Our outstanding teachers at HBT-ECC deserve to be recognized every day!
This year, it is important to recognize not just the tremendous job our teachers do every day but to acknowledge the way they have taken their duties to a higher level through this COVID-19 pandemic. For the coming weeks, we will be featuring each classroom, highlighting the teachers and the program.
INTRODUCING BROOKE AND TERRY – KITA ALEPH
This is the first year that Terry and Brooke are team teaching.
This is Terry’s 2nd year at the ECC and 3rd year for Brooke.
“Although this year is different than last, it is just as much fun. We are enjoying the youngest children in the school. Our hope for this year is that all the children will integrate and thrive, be proud of being in Kita Aleph and will have a wonderful loving pre-nursery experience full of discovery and learning.
On Women’s Leadership
I recently received a letter from Dr. Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. It was sent to faith leaders across the country to thank us for helping to protect communities from spreading Coronavirus at life cycle events and religious ceremonies, but also to ask us to provide our congregants with access to mental health resources. Dr. Tam writes: “Colder weather and more time spent indoors can also cause feelings of sadness, stress, confusion and worry. You and your organizations will continue to be critical in providing the mental health support your communities need. The website Canada.ca/coronavirus also has a wide range of immediate mental health resources and supports for Canadians, including the Wellness Together Canada portal.” I was moved by Dr. Tam’s letter and how she acknowledges the role that faith communities have to play in the spiritual-emotional-social health of Canadian citizens.
I usually shudder at sweeping generalization about gender roles, but the flurry of reports about women’s leadership during the pandemic have something to teach us. Women are disproportionately on the frontlines of health care and in the trenches of education. It seems that the nineteen countries led by women today are navigating the pandemic better than others. Forbes
describes these Prime Ministers and Presidents as having the capacity for “big-thinking, empathy, and good communications.” The New York Times
describes them as “risk-averse, caring, and thoughtful.” These attributes are not necessarily the winning combination for successful leadership in other settings, but it seems that against the backdrop of Coronavirus and its unique constellation of challenges, women are better protecting their people from economic and health crises.
Two Leading Jewish Women of Canada
This month launches two Jewish women, Yaara Saks and Annamie Paul, into political office. Saks, who earned a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy from Hebrew University, is the new MP from York Centre. I wonder if she is the first Israeli-Canadian to serve in parliament. She introduces herself and describes her Zionism in the Canadian Jewish Record.
Annamie Paul is the first woman of colour and the first Jewish woman to lead a political party in Canada. She is a human rights lawyer and former diplomat. When recently interviewed by the Jewish Independent, she was outspoken about anti-Semitism in the Green Party.
We wish Saks and Paul a Mazel Tov and much success in their service. I hope we’ll have a chance to welcome these Jewish Canadian leaders to Holy Blossom one day soon.
Two Leading Jewish Women in the Reform Movement
In the next two weeks, we will be blessed by the opportunity to learn from two leading figures of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Hara Person and Rabbi Professor Joan Friedman.
Rabbi Person is the Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). I am honoured to serve as a Vice President of the CCAR and to be able to observe Rabbi Person’s leadership up close. She has been a Rabbi to thousands of North American rabbis throughout these many months of stress and strain. Tomorrow morning she will give the sermon in celebration of our centenary as a Reform congregation. In 1920 Holy Blossom affiliated with the Reform Movement and welcomed its first CCAR Rabbi.
On November 14, we will welcome Rabbi Dr. Joan Friedman back to Holy Blossom. Many will remember her from when she served our congregation as the first woman rabbi in Canada. Rabbi Friedman now chairs the Reform Responsa Committee, as Rabbi Plaut z”l once did. In celebration of our “100 Years Reform,” she will walk us through a century of fascinating Reform responsa, which tells the tale of the dynamic tensions between tradition and modernity. The link and registration for this event will be coming soon!
This week’s parasha is a celebration of leadership. God commands Avram to “Go forth” to the place God would reveal to him. The command comes with a promise of progeny, land, and a great name, but also the promise to make of him a blessing for all the families of the earth. So may it be for every woman and man who takes on the mantel of leadership, whether it be for this good country or for the Jewish People. Shabbat Shalom.
What attracted you to the position at Holy Blossom?
I enjoy working for non-profit organizations. I have always wanted to work for a Jewish Organization and this was the right opportunity at the right time..
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Toronto, in Bathurst and Wilson area and went to Bannockburn Public School, Ledbury Park Middle School, Sir Sanford Fleming High School and received by BFA in Theatre (Drama Studies) at York University.
Can you tell us a bit about your work in the theatre world?
