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31/01/2023 09:16:41 AM

Jan31

Last Dvar

10/06/2024 11:01:33 AM

Jun10

Omri - 

So this is our moment to say goodbye, as of right now we have been in Toronto for 294 days, which is close to 81 percent of the year, and around 42 Saturdays of being here. 

In the beginning, I remember I was shocked the first time I came here, by how big this Shul is compared to the Shul I used to go to back in Israel, the fact that I had to come every morning when I used to go to Shul every other week on Friday nights.

I was scared to see so many people on the high holidays. I was scared but I did it anyway, I was worried to come every Saturday Morning but it became a nice habit. I was nervous to speak at the Bima but it has taught me that I have something to share, I was scared to see the huge crowd at the high holidays but now I understand it means more people to talk to and engage with. 

But despite all the fears and worries, nothing had prepared me for this kind of a year. 

A year in which a war started in my homeland while I’m 10,000 kilometers away, and frankly I don't think anything could have ever prepared me for that and that is something we can all be glad for. 

But, the things that came after October 7th are the things that I am especially glad for, and I am glad I had the opportunity to experience it as a ShinShin. 

The warm warm hug that I've received from this community, from this Shul can't be compared to anything else, and this reminded me of something i wrote in one of the training sessions we had with JAFI before coming here. They asked us to write why we wanted to come: between a few sentences, I wrote “פן נשכח את קשרי העולם”-  May we not forget the connection of the world. 

We should not forget how everyone and everything in our world is connected, we should not forget we are the same family with the same connection. and I want to see this connection between Israel and the rest of the world, between our people and different nations - and I couldn't ask for another year to see that other than this year. 

There is a saying in Hebrew “שותפות גורל” - shared destiny. And we - Israel and the Jewish communities outside of Israel will always be connected no matter what.

The attack of October 7th was a wake up call for us to see it. We Are connected, the rise of unfortunate Anti-Semites and Jew hatred acts is not happening because of pure Israel-hate as some of them declared but rather its the new face of antisemitism. 

And even in that we are connected, Israel has the obligation to fight for the protection for every Jew all over the world as it is one of the pillar of the reasons why we need a sovereign Jewish state and always to be ready to accept every Jew for Aliyah. 

Just like the amazing community of Toronto has helped Israel in times of need, and donated so much whether it is your time or you came to volunteer in Israel, or donated money, goods, or essential clothing. 

So as this part of my year as a ShinShin comes to an end, I am glad to have no regrets and to have appreciated my time here. 

As I will be drafting to the army soon, I know I can and will look back on this year and be full of strength. Drafting is scary for me but also an obligation and a privilege. And just like I came with worries to this Shul and they all faded away, I know it will happen next time as well (and that's a lesson I've learned here).

And lastly i just wanted to say thank you Beth Emeth for having us. 

"תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל-הָעָם אַנְשֵׁי-חַיִל יִרְאֵי השם, אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת--שֹׂנְאֵי בָצַע;" 

“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear G-d, men of truth, hating unjust gain;” 

שמות י"ח פסוק כ"א

Sharon -

I have no words.

No amount of ‘thank you’s will be enough. No amount of words will explain how weird it is to stand here or the last time.

It is common for Shinshinim to sum up their journey in their last Dvar. A lot of my friends today are standing on the Bima in their synagogues, and explaining all they have learned, and how they have changed. 

I don’t know how to do that.

I have no idea if when coming back home my friends will barely recognize me, or if it will all feel exactly the same. What I do know is how much I learned about myself, my views and the world around me.

We came here almost 10 months ago, in what feels like a completely different world. 

A year ago, in the Jewish agency’s seminar I remember being terrified. In coming here, we were told one of our goals is bringing our Jewish story and our Israeli story to you guys. To me, it seemed like everyone around me understood what they meant by that. I didn’t. That night, I remember crying to my dad on the phone, that I don’t deserve to do this gap year because I have no story. I remember he said this was rubbish. He told me none of my friends have an outstanding story. He said that they didn’t fight in 48, and they didn’t free Jerusalem in 67. He told me that their story is exactly the same is mine. They were born, or they live in Israel - and they are Jews. That is their story. Our story.

Now I understand what he meant by that. My Israeli story is that I am an Israeli, and my Jewish story is that I am a Jew - unapologetically so. But my story is just the person that I am. The good, and the bad. And my story is changing every day.

So when I go back home, please know all of you are writers in my story. My Israeli one, my Jewish one and just - the regular one. Whether it was a footnote, or an entire chapter - you all truly did make an impact on me. And to think I was supposed to make and impact on you.

Thank you for letting me share my story, or just my thoughts, every week. And more than that - thank you for sharing yours with me. At first, and maybe still, it felt a bit arrogant to me that we are expected to assume that everyone is supposed to be interested in what we have to say for five minutes. And if you weren’t, thank you for pretending. We didn’t notice. But now I know to tell you that it is all about listening to what we have to share. We were never preaching, or lecturing. The reason we were here was not only to talk, and share our story, but to weave our stories together. Nothing I shared was original, and that is what I love about it. Every chapter I shared was something you experienced as well. Every thought I’ve had, you had before. My favorite part of every Dvar, was not being up here - but the conversations after over pasta salad and crackers. Thank you.

Please know that we are taking all of you with us back home. We didn’t only come here to share Israel with you. We are going back home and bringing Canada with us. Israel deserves to know what we learned about the incredible Jewish community of Toronto.

I have two last requests of you, if that is okay.

