In Featured at HBT, renewal

When congregants Alison and Alan Schwartz were first approached to make a commitment to the historic Holy Blossom Renewal Campaign in 2006, their decision to donate was nearly instantaneous.

“Actually, we said yes right away,” says Alan, a well-regarded Toronto businessperson and lawyer who, along with wife Alison, has been a Temple member since 1991. “In hindsight, our initial response was almost too quick, and we soon decided that that our gift really wasn’t enough. Shortly after we made our initial pledge, we doubled the amount. And we’ve been delighted with our decision ever since.”

For Alan and Alison, the need to renovate and restore the Holy Blossom campus was obvious. Their early and significant commitment to the project was their way of demonstrating that Renewal could be successful only with the full participation of the entire membership.

“It was apparent to us from the outset that projects like Renewal don’t ‘just happen’, with others doing the work,” says Alison. “Anyone who came into the building could see that our facilities were inadequate and not conducive to a thriving congregational future. So our decision to help came easily to us, knowing that we will be playing a role in providing for future generations. For us, that’s why being part of the Renewal Campaign is so important.”

Unlike some congregants whose family ties to Holy Blossom Temple go back for generations, Alison and Alan are both “Torontonians by choice”. Once they made the move to the GTA, finding a comfortable and welcoming spiritual community was among their top priorities.

“In our first years here, we attended a variety of simchas at different congregations,” recalls Alison. “Of all of them, we preferred the experience at Holy Blossom. So when our daughter reached the age when she was ready to attend Religious School, joining Temple was not a difficult decision for us.”

Alan and Alison believe that Holy Blossom has enriched their lives, and those of their children, with community, spirituality, and a strong connection to Jews around the world.

“Being affiliated has meant a great deal to our family,” says Alan. “We are a small ‘nuclear unit’ and Holy Blossom has immeasurably added to our ‘Jewishness’ as a family. Temple has not only enhanced our interactions with a broader community but has also fostered in us a link to and love for the State of Israel. As an added bonus, our participation has allowed us to meet people who have become cherished friends.”

As their attachment to Holy Blossom Temple grew over the years, they felt a responsibility to participate in giving back to their community. Over the past two decades, Alison has held senior roles on the Boards of both the Temple and the Foundation, while more recently, both Alan and Alison agreed to join the Renewal Campaign Cabinet.

“I am a person who is addicted to action and ‘getting things done’,” says Alison. “While Holy Blossom is a worldwide leader in interfaith and social justice initiatives, we also have a responsibility to the wellbeing of our own Congregation and community. Giving back to Holy Blossom ensures that as members, we are looking after each other.”

“Being able to give back to a community like Holy Blossom is just such a wonderful feeling,” agrees Alan. “All of the other organizations who seek our support are important, but Holy Blossom is the one place that is only for us. After all, if we don’t provide our wholehearted support to our own congregation, who will?”

For Alison and Alan, for whom social justice, inclusion and acceptance of diversity are priorities, Holy Blossom has a major role to play in shaping society’s moral composition for future generations.

“Our hope is that Holy Blossom’s voice grows even louder in Toronto, in Canada, in North America, and in Israel – promoting tolerance, peace and social justice.”

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