By Rabbi Yael Splansky.
There are times in life when we need to simplify and scale back the scope of our efforts. When a baby is born, for example, our world shrinks and nearly all our concentration and focus is on that little one. Also during trying times – when a loved one is sick or in trouble, when a business is failing – from morning to night and even in our dreams our concern and concentration are for that one person, that one matter.
What is true in family life is often true in communal life as well. In recent memory, Holy Blossom leadership and volunteers had to concentrate our efforts on stabilizing the congregation. We needed to get our own house in order. Literally, we had to rehabilitate the Renewal Project so that we could set our physical house upright. We also had to set our financial house in order and tend to the emotional health of the congregation. During that period, by design, we had to scale back our wider efforts. It was a time to look inward.
A sign of our strength is that we are now able to face outward once again. We are stepping out on to a wider plane. As Toronto’s first synagogue, Holy Blossom Temple has always felt responsible for matters beyond our own community. We are called upon to lead and we are pursuing paths of greater impact.
A few examples – Rabbi Helfman has accepted the invitation to serve on the board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). He represents Holy Blossom on the Downtown Jewish Council and is getting out of the box, bringing our good name to places where young Jews gather by teaching at the Bloor JCC on Shavuot and leading a Shabbat morning summer service at The Barns. Rabbi Satz was recently invited to speak at Faith in the City’s symposium for faith leaders and city officials. He brought our teens to Washington D.C. to learn about the issues of the day and how to lobby. With VeAhavta, Rabbis Satz and Helfman brought three hundred people to Holy Blossom for a third seder — one third of the participants were guests who are homeless or house-poor. On June 23, with the Intercultural Dialogue Institute Holy Blossom will host a Ramadan dinner and on June 28, with Kulanu we’ll bring a Jewish voice of inclusion to the Pride parade.
Just yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with three colleagues to plan for the Shabbat evening service at the upcoming Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial Convention. Normally, I’d travel to New York for such a meeting, but because I am in treatment, they flew from three cities to Toronto. What a kind gesture of friendship. This year it was my pleasure to serve on the Nominating Committee for the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and to receive the invitation to the Rabbinic Council for the President of Hebrew Union College (HUC-JIR). Just this week I was asked to help the local UJA in its strategic planning and Temple President Joan Garson and I are preparing to lead a very special Social Justice trip to Israel this coming spring.
There is room to grow again. There is energy to spend on broader matters. We now have the bandwidth to hear more voices and a wider lens to see the people who are on the margins and the ideas on the horizon. It feels good to be able to zoom out again. This is a sign of our congregational strength and another milestone in the passage of time.
If you’d like to know more about the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial click here. If you’d like to receive more information about our congregational trip to Israel, click here.
By Rabbi Yael Splansky.