  1. We have cards outside with our WhatsApp, instagram and email. Please take them and write to us. We really want to hear from you. Tell us about your day, share thoughts and ideas with us, and of course - tell us when you are in Israel.
  2. Don’t forget about us, and don’t like the new Shinshinim more than you like us. Just kidding. Kind of. But we do want to tell you they are amazing, and you are going to love them. Not more than you love us, but that’s okay.

 

I’ll finish with a quote I love.

”How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”.

How lucky we are to have experienced this year with you, Beth Emeth.

Thank you.

Shabbat Shalom.

29/05/2024 03:44:06 PM

May29

News from Israel - 11.5.24

10/05/2024 09:18:51 AM

May10

Shabbat Shalom, 

This past week we observed the Memorial day for holocaust, and heroism.  And as we look ahead to the upcoming week to honor our fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks on Memorial Day. And right after that the celebration for our Independence Day. 

These two weeks of the switch between Nissan and Eyar has always been hard. 

The switch between the memorial day to Independence Day is a switch that is so fast that sometimes you can’t even grasp it, can’t even count it or measure it, as the sunset-sets a whole new happiness comes and overcast the sadness and grief of the past day.. 

This year it’s even harder, as this whole past year has been painted with the color of sadness. 

As we still have our own brothers and sisters held in captivity, as so many of our people fell while protecting our country. 

How can we celebrate our independence with happiness? And indeed, some voices from Israeli society have risen, not to do the celebration this year.

Usually we do celebrations of shows, concerts, music, family and pure happiness. Personally, I think that canceling the celebrations is not the right thing to do. Of course adjustments have to be made. 

There will be no fireworks this year, the hostages will be mentioned in every part and our prayers are still with them, everything will be modified and with all of that, WE have to celebrate. Not celebrating now is just like giving a prize to our enemies.

This celebration it’s not only our generation's celebration, not only our time. We owe all of those celebrations to all of the pioneers who established everything we have now, all the people who have dreamed for DECADES to have the ability to even have a country, to our soldiers who have fallen throughout this war and all of Israel’s many wars, for every person who fell during the vicious act of terror against us, for every person who fell in the effort of protecting this amazing piece of land we have.

And what better way of remembering and cherishing those people than to have a full day of being in grief and soreness and as the sun-set to start celebrating their magnificent results of us having are very own country. 

We have to celebrate this year not in spite of what we went and been through, but rather because of what we went through and who we owe this for. 

This is our very own Jewish essence celebration mixed with sadness. Acknowledging the past while embracing the present, looking towards the future with a prayer of hope, gratitude, and peace. 

02/05/2024 10:44:23 AM

May2

News From Israel 4.5.24

02/05/2024 10:21:38 AM

May2

Good morning and Shabbat Shalom,

It’s good to be back. We had an amazing time with our families but we missed you all so much. 

Tomorrow evening marks the start of a very important day for me - Holocaust remembrance day. Every year on the 27th of Nisan, we all collectively decide to remember, mourn and honor the six million jews murdered by the Nazis and their helpers. 

Choosing the date of this remembrance day was not trivial. In the end - it was chosen to symbolize the date of the Rebellion of the Warsaw Ghetto. While it doesn’t mark the exact date of the rebellion - as it occurred on passover eve and that was deemed inappropriate, it still holds deep meaning. 

In Israel, post WW2, the view of the holocaust and its survivors was very different then it is today. Then, the jews of Europe were viewed as weak. As if they were accepting their fates like lambs to the slaughter. Obviously, today, we all know that isn’t true. We all know of the many heroic stories, as well as we know that no one has the right to judge the people undergoing such unimaginable horrors. But back then, the Holocaust did not fit in the narrative of the “new jew”, the “fighting jew” Israelis needed so desperately to survive. 

This general atmosphere caused many holocaust survivors to not open up. They were pushed aside, and their stories were not listened to. This is one of the reasons that today listening, documenting and remembering stories is so incredibly important.

One of these survivors is my grandfather - Arie Durst. Or in his Born name - Leopold Arie Durst.

My grandfather was born in Lvov, Poland (today’s Lviv, Ukraine). When he was six, on September 1st 1939, Germany broke the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty, and took over Lvov, as well as other parts of Poland. The Russians retreated from Poland, taking Arie’s dad with them - as he was a doctor and was needed in the Red Army. Later on my great grandfather - Friedrich, joined the Anders Army, fighting against the Germans.

Under German ruling, My grandfather, his brother, his mother and his grandparents were joined by their family. 

My grandfather's uncle had an ‘essential worker’ permit from the Germans, as he worked with trains. 

Every Time there were rumors of an ‘Action’ - a search for Jews, my grandfather and his mom would hide in the basement of his former nanny - while his brother joined his uncle and children, posing as one of them and protected under the permit. This would take between hours and weeks.

One time, after an action, my grandfather was sent by his mother to go check in on his little brother, Marian. 

He went back to their house, finding only his uncle there in a psychotic state. He understood from his uncle that they took his entire family, and left only the uncle, because only he was essential. 

My grandfather and his mom went on to hide in Warsaw in an apartment under a false identity. I will not go in to detail, but the years they hid are incredibly interesting. After the war, they reconnected with my great grandfather through the Jewish agency, and were able meet with him in Israel, as he was already living there.

After six years of hell, my grandfather started school, sixth grade, without speaking the language or spending a day in school before.

Later on, my grandfather became a doctor, served in the army and even got an award for performing a life saving surgery with a pocket knife and a rubber tube. 

He later on became chief of surgery in two hospitals in Jerusalem - and whenever I introduce myself in Israel, I always get asked if I am related to professor Durst.

I can’t share with you his entire fascinating life story, but I am happy I had the chance to share a glimpse.

