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Shabbat Lessons - By Melanie Kasner

I’ve been coming to Shabbat services at SZBE every Saturday morning for 5 months. Here are 3 things I’ve learned:

1. Coming to shul is like running. If you only run once in a while, you’re excited while getting dressed, but after running for a few minutes you remember why you don’t run more often. You’re hungry, you check how many kilometers you have left, and you're sore for a few days because you’re not used to it. However, if you run every week, you slowly find yourself building your schedule around your runs, and over time you look forward to them. You can no longer imagine a week without running. You even start to see the same people on your running route, and after smiling at each other for a few weeks, you start to run together.

2. Judaism is less about what we believe, and more about what we do. Our ritual practices, more than our beliefs, have kept us going for all of these years, especially in Conservative Judaism where we’re quite integrated into the secular world. What we do doesn’t always feel easy or convenient, but by pushing through the occasional inconvenience, and by making Jewish connection part of my weekly routine, I’ve found tremendous comfort in what I do. It’s the anchor of my week.

3. Shabbat is Judaism’s secret weapon. By spending half of my Saturday in shul and doing literally nothing else, I have the same level of peace as I have when I’m on a plane. No phone or internet means that I can’t deal with anything except for what is happening in front of me. For a moment in time, I’m isolated from the outside world, and it feels very freeing. This is Shabbat. It’s the perfect way to wind down from the week and to reset for what’s to come. As Ahad Ha’am said, “More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”

Ideas in this article were inspired by the thoughts of podcaster Rabbi David Bashevkin, and by the book The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel.

If you have never read The Sabbath, I highly recommend it no matter your level of observance. It’s a short, passionate, beautifully written book that is sure to inspire you.

Melanie Kasner

Preserving Traditions for Future Generations

“If you want to get something done, ask a busy man, he has time.”            

Ask Andrew Toeman!

Andrew Toeman is an extremely busy man, who finds time to lead others in cycling, singing and in giving back to the Shaare Zion Beth-El community, today and for future generations.  

You might meet Andrew at early morning minyan, saying prayers and sharing the good fellowship with others who come. You have heard him singing along with his five-string banjo, accompanying Cantor Stotland at our Oneg Shabbat services, in person or over a Zoom connection. He is an active participant in Shaare Zion Beth-El committees, and he is a fervent believer in pitching in to sustain the traditions of his faith for future generations.

Andrew is a retired dentist, a former lecturer in business administration, a husband, father, grandfather and a relatively recent member of Shaare Zion Beth-El. When he retired as a dentist, he discovered the Shaare Zion synagogue near his home to be more egalitarian, more lively, than the Orthodox synagogue where he and his wife had been members. He liked the people and the clergy, and when he was asked to make a minyan, he plunged in and found the shared fellowship to be an important part of his day.

Active living and giving back to the community are the cornerstones of Andrew’s life. He has led groups in fundraising expeditions that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and participated for many years in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, cycling from Montreal to Quebec City to raise funds for cancer research. His wife Riva made him join the YMYWHA Wolf Pack in 1978 and together they have run the New York and Montréal Marathons.

Even before he arrives early on foot at Shaare Zion Beth-El for the minyan, Andrew has already limbered up and challenged his brain with trivia questions in the Learned League. Afterward, three times a week he heads off on his carbon-fibre bicycle to lead a cycling group on a 60-kilometer trip: one day from Rigaud to Hawkesbury, another day from Pointe Claire around Ile Perot. Fridays he leads a music club which is his chance to play his favorite Pete Seeger songs on the banjo. In winter, he leads snowshoe trips and walking tours.

Andrew has applied his infectious enthusiasm to the LIFE & LEGACY™ program because, as he says, “it is not a difficult thing to do. I choose to make a pledge to leave something, I don’t have to define exactly how much at this stage, but I absolutely know that I am choosing to make a gift to ensure that future generations will benefit from our traditions.”

“What will I leave behind when I am gone? Some flowers and a puff of smoke? Instead, I want to leave something that preserves the traditions for future generations and is a force for good in the community.”

“The advantage of this program”, says Andrew, “is its simplicity. Nobody will dictate how much you should give or shame you if you don’t give enough. Nobody will ding your credit card every month. Younger people don’t always see the advantage to institutions today, but if you are lucky enough to live to a certain stage, you know the importance of traditions, you want to give back.”

Andrew says his secret to getting so much done is that he is impatient. When he sees a goal, he makes a plan to get there. That means carefully mapping out the cycling route on country roads, ensuring every cyclist has flashing lights for safety front and back. Sometimes, he says, cyclists in his group don’t get the fact that the route has been meticulously planned. They have their own ideas; they want to turn off here or stop for lunch there. I have to lay down the rules. No. Get back in line and let’s keep going.”

