In Our Virtual Mishkan

Rosh Hashanah 5781 Study Sessions: Recordings

Click below to watch the recordings of our study sessions offered on Rosh Hashanah!


“Good Books, Good Company” with Cynthia Good

Like the best companions, books can offer comfort and reflection when we most need them. Many of us have suffered during this uncomfortable time. And many of us, myself included, have learned how much a good book can take us out of ourselves and into ourselves.  The right book can help us to see the world in new ways and interact more meaningfully with those around us.

In this session, I’ll discuss some of the books I’ve read during the pandemic and consider the research on the psychology of fiction by my friend and colleague Keith Oatley.  If you find solace, comfort, perspective, wisdom, even sanctuary in books, please join in the conversation.

Cynthia Good is a former president and publisher of Penguin Books and Professor Emerita of Humber College, where she ran the publishing program. She now consults to writing and publishing groups and facilitates book clubs.  For our congregation, she heads the Holy Blossom Centre for Contemporary Jewish Literature and hosts the extremely popular Zoom series: “Good Books”.

Click to watch the recording here!

“What Still Claims Us as Reform Jews? The Theological Challenge of Eugene B. Borowitz” with Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi

Eugene Borowitz z”l is widely recognized as the most influential theologian of Reform Judaism.  He taught more than one hundred semesters at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion from 1962 until his death in 2016.  The first Jewish President of the American Theological Society, Rabbi Borowitz is best known for his development of “Covenant Theology.”  His work considers the dilemma of the postmodern Jew who is committed to individual autonomy but nevertheless is tied to God, Torah and Israel. A friend of Heinz Warshauer, Dr. Borowitz is remembered at Holy Blossom Temple for his annual workshops with our faculty of Religious School teachers.

Rabbi Sabath is the North American Content Director for Our Common Destiny as well as a senior fellow at the Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood. She has served as Assistant Professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Vice President of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Rabbi Sabath earned a Ph.D. at the Jewish Theological Seminary and is currently completing two books: thee first on the development of covenant theology in the thought of Eugene Borowitz, David Hartman and Yitz Greenberg and the second, co-edited with Rachel Adler, on gender and ethics in Jewish thought.

Click to watch the recording here!

“Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die? The Canadian Controversy of Medically Assisted Death” with Dr. Harvey Schipper

On February 6th, 2015 the Supreme Court changed the landscape on end-of-life thinking in Canada when it determined that under certain specific conditions the active, pre-meditated ending of a life would no longer be a criminal offense.  MAiD was seen as a humane gesture, intended to relieve intolerable and unremitting suffering in the context of an incurable medical illness.  It was an expression of respect for individual autonomy in the most intimate and irrevocable of human decisions.

Since then more than 13,000 Canadians have chosen MAiD.  There is intense, even polarizing debate about whether the criteria are too restrictive, or not restrictive enough.  Legal action has forced the issue back to Parliament.  Perhaps more important, it has powerfully changed the conversation about end of life for all of us, because it will, one day, affect each of us.

While Dr. Schipper does have an opinion, that is not what this session is about.  It is about sharing our understanding, perhaps relieving some of our confusion, and coming to some comfort. In this season of reflection and introspection it is about thinking deeply and speaking about a difficult topic we often avoid.

Harvey Schipper is a past-president of our congregation.  He is a Professor of Medicine, a cancer specialist and an Adjunct Professor of Law. For many years Harvey worked globally with the WHO to advance modern pain management and palliative care. More recently he has been deeply involved in the national conversation about medical euthanasia, now termed MAiD.  His experience extends from the family, to the medical bedside and to the highest levels of legislation and policymaking.  If you are interested in Dr. Schipper’s perspective on the issue, consider this link:

Click to watch the recording here!

“Our Road to Reform” Past President Sheila Smolkin, Katie Goodman, and the Holy Blossom Archives Committee

This Rosh HaShanah marks Holy Blossom’s 100th Anniversary as a Reform congregation.  Founded in 1856 as Toronto’s first synagogue, Holy Blossom is the British Orthodox tradition.  Due to the determination of leading figures, modern innovations were introduced over the decades until the congregation affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1920.  But the road was rocky as reformers and traditionalists wrestled over how they saw themselves and how they wished to be seen in the young city of Toronto.

Click to watch the recording here!

“Racism and Anti-Racism in Canada” with Holy Blossom’s neighbourhood elected representatives:  City Councillor Josh Matlow, MPP Jill Andrew, and Member of Parliament Minister Carolyn Bennett.  Moderated by Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey and Rabbi Yael Splansky

Recent months have awakened many to the history of systemic racism in Canada.  We have established a committee devoted to the pursuit of racial justice.  On a day devoted to reflection and repentance, we will grapple with the legacy of racism as Canadians and as Jews.  Each of our elected officials have made anti-racism a focal point of their service to our city, our province, and our country respectively.

Click to watch the recording here!


City Councillor Josh Matlow was elected to Toronto City Council on October 25th, 2010, and is now serving his third term as City Councillor for Toronto-St. Paul’s, Ward 12.




MPP Dr. Jill Andrew, PhD is the MPP for Toronto-St.Paul’s. Jill serves as the the Ontario NDP Culture Critic and Women’s Issues Critic for the Official Opposition. Jill is also a member of the Ontario NDP Black Caucus, a first of it’s kind in Ontario legislative history. Jill also sits on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.




The Honourable Carolyn Bennett was first elected to the House of Commons in 1997 and was re-elected in 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015, and 2019, representing Toronto—St. Paul’s.

She has served as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and was previously the Minister of State for Public Health. She has also served as the critic for Public Health, Seniors, Persons with Disabilities, the Social Economy, and Aboriginal Affairs.

Prior to her election in 1997, Minister Bennett was a family physician and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.


Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey is the Senior Minister of Ottawa’s Parkdale United Church.  Originally from Barbados, he grew up in Montreal. His academic degrees are in social work, theology, philosophy of religion and ethics and culture. He has training in hospital ministry and has taught pastoral counselling at the McGill University joint theological colleges and at the Theological College of the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.






Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Most Recent Projects