If anyone is interested in hearing more, my grandfather wrote a book and it was translated to English. In my personal unbiased opinion it truly is a fascinating book, and It’s a short read.

To spare you the trouble I checked, and ‘A Childhood in the Shadow of the Holocaust’ by Arie Durst is sold on amazon for 4 dollars on kindle and 8 dollars paperback link to purchase

Thank you for letting me share my grandfather’s story with you, and please - if you can - take the time to listen to a story, read a book or attend a ceremony. Always, and this week especially.

Shabbat Shalom.

News From Israel 20.4.24

22/04/2024 10:26:16 AM

Apr22

Omri -

Shabbat Shalom to everyone, but especially to my two special guests - my parents.

As I’m sure we all know and can all feel, Pesach is coming really soon. As a kid, I remember that one of the songs that represents Pesach for me is the song “אביב הגיע פסח בא”, “Spring is here, Pesach is coming”. But, it’s not only an Israeli kid’s song; it’s a song that also represents the deep and strong connection and roots between our Jewish holidays and traditions to Israeli nature and the Hebrew calendar.

As Nisan began, the Hebrew month we are in right now, we can almost immediately see nature in Israel starting to become green. Most of the trees are waking up from their winter sleep, and the fields of wheat, that I’m so familiar with in my town view, are just starting to ripen in order to be ready to harvest in 49 days just in time for Shavuot. And those perfect conditions come to a peak around the middle of the month of Nisan, which also gives the best conditions for the wild animals to give birth, like the cub of the Negev ibex and the Israelite deer. As the temperature has risen a bit and weeds are soft enough for the newborns to eat, they can thrive in those environmental conditions.

A similar thing happens to us, not to the Israeli wild animals but rather to the Israeli people. As Nisan comes, we have this deep-seated urge to prepare for Pesach; we start cleaning and preparing. Just like Israeli nature is preparing the best conditions for the rebirth of the wild animals, we are preparing for the rebirth or the birthday of our people - Pesach.

And this year’s rebirth of Pesach and my birthday itself, I had the chance to celebrate with my own biological parents, Chen and Gabby, although I love my host parents Uri and Kelly. And I also would love to seize this opportunity at the peak and say how grateful and thankful I am for them to come all the way to see me and experience it with me.

 

Sharon -

Shabbat Shalom everyone, and also to Chen and Gabby. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to introduce three special guests of my own. First of all, some of you already met him - My dad, Ronen Durst. Second of all, my amazing mom, Tami Durst. And last, My brother, which you all heard about - Elad Durst.

I am so happy to be able to connect these three people with you guys - and to have them meet the amazing community they have heard so much about. 

I truly am a believer in the saying that the people that surround you define who you are. I am so lucky to say that I am surrounded by some of the most amazing people one can be surrounded by. I have already spoken about each one of my family members in detail here, but I’d like to take a moment here, in front of them, to tell you all how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to call them my  family, and how much I love them. Thank you for coming today.

The people that surround me also consist of my friends. 

Today, April 20th, happens to be a very special day for me. Today, is the birthday of my best friend - Avital. Avital is turning 19 today, but I have known her since we were 12. We met in middle school, and have been absolutely inseparable since. The joke in the past years has always been that we don’t exist without one another. Every time someone saw only one of us, he’d ask where the other one is. A lot of you know I was an EMT back home. I was also a counselor and head of youth volunteers in my local station. This role would have been impossible to do alone, and I was so happy that I got to experience it with Avital. 

The most difficult part of living abroad, even if just for a year, is being far away from the people I love. Obviously, my parents and my brother, that I am overjoyed to have here. My entire family, my friends, and of course, Avital included. 

Going from seeing someone for hours everyday, to not seeing them for months is a difficult change, that I am still adjusting to. But, this change is a crucial part of growing up. 

Even if I wasn’t here in Toronto, I still would not have seen my friends daily. 

Soldiers in Israel, only see their friends from home on weekends. Canadian teenagers only see their friends and family when they come back from university. Around the globe, learning to change dynamics of friendship is a crucial part of growing up.

One of the main reasons I decided to do a gap year, was to grow up. I wanted to experience independence, to grow as a person and to give as much from myself as I could. I hope I am doing a good job with the latter, but one thing I can say for sue is that Mom, I learned how to do my own laundry.

How lucky am I, to have an environment that allows me to grow as a person oceans away, and still be supportive and loving as id they were here.

It is true what they say. Distance dies make the heart grow fonder, and I am very fond of all of my friends and family.

Thank you all, for being my canadian friends and family. While there is not much distance, I am also very fond of you.

Shabbat Shalom, and Happy Passover.

News from Israel 5.4.24

05/04/2024 10:36:40 AM

Apr5

Shabbat Shalom everyone,

This past weekend, while you were all busy celebrating Easter like good Jews, I visited Boston with my friend Raz. Some of you might know, that just like Rabbi Morrison, I am a red sox fan.

I root for them not only because I like the color red, or because I care deeply about baseball - but because I grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, right next to Boston. While I was really young, I do have some core memories from Boston, from the years living there and visiting in the summers of the years following. 

I was very excited for this trip, and was wondering what kind of feelings it might bring up.

During the trip, I noticed that lately, I’ve been thinking about my childhood a lot. Perhaps it’s because of the distance from home and how much I miss my parents, or maybe it’s because we are surrounded by children during this year. A lot of thoughts have come up comparing childhood in Israel with the children we get to see here in Toronto. 

One big difference is obviously a cultural one. A lot of us like to joke about the Israeli ‘Hutzpa’, and while it is funny, it’s not wrong. Manners are different between the countries. A story my mom loves to tell is how when coming from Boston I was the most polite and well behaved kid. She loves to tell that it took me exactly five days in Israeli kindergarten for me to turn from a “please” and “thank you” kid, to telling her that I’m not her servant when she asked for help with something.

