabbi. The Cantor provides the musical background for the service all of which we believe leads to the proper atmosphere and inspiration for prayer.

  3. Torah service (K'riat HaTorah): The Torah will be removed from the Holy Ark and then the readings will commence. It is at this time that you will begin to use the Chumash. This part of the service is concluded with a procession replacing the Torah in the Holy Ark.

  4. Rabbi's Sermon.

  5. Additional service (Musaf): For this part of the service you again use the prayer book.

The President of the Congregation will make certain announcements, including one stating the location of the Kiddush for each Bar and Bat Mitzvah and the congregation. Following this, the Rabbi, Cantor and immediate families of those celebrating simchas proceed to the back of the Sanctuary and guests will then join them for either a luncheon or join the Congregation at large for Kiddush. Once again, welcome to our Synagogue. We hope that it will be as meaningful to you as it is to us.