I performed some volunteer work in fundraising and administration for some startup theatre companies and then worked at the St. Lawrence Centre as a secretary to the General Manager.
Left the theatre to help my husband start his own computer software firm where I was responsible for the administration and business side of the organization.
Can you tell us a bit about your Family?
My husband’s name is Robert and we have been married for 42 years. I have two daughters, Sarah(28) and Emma(23). Sarah is a lawyer and Emma is an aspiring musical theatre actor.
What are some of the things you’ve enjoyed most at HBT?
The amazing staff, clergy and admin. In spite of Covid, we communicate and collaborate in a way that makes COVID seem less prevalent. I enjoy the opportunity to connect and help our congregants. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming.
As part of your many roles at Holy Blossom, You carry with you the “Funeral” phone, meaning that you are the first point of contact when someone in the community has lost a loved one. Can you tell us a bit about your experience thus far?
It is rewarding to be there for people during their time of need. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to assist congregants at such a difficult time, losing a loved one. They are so appreciative of someone being there to provide support and guidance. I actually feel fortunate that I can fulfill this role for them.
It can feel very disconnecting when you stare into the computer screen and don’t hear or see anyone, but once the cameras turn on in the zoom meeting room, and participants unmute themselves, you can feel the energy!
HABSTY’s HBTeen Mitzvah Bakers kicked off this past week, and the energy and liveliness was certainly present amongst the little zoom boxes on screen. A dozen or so teens in their own kitchens came together to bake muffins for Out of the Cold. While they measured and mixed (all following the same recipe), they got help from one another, played Jewish geography, a little name that tune, chatted and laughed. Muffins were dropped off at Temple the next day, and I delivered close to 200 muffins to Ve’ahavta Thursday afternoon for their street help van.
Know a teen who wants to bake with us next month? They can register here: https://holyblossom.org/event/habsty-hbteen-mitzvah-bakers/2020-11-25/
HABSTY board members have been busy on the phone, running HABSTY’s own first-ever ‘Call Hakavod’. They have been reaching out to teens in our congregation, to connect, check-in, and share the various opportunities that are available for teens during this time. If your teen hasn’t yet received a phone call and would like one, please email me at [email protected], and I will ensure they are on a calling list!
We are excited to open up the Virtual HABSTY lounge this coming Monday night – teens have been planning and prepping a variety of activities to keep up that virtual energy and excitement. I have no doubt that it will feel just like our awesome lounge at Temple – with teens talking over one another, laughing and bonding. The only difference is we can’t provide the snacks 😉
By Lisa Isen Baumal
Two Years After Pittsburgh
Yesterday, Jews around the world marked the second yahrzeit of the victims of Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. I will forever have the images of this hateful act seared in my memory; the tears that my wife and I shed in mourning and fear. For all communities of faith, this attack represented a shift in our sense of security in our houses of worship.
In a recent article published in the Jerusalem Times my fellow rabbinical school classmate, Rabbi Natalie Shribman, described the community she grew up in, saying, “Pittsburgh kind of helped me become a Jewish person because it was so easy to find Judaism,” she said. “It was just so welcoming to be there.” This welcoming spirit and accepting of others was part of the reason why Tree of Life was chosen as a target. Their work with refugees with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) made them visible to an invisible threat. After this attack, instances of anti-Semitic hate crimes hit a record high in the United States. We have also felt this rise in these behaviors in our own community.
In the midst of loss and pain, we are able to find connection. Last year, Holy Blossom planted a tree in honour of Joyce Fineberg, one of the victims of this hatred who grew up in our community. It is just a small illustration of how our tribe, the Jewish people, remains connected across countries and continents. That while we look, pray, and gather in different ways, we remain one people.
There are no quick solutions to the heavy fear that permeates our North American Jewish community. In times of turmoil, we often turn to the wisdom of Torah. This week, our tradition demands of us to “Lech Lecha ” to Go Forth. This call to leave, to go, is our own call to be active. To quote a familiar name, Rabbi Michael Satz writes, “What can we do in memory of people like Lori or Joyce Fienberg, a woman who grew up at Holy Blossom and was killed at her synagogue in Pittsburgh? Live Jewishly. Unabashedly Jewish.”
We will not let the memories of those killed at Tree of Life to senseless violence be forgotten. Whether this means attending a service, baking challah for the first time in months, or reaching out to an old friend – make time this week to perform a ‘radical’ act of love that will strengthen our Jewish community in response to those who continue to try to break it apart. We honour the victims of this terror by continuing their work. The Canadian counterpart to HIAS is the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS)
For more information about this incredibly organization, please click here.