While I promise that is not the way I act today, it does show a big difference in the culture. 

Another difference, is the sensitivity to different topics. Coming here, one of the first things we were told is the difference in what is considered ‘politically correct’.  A lot of Shishinim that work in schools struggled with the fact some topics or words are not allowed to be said in their school for certain age groups, that wouldn’t even be thought about twice in Israel. With holocaust remembrance day coming close, we struggle with understanding what is allowed to be discussed and said. In Israel, the holocaust is something talked about way before first grade. I don’t remember a reality where I don’t know about the holocaust. Since the war, it is something we experience much more often. Some places allow to speak about it more freely, while some places won’t allow the use of the word ‘Hamas’. The children in Israel, obviously, don’t have that privilege. Whether their parents shelter them more or less, they can’t escape the current situation. 

There is an Instagram page I’ve always loved, that focuses on uploading funny, entertaining or heartfelt quotes from young children, sent in by their parents or family members. Since October , the happy and funny quotes have been infused by quotes trying to grasp the reality of the war.

Let me share some with you:

-Ofir, 5, when asked what he wants to do for his birthday: “I want to go to a city with no sirens.”

-Orian, 5: “Mommy, how is it that there is room in the heavens for so many people?”

-Lia, 7, from Kibbutz Beeri: “Mommy, I don’t want to die. I am only 7 years old. I’m too little to die”

While these quotes are heartbreaking and obviously reflect the reality of war - they also show the difference in exposure to different topics. When I was 12, we moved to Palo Alto, California, for a few months. I remember talking to some of my friends there, and casually mentioning being at the beach and running to the rocks to take shelter when there is a siren. I remember how trivial I thought it was, and how shocked everyone was at the fact we had actual rockets flying overhead.

We’ve noticed how sheltered the Canadian children are compared to the Israeli kids. At first it was weird for us. But on second thought we realized that this is not a negative thing by definition, but the result of a different reality.

We hope the Israeli parents can soon choose a sheltered reality for their kids.

Shabbat Shalom

News From Israel 23.3.24

22/03/2024 12:47:08 PM

Mar22

Shabbat Shalom everyone, and almost Purim Sameach. 

Purim is a very special holiday. Not only is it my brother’s favorite holiday, but the atmosphere around the holiday is incredibly unique.

As a kid in Israel, excitement around Purim is incredibly high. The process of picking or making a costume, the special days in school leading up to the holiday where you can wear pajamas, and the trip to the grocery store to make a Mishloach Manot all contribute to the festive environment of Purim. 

I think one of the reasons why Purim is so wildly loved, is its ability to provide a diversion from reality. Purim, by definition, is a day where you are “forced” to be happy. One of the biggest rules of the holiday is happiness and celebration, even when it is the last thing we feel like doing. 

This year, more than ever, Purim is important. Our challenge this year is finding the balance between the Mitzvah of celebration, and the pain of events taking place in Israel.

A week ago, I had a conversation with one of my friends here in the program. We talked about something that is very common in Israel nowadays. I’m sure all of you have heard about the Nova festival. Many of the hostages and victims of October 7th were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to dance, celebrate and enjoy life. In order to commemorate the fallen, nowadays in Israel it is common to host music festivals, parties and dances. 

At first, my friends and I weren’t sure how to feel. On one hand, it feels weird to celebrate in these times. Especially celebrating the very thing we are mourning. On the other hand, we said, no one knows the fallen more than their friends and family who decided to host the very event. 

Also, it is very common in Israel to choose celebration over deep mourning. Israelis are professionals at living alongside the hurt. 

A different friend also reminded me, this is true in every field. In history class, we focus much more on the heroic “Halutzim” narrative than on the hardships and sorrows. When holocaust survivors arrived in Israel, they were ashamed to admit what happened to them. The “Tzabbar”  Israelis viewed them as weak, and it didn’t fit their narrative of the “new”, strong Jew. Of course, this is an extreme and is not the current view of the holocaust and holocaust survivors, but it is an example of Israeli mentality.

This is still true today. While the country is in deep mourning, and will be for a long time, we refuse to lay down. We refuse to stop celebrating life, and  the people we love, or loved.

I believe this is true for Purim as well. We must not forget, and we will keep each and every one of the fallen and captive in our hearts, but that is the very reason we must celebrate. We should celebrate them, and celebrate for them.

Shabbat Shalom, and happy Purim.

 News From Israel 2.3.24

01/03/2024 12:34:06 PM

Mar1

Shabbat Shalom, 

I want to thank you all for your warm wishes, I feel much better now and I’m happy to be back.

As many of you know, Omri and I also work at the Reena foundation - a non-profit organization for people with developmental disabilities. The work in Reena has been absolutely incredible, and we are nothing short of lucky to be able to have the opportunity and the honor to be the first Shinshinim at Reena. 

But I’m not only here today to talk about the incredible work Reena does, but as usual, we like to talk about ourselves.

My first time meeting someone with developmental disabilities was right when I was born. My older brother, Elad, is autistic.

Growing up, I didn’t really know what autistic means, or that that is the diagnosis my brother had. In kindergarten, a girl came up to me a day after she saw my family and I at the pool, and felt the need to tell me that my brother is autistic, and walk away. The same day, I asked my mom what that meant. She told me that being autistic means you sometimes need a bit more help with communicating. I shrugged, and that was the end of it.

To this day, I see my brother, and people with disabilities in the same light I did when I was 5. Everyone needs more help on one thing or another - and our role as friends and family is to help them overcome the difficulty.they might be facing in a certain situation.

