1950 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON, M5P 3K9
Emergency Funeral Contact
We are delighted to share that we will be welcoming a new member of Holy Blossom Temple’s Senior Leadership Team in the new role of Director of Outreach & Next Gen Engagement. Taylor Baruchel will join Holy Blossom Temple to lead this important area. She will start part-time this coming Monday and will be with us full-time after the Victoria Day weekend.
Together with the Board of Directors, we are thrilled to have been able to advance in creating a new Directorship to serve our younger families and young adults and those who will join us. This initiative has been supported in honour of Rabbi Splansky’s 25th anniversary at Temple. This new position will help us to realize Rabbi Splansky’s vision for Holy Blossom Temple’s future, which includes bringing this essential cohort into sharp focus as a top priority for the years ahead.
Taylor comes to us most recently as Program Coordinator and Lead Educator at Introduction to Jewish Life (Toronto’s conversion program under the auspices of the Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto) as well as Chaplain Intern, providing spiritual and pastoral care at Baycrest Health Sciences. Prior to moving to Toronto, Taylor spent four years in various leadership positions of increasing responsibility at the Hillels of Georgia where she made a profound impact on the Jewish student body through outreach and engagement. Hailing from Montréal, Taylor was involved in the Jewish Community in a number of ways including as a board member at Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom and through her volunteer work programming for the equivalent of our Young Adult Division (YAD) here at Temple. Taylor holds a BA in Religious Studies and a Master of Arts: History & Philosophy of Religion both from Concordia University, a Master’s Concentration in Israel Education from The iCentre for Israel Education (in Chicago), and a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). She will receive her Rabbinic Ordination from HUC-JIR in a few short weeks in Los Angeles.
Having a Rabbi in a staff position, as opposed to a pulpit position, is new to Holy Blossom Temple, although it is very common among other large congregations across the Reform Movement. The fact that Taylor Baruchel will soon be Rabbi Baruchel will make her outreach and engagement work even more effective. She will bring depth to her outreach initiatives and Jewish content to the engagement opportunities she creates.
Many of you will already know Taylor as she and her family, Associate Rabbi Samuel Kaye and their nearly three-year-old daughter, Selah joined HBT in June 2022. Holy Blossom is already the Baruchel/Kaye’s spiritual home, and we are blessed to have Taylor join our professional team.
As of May 1, Taylor can be reached at [email protected] or extension 233. Her desk will be in the Membership Office, but she will be seen often at Holy Grounds Café, meeting with members and prospective members, social animators, outside professional partners, and emerging lay leaders. She will also be out and about town, strategically placing herself wherever our Terumah and YAD folks are in the community.
Our deep gratitude goes to the first five families who have provided generous seed funding to enable us to create this new position, essential for our future growth. They are Karen & Tom Ehrlich, Wendy & Elliott Eisen, Helena & David Fine, Judy & Jack Winberg, and Carole & Bernard Zucker. We continue to strengthen the congregation in honour of Rabbi Splansky’s 25th. To learn more or to make a gift, please visit https://holyblossom.org/rys25/.
Mazel Tov to us all and Shabbat Shalom,
Rachel Malach Rabbi Yael Splansky
Executive Director Senior Rabbi
L’chol z’man va’eit, l’chol chefetz tachat hashamayim …
“To everything there is a season, a time for every matter under the sun …”
These words from Kohelet have been on my mind in a different way lately, as the sun shines through and spring slowly but surely settles itself upon us, and this coming week leaves me filled with anticipation and emotion in thinking about the passage of time and all that comes with it.
It’s admittedly hitting me quite powerfully, for this Sunday, May 21, is the one-year anniversary of my rabbinic ordination. It is a day that will be forever cherished, in part because of the ceremony but mostly because of how I felt that morning: an overwhelming sense of joy and relief at finally reaching that milestone and at having my family there to celebrate.
