From your friend in Los Angeles, Jennifer Malvin
I wish I could say that I had climbed mountains and crossed deserts to arrive at the oasis called Holy Blossom Temple. In truth, there was no weather event and no revelation. There was only inspiration. The COVID pandemic had closed the doors of my local synagogue. So, I began looking for an online portal. Tapping my mouse, like Dorothy clicking her heels, Google instantly transported me to Toronto’s very own Jewish Land of Oz, called Holy Blossom Temple. There, I found friends, teachers, tzadiks (Jewish wizards), and mensches. Most significantly, I found a group of individuals whose communal heart overflows with chesed and rachamim. For me, the “holy” in Holy Blossom was the divine hand that led me there.
A single Zoom square measures no more than a few inches, and yet, the friendships I’ve made at Holy Blossom span continents. Not only do we share services together, but we participate in the expansive number of programs that Holy Blossom offers through a cadre of dedicated hosts, all volunteers by the way. Jack Kugelmass’s daily social hour, L’Chaim; Marty Steinhouse’s weekly program on Jewish music; Cynthia Good’s frequent book review, Good Books; Gillian Helfield’s film review, What I am Watching; the brilliant Israel Dialogues; Barbara Glazer’s Dorot; Rabbi Yael Splansky’s Shabbat Morning Torah Study; Harriet Wolman’s Poetry and Writing Group; and Mark Goodman’s classes on the Torah nourish and delight, always. Rabbi Kaye and Rabbi McCarrol recently arrived at Holy Blossom, and have already contributed in their own unique ways to my understanding of Judaic texts and values.
I am also indebted to Women of Holy Blossom and their programming partner, Women’s Advocacy Group. They continue to produce and sponsor a cascade of programs and events that have given me the opportunity to practice an active Judaism based on social values of inclusiveness, allyship, chesed, and mitzvot, to name a few. Their monthly newsletter not only inspires me but is a portal to this 100-year-old community of dedicated and dynamic women.
Rabbi Splansky is a captain worthy of every responsibility and pleasure her position holds. At big moments and small, milestones and minutes she is there with a kind word and an embrace, and most of all, her time. She is also at the forefront of the Reform movement, as it constantly seeks how best to serve the needs of its members.
Cantor Rosen, first introduced to Holy Blossom by Cantor Emeritus, Beny Maissner, is an artist who already thrills, and yet, whose potential I cannot begin to imagine. He is joined by Cantorial Soloist, Lindi Rivers, a songbird in her own right. They lift prayers from the page and drop them into pockets of my heart I didn’t know were there.
So, now you know just a few of the reasons why I love Holy Blossom, what makes the miles between us disappear, and why Zoom has become the lifeline to the community I have come to cherish.
With love and gratitude,