I learned that not everyone saw it in the same way I did. Not due to malicious reasons, but out of lack of knowledge and experience.

Some of my friends, at first, had some questions.        

Whether it was protecting him, being jealous of him or getting to skip lines in the airport because his patience is thin, my experience with my older brother, to some of my friends, seemed weird at the time. It was so different from what they knew, and all I’ve ever known. But my friend’s questions would usually go away when I would joke about how my brother and I get along without beating each other up.

Although one question that somehow still got asked sometimes, is if I had an option to “cure” my brother, or grow up with a different one, would I. My answer was, still is, and forever will be no. While having a brother with autism has its own set of challenges, each sibling does, as I’m sure a lot of you can understand. But not only do I believe it did not have bigger challenges than some of my other friends, but I believe it was a blessing like no other.

I would like to tell you a little bit about Elad. My brother is one of the best people I’ve ever met. He is funny, and has jokes that can make anyone smile. He is sweet and caring, and will always ask what is going on. He is punctual, organized and has an amazing memory. No family vacation would be on track without him, people would forget birthdays, and we would forget to plan who to invite to every single Kiddush.

Every single person that has known my brother, has fallen in love with him. It’s almost impossible not to.

After finishing high school, he did a volunteer year in the Shearei Tzedek hospital’s kitchen, that is meant to replace army service - Sherut Leumi. But after finishing, he decided he still wants to join the army - just like everyone else. He was able to volunteer to the army, working in the kitchen of his base, and he has never been happier with his newfound responsibility and independence, and we couldn't be prouder.

When I was in Israel, I got the opportunity to visit my brother in his base. Every single person who heard I was Elad’s sister, came over to tell me how incredible he is, how much they love him and how if they could they would clone him and fill up the kitchen with Elad.

Growing up, my brother has been one of the main things shaping my personality - and I am so much better for it. It doesn’t matter that he needs a bit more help communicating, because his personality and abilities make everyone around him happier and better, and we are all lucky to have him.

We are all lucky to have people in our lives and in our world that have diverse abilities. We all have diverse abilities ourselves, and our differences our what make the world work. If everyone were exactly the same - we would have only one profession, one opinion, and we would live in a boring, homogenous world. Our differences push us forward as a society, and improve us as individuals.

So today I'm choosing to show gratitude for the diverse world we live in, and for the honor to be called Elad Durst’s sister.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

News From Israel 27.1.24

29/01/2024 09:14:20 AM

Jan29

Shabbat Shalom,

Last week I told you about my late grandfather, Alexander Steinberg. Today, I would like to tell you about another important person to me; Margalit Pikarsky. 

Margalit was my grandmother’s older sister. For some, that might seem pretty distant. But not for my family, and certainly not for Margalit. She was a big part of my life, and of all my family’s lives.

Growing up, for me, Margalit was the symbol of beauty and elegance. 

I remember one time, when my best friend and I went to Haifa, Margalit’s city, and we had lunch with her. Margalit was over 75 at the time, and right when we left my best friend turned to me and said: “she might be the most beautiful woman I’ve seen”. 

Being compared to her was the biggest compliment for me growing up. Not only was she beautiful on the outside, she was also beautiful on the inside. The almost weekly phone call with her would brighten my day. She always knew what questions to ask.

I believe the best way to compose one’s character is with the memories of the people around him. Let me share with you a few memories my family has of Margalit that I believe show what kind of person she was.

Miri, Margalit’s daughter told me about Margalit as a mother. Margalit raised three children in Be’er Sheva - in the south of Israel.

The neighborhood they lived in bordered a neighborhood that wasn’t as well off. The two neighborhoods went to the same school. Margalit was a big advocate for education, and it was important to her that everyone had a chance to be educated. The library was far away from their neighborhood, so Margalit opened her house and her own collection of books to the children of both neighborhoods. Her generosity followed her throughout her entire life. 

One thing that every single person I talked to in my family mentioned- was how she always put her family, and the people she cared about, before herself. 

Alon, one of Margalit sons, told me that she was a real trendsetter. Much before tiktok and instagram, she fed her kids apple cider vinegar and honey, or every health “trend” she would come up with at the time.

The importance of education to her came up again when Alon told me that to this day, he remembers the songs and dances she made up for him when he didn’t want to study for a grammar test. And I fact checked - he sang them for me.

She also used to message my cousin, Maya Shai, a good luck test before each test. Maya tells me that Margalit remembered her test dates better than she did.

It always feels weird to talk this way about Margalit, because she was always the one who made all the speeches. She was an incredible writer, and always used to bring the most beautiful and precise quotes, usually from Jewish history. I wish you all could’ve heard her speak.

I’d like to repeat what I said last week. 

The reason I told you this today, is because or the George Eliot quote - “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”. I promise to never forget, but now the memory of Margalit lives on through each of you - even miles away from her country. Thank you for helping me do that. And let this be a reminder to you to hug your family a little bit tighter today. Family is everything, and you should do it while you can. 

Shabbat Shalom.

News from Israel 18/11/23

14/12/2023 01:00:25 PM

Dec14

Sharon -

If you look in the crowd today, you might be able to spot someone very special to me. And no, today I am not referring to Omri or Rabbi Morrison. 

I’ll give you a clue - some people say our faces are very similar. Joining us today, is my dad. Aba. I’m very lucky he was able to arrive to Toronto - and give me a little taste of home.

Let me tell you a little bit about my dad. He grew up in Jerusalem, and went to the Leyada highschool - just like I did. He studied medicine, and became an army doctor. He served in Lebanon, and when treating people under fire he earned an award from the army chief of staff. In his eyes - that means he is brave, although he still won’t go skydiving with me.