Just a few days later, on June 4, I moved to Canada, which was Erev Shavuot. This festival always had a fond place in my heart because of the connection to Torah and learning, but even more so now that Shavuot was the first chag that Rabbi Kaye and I were lucky enough to join our sacred congregation as rabbis of Holy Blossom.
In other words, this festival of revelation is revealing to me the level and depth of change that has occurred since this time last year, when I went up to the bimah at Plum Street Temple as one person and came down the other side, then moved north of the border, as another.
Put differently, it is a season of renewal and reflection, and we have much to celebrate as a congregation, as look ahead to Shavuot next week, and shortly thereafter turn our minds to the summer, and to the next happy year.
We can reflect on all we’ve achieved. We can reflect on all we’ve learned. We can reflect on all we’ve become. We can reflect, in Rabbi Splansky’s words, to all we are becoming.
One of these elements is the ordination of another rabbi of Holy Blossom, Rabbi Taylor Baruchel, who just this past weekend was ordained in LA, and who we are so lucky to welcome to our professional staff as our new Director of Outreach and Next Generation Engagement. Mazal tov to her, and to all of us, and we know you will treat her kindly.
The second is to join our community for all of our wonderful Shavuot offerings, from Confirmation to a congregational dinner to Yom Tov services, which will include children’s breakout activities. Details can be found here.
May we always have milestones to celebrate together, and an early Chag Shavuot Sameach!
By Will Brockman
It was a crisp October morning when I first attended a Shabbat morning service at Holy Blossom – October 29, to be precise. There is one moment that will be etched in my memory forever, and it was Cantors David Rosen and Beny Maissner singing Ben Steinberg z’’l’s setting of “Eilu D’varim.” Somewhere in the middle of listening to their two gorgeous voices sing about these mitzvot we are called to fulfill in order to make the world a better place, a thought crossed my mind – “I want to do that when I grow up.” That thought – the first time I admitted to myself that I had the desire to be a cantor – scared me.
I had moved to Toronto from my home state of New Jersey for a very different reason than to pursue the cantorate. I was and am currently pursuing a Masters at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre, & Performance Studies. During the height of the pandemic, I had transitioned from my previous career as a working actor to teaching drama at the high school I had attended in New Jersey. While there, I discovered I had a love for teaching I never knew about. So, I thought it would be wise to get further qualifications – pursue a Masters, eventually a PhD, and perhaps one day I could teach at university. There was a path I was following; I had a plan. I had no time for diversions. I put away the thought of pursuing the cantorate, and I headed back into my studies at UofT.
A few months later, I travelled to Israel for the first time on Birthright. While there, I had the time of my life travelling with other young Jews. Something clicked for me on that trip, as I started to take stock of what was important to me in my life. Part of me didn’t realize until I had been to Israel, just how important Jewish life and Jewish community was to me. My emotions on that trip forced me to reevaluate the path I was pursuing – the path I had so clearly envisioned for myself. At the Kotel, I slipped a note into the cracks of the Wall asking God to show me, very clearly, what the path is by which I could do the most good in the world. Admittedly, I think I already knew the answer by that point.
I landed at Newark Airport on a frigid January morning, and I emailed Cantor Rosen from my parent’s home in New Jersey. “I want to be a cantor,” I told him, and he immediately scheduled a time for us to meet so we could further discuss the next steps I needed to take to make that a reality. Cantor Rosen connected me with Cantor Jill Abramson, the director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College, and the pieces started to fall into place rather easily. I cancelled my pending PhD applications, and I emailed my professors that they would be writing a very different kind of letter of recommendation for me. Cantor Rosen then helped me prepare for my audition by helping me select pieces and then coaching me on those pieces so that I might present my best self to the audition committee at HUC.
A few weeks later, I travelled back home to the States and auditioned for the committee at HUC. I only spent about three short days back in the US, as I had to get back to school at UofT. I flew back to Toronto on a Thursday morning, and I got a call from Cantor Jill Abramson while I was in line about to board my flight back to Toronto. She told me I had been accepted, and a few minutes later, I was back in the air bound for Canada.
