By Mike Morgulis, Brotherhood President
No doubt you’ve seen us at shul… maybe an older guy ushered you or led a Shiva service. Maybe you had a drink from the bar at Purim, had a HABSTY bagel box delivered to your home, ate a breakfast that had a lecturer on a Sunday morning, or perhaps one of your children received a Plaut Commentary in Grade 7. These are but a few examples of Brotherhood in action. While we are more officially known as the “Men’s Club of Holy Blossom” what we do reaches far beyond that. We are somewhat like the Levites of the original Temple, however the only sacrifice we make is of our own personal time to assist with education, governance, worship, social activities, and philanthropy.
A Brotherhood volunteer serves on the Adult Education Committee with Rabbi Splansky, Debbie Spiegel and Les Rothschild to help coordinate the courses and lectures which Brotherhood sponsors and hosts. This is an on-going process, and a constant effort is made by Brotherhood to recruit high level, poignant speakers who inform and inspire us to do more as people and as Jews on a monthly basis. We also promote our own; four presenters from last year were Daniel Roher, a film producer, and Mira Lyon, a committed youth developer. Both have grown up at Holy Blossom and continue to give back to our community while also helping the broader world. John Freund shared his first hand experiences as a Holocaust survivor and Michael Cole shared his travels in Australia and gave us insight to the Jewish world ‘down under’. We also sponsor an annual lecture series with Rabbi Michael Stroh, which is edge-of-the-seat and cerebral. It is literally studying Torah for Torah’s sake.
How Holy Blossom governs itself has been an issue of note over the past few years. The Brotherhood president has traditionally served on the Temple’s Board of Directors with a voting seat for decades. The pending modifications to the Temple’s by-laws will see this voting seat remain, but how the Brotherhood person arrives there will be the result of a congregational vote as opposed to the previous ladder-ascension structure; this is a good thing as it helps the congregation understand Brotherhood as part of the congregation rather than as an auxiliary or cloistered entity.
Brotherhood is called upon for a volunteer to serve on the Nominating Committee. This vital committee vets all nominees and volunteers who wish to serve on the Temple’s Board of Directors, and is becoming a year-round effort. Brotherhood, like Sisterhood, has a sizable membership of dues paying Temple members and each organization has its own Board of Directors. While there are many programs run by each organization, each serves the congregation and helps to grow the future leaders of the congregation through a myriad of activities, duties and responsibilities. Many of our members serve on other committees and involve themselves in other ventures after initially joining Brotherhood and Sisterhood.
Historically ushering and Shiva service leading were strictly a Brotherhood task, however separate committees have been formed to take these on over the years. Still, some Brotherhood members still serve as ushers, and others continue to lead Shiva services. Some serve as greeters in the Ava Road foyer on Shabbat, while others are called upon to read Torah or carry a Torah. A Brotherhood member also happens to serve on the Transition Committee to help the synagogue foresee issues during the various phases of construction.
Socially we host a board meeting once a month and tackle many of life’s issues before getting to our consent business agenda. We’ve also co-hosted 4 Havdallah events with Sisterhood in the last 2 years, each a fantastic success that combined the tranquility of the ending of Shabbat with a camp-like song session and great food. The last event saw a healthy presence from HABSTY, our energetic and committed youth senior youth group.
On the point of youth, Brotherhood has always been committed to developing the Jewish identity of our young adults. In Grade 7 we give each B’nei Mitzvah student a personalized Plaut Commentary to serve as the cornerstone of their Jewish library. Brotherhood also helps to send our youth to URJ Camp George through bursaries. We assisted a HABSTY representative this year so that they could attend the 2015 NFTY Convention in Atlanta. 3 of our HABSTY members are already at URJ Kutz Camp for leadership development, thanks to financial assistance from Brotherhood. Last year the staff and campers at URJ Camp George enjoyed post-sundown activities at the basketball and tennis courts thanks to a sizable Brotherhood contribution to install light posts complete with underground wiring and environment-friendly high output LED lights. We have also begun to contribute to the Study In Israel fund, which supports those youth who wish to pursue post-secondary education in Israel.
We have made other contributions as well; all of our breakfast lecturers has a donation made in their name to the charity of their choice. We are frequently called upon by our Rabbis to support ventures within the shul, like the Summer Gathering luncheon, and we sponsor the Holy B’s inter-synagogue baseball team. Some of the AV equipment used in the shul has been made possible through purchases from Brotherhood. We’ve also lent physical and financial support to 2 concerts at Har Tikvah, the Refom congregation in Brampton.
Brotherhood’s demographic is changing. As our valiant older members reluctantly leave our ranks due to attrition, we have seen younger men step forward and take up the torch. Brotherhood is a great gateway opportunity to volunteer within the shul on an informal basis, to work with many committees, to assist the Temple’s leadership in a variety of tasks for which there are no other vehicles, and finally to socialize with some of the other men in the synagogue outside of the usual post-worship venues. Meeting and volunteering once per month are easy ways to fulfill the mitzvah of Tikkun Olam. We look forward to seeing you join us at our next meeting in September.
By Mike Morgulis, Brotherhood President