He is a cardiologist in the Hadassah hospital, and I can confidently say that I owe my deep interest in biology, research and the Medical field to him. Not only do we share academic interests, we also both love tennis, and the Red Sox.

Growing up, I was always told how much I’m similar to him. I’ve been told I look like him, and that we share the same sarcastic sense of humor.

In the past weeks, I’m sure we all felt the deep importance of family. Not only our blood family, but also our chosen family, and our people.

In these times, the main advice we all keep hearing is that we should not be alone, and we are not alone. I’m lucky to have some of my blood family here this week, but I am also lucky to say I have the Beth Emeth family, and the Jewish community.

There is a saying - Kol Israel Achim. All of Israel are brothers. Just like all families do, we sometimes fight, or disagree. But in times like these we feel the true weight of that phrase. Because not only are some of our blood families and chosen families in Israel right now - we all have family in Israel. Our nation.

As a community, we feel the pain of our people, mourn the fallen and pray for the captive.

Like family, we have our differences, but we also have our similarities. The same way my father and I are alike, we are alike. We share a collective history, we share values, interests, and most importantly - we share love. For one another and for Israel.

More than ever, it is a time to be strong for one another. For our Family.

Omri -

Shabbat Shalom, 

In this past week I’ve been struggling more than ever since this horrible and horrifying time has began. 

My older brother Amit has recently joined the IDF forces in Gaza, I didn’t heard from him since around the beginning of the week. I can’t even start to explain how deeply I am worried for him. And how hard it is that the quick and fast response and communication we are so used to is taking away from us.

As hard time came in my life in different forms and ways. 

I find myself to tending and leaning towards the comfort of our own ancient cultural heritage traditions, like reading T’hilim (תהילים) and even sometimes meditation. I do actually feel deep comfort, even soul touching relaxation reading those different songs and prayers. 

While reading T’hilim more this week, than usual, I found the chapters of this book saying and questioning, exactly what my mind can’t stop from thinking and wondering non-stop. Where all this evil and horrible actions are coming from? When is the time for this evil to stop and to justice to come in? When do we finally get the chance to enjoy the be blessed by compassion light of our god? 

However, as a mantra or a thinking narrative, if you’d like. 

I learned from the T’hilim book, the importance of staying positive, grateful to always praise god no matter what. Understanding that everything came from the same source, root, no matter what. 

I try to apply these mind-narrative even when I see hard things. like; that right now 365 soldiers has been fallen, and a thought came up my head, that if it will stop now we would still need a full year to immortalize each and every one of them. 

This book hold a lot of wisdom, and give me a lot of strength. I really hope it might can help some of you as well in those dark times to find a bit of his light.

 

D'var Israel 11/11/23

13/12/2023 04:14:34 PM

Dec13

Omri- 

Kristallnacht, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, refers to the pogrom against Polish and German Jews, which was orchestrated by SS and SA forces along with the participation of German civilians, throughout Nazi Germany on November 9-10, 1938.

Eighty-five years ago, Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were ruthlessly smashed, set on fire, and destroyed, leaving the streets littered with shattered glass. Let's take a moment to imagine the horrors of that night from the perspective of a simple Jew who used to live under the Nazi regime. 

As more and more small and big chunks of glass began to pile up on the streets, sparkling and reflecting the light of the torches. Big crowd of people full with hate and again with only one goal in mind to aim to destroy as much. More and more sparkling glass on the streets, more and more tears sparkling as well, scared faces trying to find a  safe place to hide. 

When all your safe places are destroyed one by one, it feels as if your world is falling apart. Your own shop, your refuge to secure a livelihood. Your Jewish institution, your haven to connect with your heritage. Your temple, where you worship God and come together during holidays. 

And now, it's time to say "enough."

This event serves as a stark reminder of the hatred, intolerance, and persecution that millions of Jews endured during the Holocaust. In times like these, we must shout louder than ever, "NEVER AGAIN." And, yes, never again is now as the war in Gaza against Hamas continues.

Sharon -

In Israel, holocaust education is a big part of growing up. You are constantly surrounded by reminders that Israel was founded on the statement of ‘never again’ following the horrific events of WW2 and the holocaust.

In history lessons, you learn that the holocaust did not start out of the blue.

It followed a long period of systematic and deep-rooted antisemitism.

The premise of Never Again was meant to make sure jews all over the world will never endure the same kind of hate, discrimination and helplessness. Israel was founded, for jews to not be at the mercy of their neighbors. So we would have an option to defend ourselves, and so jews could always have a safe place to turn too.

However, since October 7th - Never again feels more relevant than ever.

In Israel, people were attacked for being jewish - by a terrorist organization aiming to clear jews from the middle east, and from our country.

Around the world, antisemitism has been skyrocketing. 

Omri and I just came back from a conference of all the Shinshinim in Canada in Montreal.  The day we were there, the synagogue that one of the shinshiniot works in had a Molotov cocktail thrown at, and two yeshivas were shot at.

While some people find a resemblance between a hundred years ago and now - I find it important to emphasize that our ‘Never Again’ still stands strong. 

Israel still stands strong, and the jewish nation still stands strong.

Am Israel Chai.

Shabbat Shalom

News from Israel 21/10/23

13/12/2023 09:53:42 AM

Dec13

Sharon -

 I’m sure all of you are well aware about the recent events occurring in Israel. Two weeks ago, Friday night, I saw the first alert of sirens in Israel. At first, I thought this is just another round - a feeling that is all too familiar for Israelis. As you all know - the past few weeks have been anything but a normal reality. 