Maybe it was being farther away from home, maybe it was simply the right time in my life for me to be ready to receive this calling – I don’t know that I’ll ever know. What I do know is that Holy Blossom Temple is forever a part of the story of why I discovered my calling to the cantorate. For that, I am forever grateful.
The Holy Blossom Ukulele Orchestra, now in its seventh year, is continuing to thrive.
We meet most Sunday mornings at 10 AM for coffee at Holy Grounds and then proceed to our weekly rehearsal from 10:30 to 12 PM.
The group plays a wide variety of repertoire. This season we have included some special selections in Hebrew for Israel’s 75th anniversary.
We are taking the ’show’ on the road in late May and June to some local retirement residences.
On June 11 we are hosting a ’Sing-A-Long/Play-A-Long’ session at HBT at 10:30 AM.
Everyone is welcome to join us in the Mishkan for a lovely morning of song. Lyrics and chords will be projected so that everyone can participate. Bring your voice, your ukulele, guitar, or mandolin.
Suicide Loss Survivor’s Group
Our HBTogether Suicide Loss Survivor’s group was designed to welcome anyone who had lost someone to suicide. Our goal was to create a safe place for sharing memories, stories and experiences. We started our monthly meetings on Zoom but now we gather in person, rotating homes and sharing dinner. Sometimes our conversations wander all over the place and have nothing to do with our losses. But sometimes one of us is facing an anniversary – a birthday, a yahrzeit, a holiday without our loved one, and we really need to talk to someone who “gets it.” We’ve become good at listening and importantly, we’ve become good friends. As one member said, “I love our group!”
The HBTogether Bookclub is a lively and informal discussion of books of Jewish interest that meets at 11 am on the first Wednesday of the month on Zoom.
Join us for the first discussion of our 2022/2023 session: Rabbi Larry Englander will be discussing his new biography of Maimonides, The Prince of Healers, on Wednesday, September 6.
Contact Caroline Ingvaldsen, Temple’s Librarian Volunteer, at [email protected] for further details.
New members are always welcome!
HBTogether Jewish Music Group
We are writing to give you an update on one of Holy Blossom’s weekly Zoom groups. Since the onset of the Covid Pandemic, Marty Steinhouse has been creating unique, enriching, and varied musical programs across a broad spectrum of Jewish Music, as well as honouring requests for special programs. As welcoming as the music itself is the camaraderie between participants, and the warm, sometimes humorous, and touching personal reflections shared throughout the hour. A few of the many programs that Marty has presented include a look-and-listen to Al Jolson, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and newcomer Cantor Magda Fishman. Cantor Steinhouse has brought us the “great” cantors of the past, Yiddish theatre, musical comedians like Victor Borge and Myron Cohen, as well as musicals like Cabaret and Fiddler on the Roof. Topics include both Ashkenazi and Sephardic nusach, current Israeli music, as well as Israel’s participation in Eurovision, especially since Israel’s Noa Kirel just advanced to the Grand Finale of 2023. It is a beautiful and inspiring way to begin the week.
We have enjoyed our weekly visit with Marty so much that we wanted to share the experience with you. We hope you will join in soon. We meet virtually on Monday morning at 10 am!
All are welcome.
Harriet Wolman, Freda Ariella Muscovitch, Jennifer Malvin
Poetry and Writing Group
The Poetry and Writing group has been meeting monthly for over two years. It consists of its leader, Harriet Wolman, and a small group of regular attendees who love poetry. There is no requirement for participants to be poets themselves although several of them have written and presented beautiful and original poems. Here is what two participants think about their Poetry Group experience:
Barbara Thal-Hodes says: I am grateful to have a chance to tell other people how much I have gained from being part of the Group. I am awed by how comforting it can be when we read poetry to each other and react to each other’s work. We are closer to each other at the end of every meeting.
