In Our Virtual Mishkan, OutoftheCold

Cultivating Leadership and Honouring our Out of The Cold Volunteers

Avra Rosen, Temple President

In our Statement of Identity, we describe Holy Blossom’s “courageous and compassionate leadership.”  In our Strategic Plan, now in formation, we set “Developing our People” as a priority for the coming years.  These were two guideposts directing the Holy Blossom Temple Board which recently passed several motions consistent with our Bylaws, such that unelected leadership at Holy Blossom Temple shall not have a term that exceeds 5 years; that positions of unelected leadership will be held by Holy Blossom members; and, that members will have priority for volunteer positions at Temple.  The Motions allow for the discretion to extend the term or approve non-members in unelected leadership positions, where appropriate.   The goal of the Motions is to create greater synergy amongst our diverse programs and give Temple members greater opportunities to volunteer and regularly cycle into leadership roles.  This approach will serve our congregation well across all departments and committees. Interdepartmental collaboration is important for congregational relationships to develop and it is best practice for volunteer-led organizations to constantly recruit new leadership.  We are blessed with many new congregants and young families who are also looking for ways to contribute to further strengthen Temple life.  Meaningful and purposeful volunteerism is at the heart of what we mean when we say “Life can blossom here.”

Because of the thoughtful consideration of HBT Board members, the policy was carefully crafted with a ‘grandfather’ clause and an ability for exemptions to be made, so that long-time volunteers can continue while new leadership is identified, mentored, and trained. As well, recognizing the impact of COVID-19 on our ability to hold our many successful and vibrant programs in the upcoming year of 5781,  I have advised applicable committee chairs that the grandfather clause as it applies to their programs will be extended into 2022.

Out of the Cold

Some volunteers of our Out of the Cold Program – members and non-members – were upset by this decision.  I regret these hard feelings, as this was never our intention.  We admire all who contribute precious time and talent to create such a life-affirming and community-building program.

We are grateful for the loyal and long-serving volunteers who make the Holy Blossom Temple site for Out of the Cold a lifeline for Torontonians living on the margins.  Week in and week out, the kindness and compassion shown to our guests is nothing short of inspirational. To all who perform the mitzvot of feeding the hungry, providing shelter to the vulnerable, and warmly welcoming those who suffer from loneliness, we say Yasher Koach and Todah Rabah!  Thanks to their efforts, Holy Blossom is known throughout the city for its open doors and open hearts.

The 2020-2021 OOTC Season and Beyond

We are thankful to the City of Toronto, and our City Councillor, Josh Matlow, for ensuring that the city will keep its word to make housing available for those in need this winter. Our program is not, however, ‘out of business’ as we hope it one day will be.  The number of people at risk of falling under the poverty line is only growing. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the OOTC program cannot deliver services this year as it has in the past. Our very capable Out of the Cold Co-chairs, Ellen Howard, Andrea Katz, and Janet Shiner are working with other organizations and individuals across the city to find alternate ways to provide direct relief to those in need.

As President of Holy Blossom Temple, and Chair of its Board of Trustees, I want to reinforce the sincere invitation for all who wish to volunteer for our OOTC program to do so.  Our commitment to cultivating additional opportunities for congregants and newcomers does not shut out our seasoned volunteers.  In fact, their accumulated knowledge and know-how is invaluable to plan for how OOTC must evolve to a world now exposed to Covid-19.  To those who choose to bring their skills and experience to strengthen other programs that serve the vulnerable of our city, I want to expressly thank you for your years of dedication.

Vice President of our Department for Tikkun Olam, Jill Witkin, and Rabbi Helfman, who together oversee our congregation’s social justice initiatives, are available to answer your questions about the impact of these Motions or speak to you about volunteering at OOTC. Please email [email protected] or call (416) 789-3291 ext. 277 to connect with either Jill or Rabbi Helfman.

I look forward to the good initiatives that will develop when we can return to Holy Blossom in-person.

Until then, I wish you a Shanah Tovah.

Avra Rosen

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