What has been even more abnormal - is not being back home. I’m not used to seeing the YNET notification of sirens in Jerusalem, and hearing nothing.

And to be completely honest - in the beginning I felt very guilty. It did not make sense to me that my friends called me in tears when they couldn’t sleep, and I could walk in yorkdale almost feeling normal.

Back in Israel, I was an EMT for the MDA organization. In the past few weeks, my friends from home have done double and triple shifts in the south of Israel, treating people under fire. They work everyday collecting blood donations without rest. The oddest feeling was not being with them.

However - over the last two weeks, I did find ways to help. The toronto jewish community is the single community to donate the largest amount for aid in Israel.

Omri -

I want to tell you, in this particular time, a story about two people. Both of them are from my town, Gedera. 

Kim Damthi, a wonderful person with the most beautiful smile you will ever see. She is full of life and joy and always wants to make everyone happy around her. A real angel. I've known Kim since my youth movement days. She's older than me, but she's one of those people that age doesn't matter; you’ll definitely know her.

Kim went out to enjoy a music festival called Nova. This music festival is all dedicated to life, peace, and free music. This festival takes place every year around Simchat Torah in the open fields of towns near Gaza.

But just as they were celebrating, the altars started to play all around the cities and towns near the Gaza border. even in my town which is 20 km away.  As all the people in the festival tried to find a place to hide or a shelter, a group of terrorists who broke the border between Israel and Gaza started to shoot them, to slaughter them. 

Kim was one of the many victims who got killed that day.

Kim was buried in my town cemetery on the same day, one year apart, from the day her best friend was buried, Ido Bruch. Ido was murmured as well, while serving in the army protecting the border of an the Sumron. 

The second person is Omer Venkert. Omer is my friend’s big brother who was kidnapped and is held hostage in Gaza as I speak. Omer is one the actual funniest person I ever met. 

As more videos and photos have been posted by Hamas of the abuse that the hostages are going through, the little comfort we can find is that we can still see that he is alive. 

This is the reality of many communities in Israel right now, we don’t care about any deployment who visits Israel, or any help that has been or hasn’t been given. we care about feelings safe in our own country no matter where we decide to live, no matter which border is close or not, but on our historical land. 

Simchat Torah 7/10/23

13/12/2023 09:49:37 AM

Dec13

Omri- 

Simchat Torah is the holiday we have all been waiting for, whether consciously or unconsciously. Throughout the entire High Holidays season, we have made sure to prepare ourselves to receive the Torah and resume reading from it. We have shared our intentions to have the ability to absorb all the wisdom that the Torah has to offer.

In my town, located in Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated with big pride. Colorful trucks with bright lights, music, drive their way through the streets and neighborhoods, with the Torah scroll at the forefront, leading the entire celebration. 

Most people join in the festivities, celebrating, laughing, and, most importantly, dancing! It's so good and fun to witness so many people come together, going out and expressing their happiness.

When everyone comes out to dance together, a profound sense of unity prevails. Even in these recent years marked by anger and polarization, you can still feel a strong sense of togetherness when you join in and see everyone dancing together.

Sharon-

Three years ago on Simchat Torah, in the small synagogue my family and I go to in Israel, I had the honor of reading the first portion of Bereshit. Obviously I was very nervous, but also very excited.

When I was 12, I decided I wanted to do a bat mitzvah ceremony. I knew all the boys my age do it, and saw no reason why I wouldn't be able to as well. My ceremony wasn’t usual - due to health complications of my cousin the date had to be moved last minute with a lot of alterations that followed.

When learning for the Parashah, I realized how much I love taking part in Jewish culture. Talking with the rabbi, being part of the bat mitzvah program and studying the Parasha made me feel connected to my heritage and culture. 

Two years later, my synagogue offered I joined the upcoming course to learn how to teach cantillation notes. After I finished the course, which I don’t remember a lot from today, as mentioned earlier, I read Bereshit. For me, this was the peak of a very long process of learning about my personal relationship with judaism, both as a culture and as a religion. This is one of the reasons Simchat Torah holds a very special place in my heart, and I am so very excited to be spending it with you this year.

Sukkot 30/09/23

13/12/2023 09:38:45 AM

Dec13

Omri -

Sukkot is the opening of our new year, it's the first occasion, the first event that we can celebrate with full joy in our hearts. 

After Yom Kuppur, after we've had a day to seek redemption and improve ourselves for the coming year, now it's our time to follow it and celebrate it.

But not to celebrate it alone but rather to do it with other people as it's a מצווה to have people over to your Sukkah, to have אושפיזין. it's our time to have fun to be filled with happiness and optimism for this year, to use the promise for a better year we have all been praying for, for a better concise and mindset.

Yet, the Sukkah should not only be a place of joy but also your sanctuary. The Sukkah is mentioned numerous times as a metaphor for a safe haven, like in the Psalms, where the Sukkah is a divine, unique place where you can find shelter under God's mercy/חסד.

I believe that Israel is our Sukkah. A place that we can go to no matter what, and feel safe, a place that will always be there for us when we need it the most!

Israel indeed has to face some problems, and it may sometimes seen as a challenging place BUT just like in the Sukkah you get exposed to challenging conditions like; the sun, the wind, and even rain yet, you still feel happy and safe inside the Sukkah, in your own culture. That's how Israel serves as our Sukkah.  

Sharon -

One of the most fascinating differences I noticed between Jewish culture in Israel and Jewish culture abroad, is the amount of effort put in to create a Jewish space. 