Glenda Bocknek says: Under Harriet’s guidance, a group of acquaintances has become friends. We have learned empathy and found insight into the world around us as we discuss poetry we have read or written. Sharing our thoughts and feelings has created a circle of friendship that begins and ends with our love of poetry.
And I say: Leading this group has been a rewarding experience for me. We have had some very special guests at our meetings, including Rabbi McCarroll and poet Adam Sol. Although we are certainly not professionals in the field, we have new knowledge and appreciation through our monthly presentations and discussions. New members are always welcome – so try it.
To learn more about HBTogether, whether you want to join a group or start one of your own, click here! Or contact Abigail Nemzer at [email protected]
By Judy Winberg, Archives Committee
Holy Blossom Temple’s archives collection houses treasures which are historically significant not just to the congregation, but to the Jewish community in Toronto and elsewhere. Some were gifted by congregants, and many were endowed by the families of the original owners. It’s been an honour to work with the archives and to be one of the custodians of our congregation’s rich history.
The collection is varied. Historic papers such as legal documents, contracts, original deeds and maps, drawings, and photographs testify to the early days in the life of the congregation. More recent holdings include official minutes of the Temple’s Boards of Directors, the Temple Foundation and committees. Printed programs and tribute books chart significant events at Temple while photographs, manuscripts, prayer books and hymnals, as well as works of art document our cultural and spiritual life as a congregation and are proudly and carefully maintained by the Archives Committee.
As you enter the main sanctuary through the Schwartz/Reisman Atrium take a moment to examine an important artifact from 1857 in a specially designed showcase. It’s the original Yad, the silver engraved pointer used to guide the reading of the Torah; it was received with the first Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll), donated to the “holy congregation Pirchei Kodesh (Holy Blossom) as a gift in perpetuity from the benefactor Elyakum, son of Isaac of the family Asher (and) his wife the lady Rachel”. (This translation was provided by the late Rabbi Dow Marmur z”l.)
The original Offering Book from 1876 recorded the weekly donations. Entries were made with a shoelace (no writing instruments on Shabbat!). It is preserved and on display in the historical Timeline showcase located along the north window wall of the Schwartz/Reisman Atrium.
In 1962 The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Holy Blossom Temple as part of a ‘Brotherhood Forum’ The program and follow-up letter of thanks signed by King can both be viewed in the Timeline showcase.
The parochet, or fabric curtain used to line the inside of the ark protecting the Torah scrolls (due to be re-installed in the anteroom of the Max E. Enkin Boardroom in the Lawrence Bloomberg Leadership Centre) is an interesting artifact because of the name on it – Sons of Israel. This name appears in our Minute Books as the name of the congregation four times in the early months of our existence in 1856. The name then disappears. We are not sure where the parochet was used (perhaps in our first location above Coombes Drug Store on Richmond Street). Decades later Executive Director, Mel Olsberg, found it among items returned to us from St. George’s Congregation which moved into our Bond Street location after the move to 1950 Bathurst Street.
These are just four examples of some of the archival objects that are in our safekeeping. Watch this space for more and if you think you may be housing some treasures in your homes and want to talk to us, please reach out to [email protected].
By Megan Stephens
On Thursday, May 4, as many in Toronto were settling in to watch the Leafs take on the Florida Panthers in round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, seven members of the HBT Board set out for an evening on the Ve’ahavta vans, following the lead of our clergy who had gone out together to help the neediest in our community back in April. It was truly a meaningful volunteer experience – and one I recommend you all consider doing.
The Board members were paired off into two vans with Marla, Phyllis and Diana heading off to Scarborough, and Jeff, the “Erics”, and I on the van destined for downtown Toronto.
Our Toronto Ve’ahavta van stopped in three different locations where we gave out food and hot coffee to those who both clearly needed it, and clearly appreciated it. Many also requested clothing and other supplies (like toiletries, sleeping bags, shoes, etc.) that are stocked on the vans. The cold rainy spring has brought a lot of us down – but the reality for those living on the street is that staying warm and dry has been a real challenge. Who’d have thought that in May, we would be asked for toques and mittens?