The same applies to LIFE & LEGACY™. Andrew leads in making a pledge to give back, to sustain the Shaare Zion Beth-El Congregation that has welcomed him and his wife, Riva, to make sure it is there for generations to come.

Paying it Forward- The Importance of Daily Minyan

More than five years ago my wife passed away. I was not yet a member, and my son and I tried a few Shul’s that would fulfill our Kaddish needs. I should mention that I was a member at Beth Tikvah, but moved to CSL when my wife was ill.

We found Shaare Zion. The Minyan, Rabbi Moses, Adam and Asher were incredibly welcoming.

A year later my father passed away so my Kaddish continued for about two years. Here is what I learned.

Most of the daily Minyan is made up of the same people. And almost without exception, we got the ten people needed. There are many days where services are delayed waiting for the Ten. We need you!
I was so appreciative to those who continued to come, I committed to attend two morning a week to kind of “pay it forward” following my Kaddish for my dad.
Currently, on the mornings I attend, there are two current Presidents, often past Presidents,two or three others who attend and support the Minyan morning and night. We struggle to get to Ten even when I add Asher and Adam.
Saying Kaddish for a lost one is dear to many, and when we are short they are stripped of the commitment they have made.
With Covid, the shul started Zoom sessions and there are some who attend remotely,  but they do not and cannot count towards the Minyan. When we are ten in the sanctuary they can then say their Kaddish, but if not, they too lose out on the opportunity.
Now the good stuff: I have made what I consider to be friends and I know I can count on them for almost anything. It’s amazing to experience. Of course, our clergy, Asher and Adam are incredible supporters in their own right. I don’t attend evening services but, I’m told that Rabbi Moses is there also. We have an amazing shul, and I’m proud to be a member.
So why did I prepare this letter? Great question.
If you can find it in your hearts to commit to just one morning a week ( weekday) or one evening a week, I promise you will not be sorry. Services take about 30 to 40 minutes, and there’s a breakfast too. We talk about all kinds of stuff, hence the special people I’ve been with.
I implore you to think about supporting our Shul, and to those who say Kaddish. Our Shul is not just there for the High Holidays.
Thank you
Mark Rabinovitch

If you were inspired by Mark's story, please consider joining us at services to help ensure we have a Minyan every day this week. 
Please pre-register HERE.

Life and Legacy- Wendy's Story

Shaare Zion Congregation has been a part of me and I have been a part of it for over sixty years. It is a place I warmly call “Home”.

 As I walk up the building’s steps and enter the sanctuary, I am flooded with memories that warm my soul.

I am taken back to 1960 before Shaare Zion adopted mixed seating. I am a toddler in diapers, dressed in my prettiest party dress, seated between my mother and grandmother in the 2nd row of the Women’s section. My father winks at me from his aisle seat in Row B in the Men’s section. He is seated with my grandfather, a founding member of the shul, and my brother. Rabbi Cohen and Cantor Gisser are larger than life and I sit timidly in awe of the service.

A few years later,  I am a student at Shaare Zion Academy and we are brought to the sanctuary to celebrate Sukkhot,  Simchat Torah,  and  for various school assemblies. Accompanied by my teachers and classmates, I feel more at ease in the sanctuary. It is less ominous and more welcoming.

Several years pass and Shaare Zion has instituted mixed seating. We are now seated as a family unit, 3 generations, in Row B center aisle. The services, prayers and choir have become very familiar, as are the faces of fellow congregants who we greet year after year. It feels so right that when I marry my husband, Stephen and start a family of our own , we continue the tradition.

We raise 3 sons, and celebrate their Bar Mitzvahs under the guidance of our new Rabbi, Rabbi Moses. His service is so warm that this new Rabbi makes us feel as if he’s known us  forever.

The years pass so swiftly and the little girl in diapers is now a grandmother. The Davis/Rapps clan represent 4 generations and we crowd into our row with my parents, sons, daughters-in-laws and 4 grandchildren!

The wonderful history I have shared with the shul, the deep connection and the sense of community I feel at Shaare Zion propelled me to become more involved. I  have served on search committees for a Rabbi and Cantor, I joined the Board and am currently a member of the Executive.

It is truly fulfilling to be an integral part of the very community that has wrapped its arms around me in the happiest and saddest moments of my life.

When I first learned of the Life and Legacy program, it resonated with me instantly. It offers me the perfect opportunity to ensure Shaare Zion’s future and vibrancy after I am gone. I am proud to be one piece of the puzzle that will ultimately protect the future of Shaare Zion.

May four generations continue to crowd the rows of the sanctuary and may Shaare Zion continue to wrap its arms around all those who need a spiritual hug.

Mon, 17 June 2024 11 Sivan 5784