Back home a Magen David is a very common sight, the language of the Torah is the commonly spoken language (well, kind of) and Shabbat is felt all over the county. When living abroad, Judaism isn’t as easy as it is in Israel. Schools don’t work by our calendar, Cars are on the road on Yom Kippur and everything is open as usual on Saturday. In order to feel Jewish - you work hard. And from what Iv’e seen so far, you are all hard workers.

Nothing makes me happier than walking around the city (well, mostly along Bathurst), and seeing beautifully decorated Sukkahs. It feels like a small piece of home. The community here amazes me everyday with their active pursuit of Jewish culture and love for Israel. I was touched by all the amazing people that came to the Sukkah decorating event, the amazing atmosphere of the high holidays in Beth Emeth and by the amount of people happily supporting Israel through Israel bonds. I am so happy to be fortunate enough to be in a community with such amazing traditions, Zionism and love. I hope you all have an amazing holiday. Shabbat Shalom.

Arriving in Toronto 9/9/23

13/12/2023 09:22:37 AM

Dec13

Sharon -

Good morning everyone, or as we were taught to say here in Canada - we hope this speech finds you well. My name is Sharon (or Sharon, whatever you prefer), and Omri and I will be your Shinshinim this year. The UJA Shinshinim program allows Israeli teens such as ourselves to join the Toronto jewish community for a year.

We are so happy to be joining the Beth Emeth community this year, and already know that it was worth the 12 hour flight. 

September 9th is an important date in my family. On this day, 26 years ago, my parents stood under a hupa in a national park near Jerusalem. For as long as I can remember, on this date, my brother and I have a tradition of trying to get up before my parents do and serve them breakfast in bed, Even if it meant forcing them back into bed because we didn’t get up early enough.

This year, due to distance issues, it wasn’t possible. I hope my parents manage to make themselves something to eat. 

In the last three weeks, the familiar sight of the cream-colored Jerusalem stone was replaced with red bricks, and my morning Aroma iced coffee with a Starbucks pink drink. Adjusting to a new place isn’t always easy, but I’m very lucky to get to say I’ve never had such a warm welcome. This amazing community welcomed us with open arms - and made us already feel at home. Thank you for your generosity and kind hearts. I couldn’t be happier to spend this time with this amazing community, and can only wish all of us an amazing year.

Omri -

For me, coming to Toronto was amazing. From the second, I saw the view from the plane window I was stung, only twelve hours ago I had to say goodbye to all of my family and friends at the airport, and now I'm here in Toronto in this fresh new start.

With a lot of mixed feelings, both homesickness and excitement for the future, the other ShinShinim and I went to five days of training and seminar at Camp Shalom. 

Afterward, we finally got to the city, to the bustling streets were so different from what I was familiar with in my small agricultural town in Israel. The high buildings and the concrete were so strange to me. But for a moment when I closed my eyes, I could almost feel like I was in tlv, it almost felt like I was not an Ocean apart from home. But when I opened my eyes I knew I could bring home here too. 

It really start to feel like home when really generous host family from the community opened their arms and hosted me. In that moment I felt how our Jewish values of compassion kindness and grace, are universal and apply to Jewish communities all over the world. Both Israel and Canada.

Sharon -

Jewish communities all over the world have a very deep connection that stems from our shared culture, values and history. We are so happy to be a part of connecting this amazing community with the Israeli community, and are eager to start our journy together.

Thank you so much and Shabbat Shalom.

Yom Kippur 25/09/23

12/12/2023 03:51:45 AM

Dec12

Sharon-

I want you to take a deep breath, and look around you. This quiet feeling is about to fill the country of Israel in less than two days. Yom Kippur in Israel is an extraordinary feeling. Its almost as if time stops. Before Yom Kippur starts, we always went to my grandma's place in Jerusalem for a final meal. Afterwards, we drove home in order to get get ready for synagogue in time. 

We would walk over to the synagogue, crossing a short but beautiful hiking trail. After Kol Nidrei, the scenery of my town is completely different. All roads are filled back to back with kids, teenagers and adults of all ages. Some walking by foot with their friends, some on bikes, scooters, skateboards and rollerblades and some playing board games in the middle of the road. 

Usually, while the age groups that fill the streets change, people are outside of at friends houses until dawn. 

In the morning or afternoon, depending on when you wake up, usually I would spend time biking with my family (which isn’t recommended when fasting - but happens anyways), reading and doing self reflection.

Around two hours before Neila I would meet with my friends again. Because we don’t use our phones, we had a method we developed after my best friend and I waited over an hour for a friend who didn’t wake up. We would meet at the big roundabout in the middle of town in a certain hour, wait fifteen minutes, and come back an hour later for late people.

Then, all my friends would come with my family and I to the synagogue we attend. The small synagogue is completely packed, and plastic chairs are lined outside to accommodate all people who want to attend.

After Neila, my family and I would walk home, and when the roads slowly woke up from hibernation, we would drive to my grandparents place to break the fast.

Omri- 

Yom Kippur has always been one of my favorite occasions, I know it sounds weird, but Yom Kippur has a sweet spot in my heart. As a kid I was fascinated about the amount of quiet this day brings, how’s everyone are dressed in white, and walk on the street.

I remember the special ritual me and my dad had as soon as Rosh Hashana was over. We used to go and check my bikes, if there good enough, if there’s air to fill to the wheels and to take out the Sukkha parts out just to put them there so it’ll be easier after Yom Kippur to build the Sukkha. 

This is one of the things I miss the most about my childhood and also cherish the most. Going out with my friends and driving around the whole town with bikes because there’s no car to interrupt on the way. 

And after a few long rides all over the town’s roads and fields I used to go with my family to the synagogue to hear the Shofar.

Fri, 12 July 2024 6 Tammuz 5784