We also did a few stops to “regulars” that the Ve’ahavta staff know are “rough-housed”(sleeping on the streets – not staying in shelters) and would need food and supplies. The staff’s connections with the people we met were really inspiring. They don’t see these unhoused or rough-housed folks as frightening, untouchable, or someone to avoid. They see them for who they are: survivors who have had very tough lives – with traumas, mental health challenges, and addictions that have left them on the margins of our society.
Spending the evening helping to give these members of our community a meal, sharing a smile and a laugh over whether this hoodie or those pants were the right ones for them was meaningful – and honestly, fun. All in all, I think our van would agree that it was a much more rewarding evening than it would have been if we’d been watching the Leafs game!
We often talk about the importance of tikkun olam and tzedakah. It really felt good to not just “talk the talk” but to also engage directly in the work of helping others with my fellow board members.
The Holy Blossom Community has committed to help staff the two Ve’ahavta vans every other Thursday. Please sign up for an evening – whether on your own, with friends, or with family. It’s really the most meaningful and rewarding thing I have done in a while. The form to register to sign up is here:
Serving our Neighbours: Staffing the Ve’Ahavta Van as a Community (tfaforms.net)
Thanks again to Phyllis, Diana, Marla, Eric R and Eric K, and Jeff for answering my call to action from the Board – and joining me on the Ve’ahavta van. It really was a community-building experience, in so many ways.
Sivan is the third month of the Hebrew calendar counting from Nissan. The number three in Judaism has a mystical connotation. Moses was the third child in his family, the Israelites began the three-day process of preparing themselves to receive the Torah on the third of Sivan and God divided the Jews into three groups with different roles: the Kohanim, the Levites and the rest of the Jews Yisrael. There are three Patriarchs, Abraham, represents Kindness, Isaac represents Prayer, Jacob represents the study of Torah. Jacob’s name equals 182 as Jacob (in Hebrew, “Yaakov”): yud-ayin-kuf-beit = 10 + 70 + 100 + 2 = 182. Also in Gematria is equal to seven times the name of G/d or 182, as it is 7×26=182.
The letter ז tzain, is the 7th letter in the alphabet and its significance alludes to Teferet which means beauty. Moses was the seventh generation from Abraham, the world was created in 7 days, Torah was given on the 7th day of the week etc.
The Tribe of the Month: Zebulum, he was the supporter of his brother Issachar (Nisan), both were partners Zebulum worked while his brother studied Torah.
The Limb of the Month: the left foot. How the Israelites came to Sinai? By foot, in Nissan, the limb of the month was the right foot. Now they used both feet, making it easier to travel. Therefore, the attribute of this month is Motion, meaning walk, move. Through the study of Torah, you move and travel from one level to another higher level which leads you through pleasant and peaceful pathways wide and narrow ultimately bringing you harmony to the soul, your home, your work or the world.
In Sivan, we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, when the Torah was revealed and given from G/d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. The Torah is considered the world print of the world. Our sages have compared it to a wedding between G/d and the Jewish people, each one being a ½ to make a Whole, as in the written and oral Torah each aspect can’t be one without the other.
The permutation of the month is יוהה ( yud-vav-hei-hei) from the Book of Exodus, chapter 26, v19-20.
On Shavuot, we read the story of Ruth, the Moabite princess who abandoned everything safe and familiar to follow her mother-in-law Naomi to Israel, to a life of physical rigour and spiritual truth. Her story is the story of all of us this month, as we try to move beyond our limited grasp of truth and move closer to the whole picture we saw at Sinai.
The month of Sivan gives us the unique opportunity to go beyond the surface of the physical world and reveal the deeper spiritual meaning hidden within us.
Ken Yehi Ratzon!
