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Our holidays and more...

10/21/2022 12:40:28 PM


by Julia Peress Rosenfeld

Over the past two years, during the heat of the pandemic our president, Charles Shemie, together with David Nathaniel, Ron Mashaal, as well as and the executive worked tirelessly to help ensure a bright future for our synagogue. They did not know when things would get back to normal, or what that new normal would be.  They did know one thing - when the time came to reopen, we would be ready with new ideas, innovative programming, more events and a bigger team. It’s with that in mind that we applied to be part of the Shinshin Program. Our application was accepted and this September, we welcomed our first ever Shinshin Ariel Levy to our synagogue, with an Israeli themed Shabbat dinner. Around the same time, Morah Maayan Avraham, an educator from United Talmud Torah, also joined our team. Morah Maayan is currently running our Junior Hebrew school for kids 3-5 years old. Under the leadership of Reverend Hazan Daniel Benlolo, she and Ariel established our Shabbat kids club. Every week, our kids’ club is filled with enthusiastic children aged 2-11. They sing songs, play games, practice their Hebrew, and have their very own mini Kabbalat Shabbat.
With our Shabbat program on track, we started to prepare for the high holidays. We were hopeful that after a two-year hiatus our congregants would be back, but we were not sure what to expect. Not only did they come back, they brought their families and friends with them!! We welcomed over 20 new families to our congregation over the summer.  On Rosh Hashanah, there were five simultaneous services happening in five different halls. As you walked through the hallways, you could hear the distinct hymns from each service, the sound of old friends catching up, and the footsteps of the young children running from service to service to hear the mighty shofar one more time. 
On the Saturday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we welcomed all of our congregants from our different minyans to join us for an inspirational Selichot service. Reverend Benlolo was accompanied on the bimah by Meyer Sasson and Jack Korin who represented their respective Maghen Avraham and Babylonian Iraqui Jews of Montreal communities with pride. We are grateful to Zouki Lawi and his family for sponsoring this beautiful evening. 
This past Yom Kippur there was not a seat to be had in the Mashaal sanctuary. The synagogue was packed with members of all ages. Together we prayed, sang, and repented. On erev Sukkot we hosted a dinner where we honoured our Eshet Hayil, Grace Peress Lawee, our Hatan Torah Marc Ezerzer, and our Hatan Beresheet, Jack Isaac Sachs. Over 180 of you joined us to pay tribute to three of our most dedicated members. Not to be outdone, our youth also had a Sukkoth party during Kol Hamoed. Captain Lolo, Ariel, Maayan, the children and their parents had a blast.   This past week we came together once again to celebrate Simchat Torah. The synagogue was once again full, the adults supplied the candy, and the children the energy. Thank you to the Kakon and Sequerra families for their generosity and their hospitality. Though it would be nearly impossible to agree on what was the most special part of the past month, I think we can all agree that seeing the synagogue, full of children was a welcome and inspiring sight.
Thank you Reverend Benelolo for your leadership, energy, passion, warmth and your spirit. Over the past month you moved, inspired, blessed, and captivated this congregation like only you can. To say that you outdid yourself would be an understatement. Thank you to the adult choir and to our Hazan Sheni, Benjamin Harrouch for helping make the service that much more special. I would also like to thank Francoise and the office for their dedication and Santos and his team for their hard work.  Without you none of this would have been possible. The Spanish and Portuguese is alive and thriving, the rouach is palpable and we're just getting started.
On a personal note: this holiday season was very special for my family and I. Our two youngest kids currently attend the Or Sheri daycare and our eldest graduated last summer. This synagogue is a second home to them. This year marked the first time we were able to attend the high holiday services as a family. Being able to see this synagogue, my synagogue, in all its glory, through my children's eyes, was something I will never forget.
Many of you approached Reverend Benlolo and I during the holidays with ideas and suggestions. The message was clear; we are happy to be back, we’re enjoying the services and programming and we want more!  It's with that in mind that I would like to introduce three events we have planned for the month of November. On November 12th we will be hosting a youth Shabbat where the children of the congregation will take over the service.  On November 17th we will be hosting a Family Challah bake. Lastly, we are planning an evening for young adults before the end of the calendar year. We will be sending out an email with details in the coming days. 
The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue is so special to so many of us. The leadership of the synagogue is committing to do everything in its power to ensure that the future generations feel the same way. We are counting on your support. Please attend services when you can, volunteer, come to our events, and bring your friends and family.  Your synagogue needs you. Let’s work together to make sure our beautiful traditions and communities continue to thrive for years to come. 
Wishing you and your loved ones a Shabbat Shalom.


Sat, December 2 2023 19 Kislev 5784