Singing Hope’s Praises
by Denise Gordon
Counterpoint is a musical term, describing the relationship between voices which are harmonically interdependent yet independent in rhythm and contour. The definition aptly applies to the sacred, devotional life that Hope Maissner has created within her family and among her community at Holy Blossom Temple.
Hope’s life journey began in Wyndmoor, a suburb of Philadelphia, where she was born and raised. She completed her Nursing Program at the Albert Einstein Medical Center School of Nursing in Philadelphia; it was at her family’s local synagogue where she met for the first time, their young and dashing part-time cantor, the one and only Benjamin Maissner. Consequently, 20-year-old Hope started attending services more regularly; not surprisingly, the two fell in love. They married where Beny had secured his first full-time cantorial position, at Philadelphia’s Germantown Jewish Center. During the next 12 bustling years, Hope did what she does seamlessly and unflappably, she managed multiple tasks with quiet determination: she pursued and completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, gave birth to 3 beautiful children: Shira, Tal, and Rivka, and assumed the 24/7 role of cantor’s wife. Hope’s participation in Sisterhood there generated a lifelong commitment to Jewish community service. The Maissner family remained with the congregation for 12 years, until Holy Blossom beckoned; it was time for new opportunities beyond.
The Maissner family pulled up stakes, moved to Toronto in 1979, and grew substantive roots in the hearts and minds of the Holy Blossom Temple community. Hope, who had spent most of her life in the Philadelphia area, looked forward to this new adventure outside of the United States. However, she admits that it was not easy in the beginning. “The Temple leadership located a home that was near Holy Blossom,” but as newcomers, “we didn’t know many young families or even the names of doctors for ourselves or for our kids.” The children were young – Shira 8, Tal 5, and Rivka 2 ½ years old; they kept Hope very busy on the home front. Unlike today, where Holy Blossom offers family services, it was a greater challenge to bring children to synagogue, especially into the main sanctuary. “I would take them to Shabbat services and sit in the balcony; sometimes my kids’ shoes would be found there”.
When the kids were settled into school, and following the family’s move to their present home, Hope was able to work part-time; a dear friend introduced her to retail, which later nurtured her entrepreneurial nature. Thereafter, Hope worked as a nurse for a general practitioner and for medical insurance examinations. Shortly to follow, Hope began her Tikvah Judaica importing business, providing giftware to many synagogue giftshops across the GTA.
While balancing her work outside the home with motherhood and Temple, Hope and Beny took great delight in entertaining. Hope is a wonderful hostess; since the family’s move to Toronto, the Maissners have held annual sukkah parties; guests are frequently at the Shabbat table, and it is common for friends, visiting musicians, and cantorial colleagues to stay at the Maissner’s home. They are all welcome with open arms.
In 1977 Beny’s dad moved from Israel into the Maissner household. He happily sojourned there for four years. “He was a sweet, gentleman who got to know our children really well, especially our youngest, Rivka, as she was not yet in school,” espouses Hope.
As the kids grew, and the household demands lessened, Hope broadened her participation in Jewish organizations. Hope was particularly drawn to social justice initiatives, most notably, Soviet Jewry issues; as well, Hope is deeply committed to Beit Halochem Canada, an organization that gives aid to disabled veterans of Israel. Here she served for 20 years on its Board, with several years in the role as VP.
At Holy Blossom, Hope continues to play an active role in Sisterhood in general, and in the Judaica Shop in particular, as one of its principal buyers, as a curator of its displays, and as a volunteer salesperson in the newly renovated shop.
With the advent of her beloved 6 grandchildren and their various activities, Hope admits that she has little free time; nevertheless, she carves out some space to read and to participate in a film Chavurah with Temple friends. Hope has also successfully planned 4 Jewish travel missions to Poland, Germany, Spain, and Israel, with a trip to Italy on hold due to Covid19.
Hope is indeed the foundational bedrock of her family and of her community: she is devoted, determined, organized, and famously competent. Hope never toots her own horn; she is too busy with family life and her contrapuntal commitment to her community. Hope Maissner is an asset to her husband, Cantor Benjamin Maissner, to her family, to life at Holy Blossom, and to the Jewish community that she lovingly supports.
Please join us on Sunday, May 24, 2020, at 9:00 am, when Holy Blossom’s Sisterhood, together with our congregation, sing Hope’s praises and thank her for a lifetime of exemplary and sacred service to Holy Blossom Temple.