What Holy Blossom Temple Means to Me
The horrific shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh sent me on a journey to reclaim my Jewish roots.
I grew up in an Orthodox home in Ottawa in the 1950s and 1960s and attended shul regularly, observed all the festivals, went to cheder, kept kosher and enjoyed my mother’s borscht and my father’s gefilte fish. Of course, a generous portion of Jewish guilt was thrown in for good measure.
As a young adult, Ottawa became too small and Jewishness too restrictive. After a trip around the world followed by a move to Toronto to attend university, I grew further away from my Jewish upbringing, rarely attended shul and became mostly a secular, cultural Jew.
The Pittsburgh attack changed that picture dramatically. When I learned of the attack, something stirred me to do something about the growing antisemitism. The Show Up for Shabbat initiative allowed me to express solidarity with our people. I chose to go to Holy Blossom to show respect for Joyce Fienberg, a former member, who had died in the Pittsburgh shooting.
As I was about to enter the sanctuary, a circle of Muslims enveloped the Temple to provide safety and solace for congregants. In the sanctuary, I saw many people I had known from my past from work or social circles. I draped myself in my Dad’s tallis, one of the few things I kept of his after his death. I felt a deep connection with my Dad and my Jewish heritage. I knew the songs and prayers by heart. Rabbi Splansky’s sermon inspired me. More familiar faces greeted me at the kiddush. When I left the Temple that day, I felt I had found a community of like-minded spirits.
Since becoming a member, I have helped organize an event at Holy Blossom on antisemitism and Islamophobia in June that brought 400 people together. Two additional sessions are scheduled for this fall. I have become active in the Out of the Cold Program and I have attended numerous social events that have been intellectually engaging and poignant.
So what does my membership mean to me? Simple…a supportive community of people who share progressive values on such important matters as, social justice, human rights, interfaith dialogue, continual learning, inclusiveness and Jewish life cycle, the true embodiment of Tikkun Olam.