Our Rabbis and Cantors
Judaism has a two-thousand-year-old tradition of being led by rabbis. “Rabbi” literally means “my teacher,” most appropriate for a tradition based on learning of sacred texts – the foundational document and symbol for which is our Torah. So, the leading by rabbis is not that of a politician or a CEO, but rather that of a teacher steeped in the wisdom of Jewish tradition, capable of interpreting that tradition in each generation.
The position of the cantor or chazzan is of more recent origin, but the function of the cantor is no less ancient than that of the rabbi. If the rabbi is to teach God’s Torah, the cantor is to lead the congregation in communicating with the Divine in the midst of worship. Together, learning and worship, Torah and Avodah, form two of the three fundamental pillars of Judaism and jointly lead to the third: Gemilut Chasidim, doing kindness for others.
Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto’s first synagogue, is a leading Canadian Reform Jewish congregation with a rich history of responding to both tradition and modernity in our religious and spiritual expression. We pursue meaningful opportunities for personal growth and family fulfillment at every stage of life through belonging, learning, prayer and ritual, and acts of service for our congregation and community, our city and country, the Reform Movement, Israel, and all the world.
Tradition and Modernity - מסורה וחדשנות
Founded in 1856 as an Orthodox congregation in downtown Toronto, Holy Blossom Temple joined the Reform movement in the 1920’s and soon became known the world over as a flagship congregation of Reform Judaism. In the 1970’s we began to embrace more traditional practices and today our prayer language and ritual draw from the best of the Reform tradition as well as from Klal Yisrael (the totality of the Jewish People). Within our congregation there is a respectful range of Jewish observance and beliefs. Our commitment is to create a Jewish life, which is meaningful and challenging, authentic and joyful, responsible and relevant.
Belonging - קהילה קדושה
We aspire to be a sacred congregation in which all of our members, old and new, can connect through participation in Temple life. We come together to learn, pray, have fun, share in each other’s joys and sorrows, reach out to one another in support and compassion, and create lasting and meaningful memories. We strive to be a sacred community in which all congregants and those who may wish to join us feel they are known as individuals and families and that their participation and contributions of all kinds are welcomed, valued, and fulfilling.
Learning - תורה
We pursue lifelong learning — from formal and experiential education for children and teens to adult lecture series and seminars taught by our teachers, clergy and visiting scholars. Our wide range of enriching study includes sacred Jewish texts and music, Jewish history and literature, practical Judaism, and Jewish leadership, public affairs and Israel. We pride ourselves on the breadth and depth of our offerings and that we open our doors to the broader community to learn with us.
Prayer and Ritual - עבודה
Worship not only draws us closer to God, but also to one another. By coming together for prayer services every day of the year, we sanctify the Jewish calendar. By celebrating and mourning significant moments in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones, we sanctify the Jewish life cycle. Our congregation enjoys many prayer settings — formal and informal, grand and intimate, for young and old, for holy days and ordinary days, led by Rabbis, Cantors and Lay Leaders. Music is central to our religious expression. Our own prayerbook, Siddur Pirchei Kodesh, reflects our congregation’s unique blend of scholarship, innovation and tradition.
Acts of Service - גמילות חסדים
Throughout our history, Holy Blossom has fulfilled religious and civic duties by being at the forefront of major social justice issues, both within Canada and outside of its borders. Over the years our leadership has taken bold and courageous positions in support of such causes as the civil rights movement, refugees to Canada, Soviet Jewry, AIDS, and local poverty, to name a few. Through advocacy, fundraising, and fulfillment of ethical mitzvot, we strengthen the lives of individuals as well as our society as a whole. We encourage all who join us to continue our work in mending the world (Tikkun Olam).
Israel - אהבת ישראל
We recognize and celebrate Israel as the centre of the Jewish world. The relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry is one of partnership and shared destiny. We feel close to Israel and its growing Reform movement. We share in Israel’s joys and sorrows; we are proud of her many accomplishments and worry for her security. We hold a wide range of views on her social, religious, and political issues and encourage the expression and respectful exchange of these views. We encourage our congregants to provide tangible support for Israel through investments and donations. We also encourage our congregants to travel to Israel for tourism, study, volunteerism, leadership, and aliyah.
We acknowledge our community is situated on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. This land is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.
To learn more about crafting a land acknowledgement to be said at the beginning of HBT-hosted events please click here for our Land Acknowledgement resource.