The Noah Story, read this week, is the story of civilizations eroding and being washed away. Who among us sees the waters rising? Who among us is flooded with anxiety and fear? Who among us is looking for safe shelter from the threatening storms?
I’ve been reflecting on our congregational experience of the High Holy Days. It was extraordinary in every way. Why were thousands drawn to the screen? Why did some go to such great effort to call the helpline for personal instruction to join in the virtual services? Why did 439 people take the time to fill out the post-High Holy Day survey to express their feedback and gratitude? I don’t think it was simple inertia, dictated by the calendar. I think we were climbing into a kind of ark – two by two, one by one, family by family.
Have you ever looked up at the ceiling of our Main Sanctuary? Every time I look at it now, that’s all I can see – an impressive, hand-crafted container, strong enough to carry us all, wide enough to hold our cargo of heavy hearts laden with heavy prayers while the winds grow more threatening outside.
Society is beginning to splinter. The wooden beams are beginning to bend. If we are listening, we can hear them crack under the weight of it all. The winter storms are brewing now. There’s no denying it. So we close our windows and lock our doors and self-isolate as we must, but it’s lonely in our own hiding places.
Upon reflection, I believe we joined in such great numbers throughout the High Holy Days because — just as instinctively as the animals of Noah’s time — we decided it was time to leave our own burrows and caves and to climb onto the ark instead. Individual needs gave way to a greater collective event. With a little imagination, we could take spiritual shelter in the Temple and emotional comfort in one another. We were each a part of something larger. Our own lives, which had grown smaller, were invited to expand again. And it felt good – uplifting, important.
As Shabbat Noach is about to begin, please remember that the door to this Temple-ark is always open to you. You have a standing invitation to take your place among our sacred congregation through prayer, sacred study, purposeful volunteerism, and meaningful connection. Even now. Especially now. No one should have to ride out this storm alone. We don’t know when the thunder will roll on or when we will be able to come to rest on dry land again. But God did promise never flood the earth again. This too shall pass.
Shabbat Shalom. In honour of Shabbat Noach, all pets are welcome to join us in the Virtual Atrium tomorrow after services. See you there. Click here to join us.
Thanks to so many of us, Holy Blossom Congregation is responding generously to the Extended Annual Appeal: Covid Campaign. Every congregant has a special reason for supporting this campaign. Here are three who are sharing their motivation for supporting Temple in this time of urgent need.
The Kaufman Family
“In good times, it’s easy to support causes close to your heart. But during difficult ones, it’s never been more important and meaningful for our family to share our gratitude, and invest in the strength and future of Holy Blossom. As our steadfast Jewish home, this is a chance for us to reflect back the faith, values and generosity of spirit that Temple has always instilled in us.”
David, Sarah, Max and Jacob Kaufman
Members since 2003
“Holy Blossom Temple, like so many, many organizations, has been challenged both financially and physically during this pandemic. I am honoured to contribute to the Extended Appeal: COVID Campaign to keep our Kehila Kedosha strong and vital as we weather these challenges.
Giving to the extended appeal enables all of us at Holy Blossom to continue to provide the meaningful programs and services that uplift and inspire our community. We care at HBT and I care.”
Deanna, Director of Communications and Marketing, HBT
Member since 2017
“One of the things that I have greatly missed during the pandemic is being able to be physically present at Holy Blossom Temple. Yes, I could attend Shabbat services virtually. Yes, I could participate in adult education courses by means of Zoom. Yes, I appreciated the beautifully produced High Holydays services online…But I missed being in the building. I missed the atmosphere. I missed the people.
I know that COVID 19 will eventually come to an end and we will all be able to enjoy Holy Blossom again in person. When that day arrives, I want to be sure that our Temple will be in reasonable financial health and able to carry on its good works.
That is why I have responded positively to the Holy Blossom Special COVID 19 Appeal with my gift, paid over time. I hope you, too, will respond.”
Member since 1979
We’re more than halfway to our target of $500,000 in 2020 with over $330,000 pledged or paid. Our target goal is $1,00,000 over two years. Thank you to every single generous donor. Together you have brought us so far.
Holy Blossom has a rich tradition and for 165 years has been a leading congregation in Toronto. Over the course of this long history, there have been times when Temple has been seriously impacted by world events, the most recent of course being the Coronavirus pandemic. The impact of Covid has been very sharp; there is still a way to go to meet our target, and the need is urgent. Please give what you can to respond to Covid, and stand with those who have over the years of our history ensured that we remained Toronto’s first synagogue.