Tere Quiroz, on behalf of Women of Holy Blossom
Sunday May 21, 2023, 9am ET
Please visit this page for the Zoom link and details https://holyblossom.org/rosh-chodesh/
Recently I was sitting with a couple that is getting married, and I asked them – “How did you know that you were right for each other?” And they looked back at me and said, “You know, there wasn’t one moment. It just felt like home.”
Finding our place, whether that be in our career, our relationships or our synagogue is a challenging thing to describe, which is ironic because it’s not a challenging thing to feel! In an ideal world, you know when you know. Something extraordinary feels like it has just snapped into place. There is an immediate sense of comfort, of belonging, and an exhale of the soul. A breath you didn’t know you were holding is let go and suddenly you realize ‘Yes! This is where I should be.”
But that sense of immediate belonging is not always part of our everyday world. The rest of the time, we must build relationships and establish our places over months, days and years. Most of our relationships deepen over time and first impressions are not always lasting. It requires maintenance too. Like friendships, feeling like you belong is built up action by action- moment by moment.
In the Jewish world today, we are talking more and more about engagement. A model of intentionally creating that feeling of belonging. Cultivating practices so that the sensation of homecoming is a part of the culture of our space, rather than a happy accident for those lucky enough to experience it.
Holy Blossom has been working on being ‘engaging’ for a long time. It’s why a synagogue as large as ours often feels small and intimate. It’s why the clergy are always happy to make the time for you, to have coffee or share a meal, to hear about what’s going on in your life. It’s why our staff is so present with you, both at simchas and sorrows. It’s why our leadership is so passionate about this sacred community.
But there’s always more we can do, and more people we can reach out to. We believe there’s an entire generation out there that is waiting for someone to open the door and invite them in. This is why our leadership has bravely created a new position, a Director of Outreach and Next Gen Engagement, to help the next generation of Jewish families find their homes, to exhale, here at Holy Blossom. That connection might happen in a moment or over the course of many conversations, and now it has one more steward to help it grow.
You can read all about our new director of Next Generation Engagement here!
I may be biased, but I know that Rabbi Baruchel is dedicated to making sure that our synagogue is a beautiful home for generations to come. I have no doubt that in the coming years, we will look around our community and see many new faces who love Holy Blossom the same way that we do- and in entirely new ways as well.
I hope that you will join me in welcoming her. Please don’t hesitate to help her in her sacred work by connecting Rabbi Baruchel with young people you know who need a sacred space to call their home.
Mazel Tov to us all!
By Jeff Denaburg
Israel is divided as never before into opponents and supporters of Israel’s current government coalition, which includes ultra-nationalists and religious extremists. The government’s judicial overhaul plan is especially problematic. This division was reflected at the congress of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), held recently in Jerusalem.
The Reform movement was represented at the congress by Arzenu, the global Reform Zionist organization, of which ARZA Canada is a member. Three Holy Blossom members were delegates at the congress – Carol Sterling, Mark S. Anshan, and myself.
While the congress is intended to bring together Zionists from across the political spectrum to show support for Zionism and the state of Israel, the discussions on resolutions related to topics such as democracy and religious pluralism were heated and contentious.
HBT can be proud that our member Mark Anshan was recognized by the WZO in one of the large plenary sessions, where he was awarded a lifetime achievement award, Amit Kavod (Honorary Fellow of the WZO), for his decades of leadership in Zionist organizations in Canada and around the world.
While in Israel, the HBT delegates, with members of other liberal organizations, participated in demonstrations against the government’s anti-democratic policies. This included joining the contingent of Israel’s Reform movement (the IMPJ), along with about 70,000 other Israelis, for a mass protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening. It was the 16th consecutive “motzei Shabbat” that Israelis took to the streets in large numbers to protest judicial reform and other laws that serve the interests of the coalition’s extremist members.
Our group also participated in a demonstration in Jerusalem in support of the Supreme Court.
It was an honour to join liberal Jews from all over the world and our Israeli sisters and brothers to fight for democracy and equality in Israel, at the congress and in the streets.
1950 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON, M5P 3K9
Emergency Funeral Contact