We warmly welcome and support interfaith families who choose to make Holy Blossom Temple their Jewish community. We invite families to immerse themselves in our full range of programming and to bring Jewish culture and practice into their homes. We provide tools for individuals and families who would like to explore deepening their Jewish commitment, including full rabbinic support to families for whom conversion is their chosen path.
We are strongly committed to creating a warm and welcoming home for all who seek an inclusive Jewish community. Holy Blossom Temple encourages and supports LGBTQ+ members to celebrate life milestones here.
Jews of Colour
Holy Blossom Temple recognizes the racism that Jews of Colour experience. We strive to create a safe community where Jews of all racial and ethnic backgrounds belong.
Intellectual Disabilities and Special Needs
Our Youth Education Centre has been a pioneer in educating our children with intellectual disabilities and special needs. Our Director of Education works with families individually to ensure that the Youth Education Centre can be accessible for all students.
Holy Blossom Temple has recently renovated many of our spaces to make them more accessible. For more information about accessibility, please visit the Accessibility page on our website.
If you would like more information about our commitment to inclusion, we invite you to be in touch with our Director of Membership and Community Engagement, who will be happy to direct your inquiry to the appropriate contact.
First 20 Years
Holy Blossom Temple dates its history to September 1856, when 17 members of the small Toronto Jewish community met to form a congregation and make plans for the upcoming High Holy Day Services. Seven years earlier, some members of the Jewish community had created a cemetery on Pape Avenue, which was later absorbed by the new congregation. The Ontario Heritage Foundation lists Holy Blossom as the first Jewish congregation in Canada, west of the Ontario/Quebec border.
For the first 20 years of the Temple’s existence, Services, conducted in the traditional orthodox manner, were held in a rented room over Coombe’s Drugstore on the southeast corner of Yonge and Richmond streets. In 1876, the congregation built its first synagogue a block east on Richmond Street.
By The 1890s
By the 1890s, the congregation had outgrown the Richmond Street Synagogue and made plans for a new one. The dedication of the Bond Street Synagogue on September 15, 1897 attracted much media attention. By that time, Temple membership had grown to 119 families.
During the latter part of the 19th century, changes began to be introduced to ritual and the way services were conducted. Music was introduced and mixed seating allowed. In 1920, Holy Blossom invited Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner, ordained at the Hebrew Union College, to be its rabbi and made application to affiliate with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Reform Movement’s umbrella organization.
For Professor Irving Abella’s “A Brief History of Our First 150 Years” click here.
Our Temple Leadership
Directors, Officers & Department Chairs
|Phyllis Denaburg||Vice President at Large|
|Ellen Cole||Vice President, Administration|
|Marla Spiegel||Vice President, Development|
|Diana Solomon||Vice President, Education|
|Eric Klein||Vice President, Finance (and Financial Secretary)|
|Les Rothschild||Vice President, Kehillah Kedoshah (Sacred Community)|
|Sarah McNally||Vice President, Membership|
|Nancy Lerner||Vice President, Tikkun Olam (Social Justice) and Israel|
|Gerry Prendergast||Vice President, Worship|
|Judy Winberg||Past President|
|Corinne Black||Director, Sisterhood|
|Mike Morgulis||Director, Brotherhood|
|Rabbi Yael Splansky||Senior Rabbi|
|Rachel Malach||Executive Director|
Statement of Responsibilities for the Members of the Board of Directors
Board Code of Conduct
Report of the Governance Committee
Report of the Governance Committee, Executive Summary
Current Temple By-law
Holy Blossom Temple is seeking an Interim Director of Membership and Community Engagement to cover a parental leave. The Director of Membership and Community Engagement serves as a member of the senior leadership team, is responsible for all membership growth and retention strategies, and for building community engagement. This position reports to the Executive Director, works closely with clergy, professionals, and volunteers, and jointly supervises the Manager of Member and Donor Services with the Executive Director and additional temporary summer employees.
Holy Blossom Temple, Canada’s first synagogue, is hiring a Director of Development and Donor Engagement. This position reports to the Executive Director works closely with and takes direction from the Chair of the Holy Blossom Temple Foundation, and partners with lay leaders. The Director of Development and Donor Engagement serves as a member of the senior leadership team, working in collaboration with the Executive Director to lead the strategic direction, development, and implementation of all initiatives that enrich philanthropic engagement from all donor audiences including annual congregational appeal, major and transformational giving, planned giving, community events, and sponsorship.
We are looking for Registered Early Childhood Educators and Assistants to join our incredible teaching team!
Our RECEs work in a collaborative teaching environment and report directly to the Director of the ECC.