Your Executive Committee have asked me to start periodically providing you an update on what I’ve been up to. Here’s a few things that have happened this week which I would like to share with you and hear your feedback on:
On Monday, we hosted a Camp Ramah info night.
After hearing extensively about the Hamilton cohort we had a generation ago and the desire of our community to reestablish a core group, I spoke with the Director of Camp Ramah to arrange an info night. He was very excited about reaching Hamilton kids and assured me that finances should never be a barrier, they will go out of their way to make camp accessible for our community.
I thought I’d done a good job of advertising, but I was very sad when not a single Beth Jacob family attended.
Please: I need your help to understand why. Did you not hear about it? Are Monday nights a bad time? Is camp uninteresting? Your feedback is crucial so I can provide what you actually want, when you want it.
On Tuesday, I attended an all day cultural sensitivity training at the HRIC – Hamilton Regional Indian Centre.
I was amazed at how much I didn’t know about Canada’s Indigenous people and the brutal oppression they have historically endured and continue to endure. The institutionalised discrimination, segregation, and genocide are strikingly similar to Jewish history. For example, I had no idea that children at residential schools were tattooed with identity numbers, much like Jews during the Shoah. There was also significant discussion by our historic leaders about “solving the Indian problem”, which sounds painfully similar to Nazi propaganda.
I wondered to myself, why do I not hear about this more within Canada’s Jewish community? Why do I not hear more Jews expressing solidarity with, and fighting for the rights of, these people whose struggle is so much like our own?
On Wednesday, I drove to Toronto to meet the new head of the RA.
Beth Tikvah Synagogue hosted a talk and Q&A with Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, new Chief Executive of the Rabbinical Assembly, to discuss “21st Century Conservative Judaism”. A significant dialogue amongst the synagogue leaders in attendance involved the issue of engaging young people. “They just don’t come, they’re just not interested, they don’t find Judaism relevant”.
I replied that at Beth Jacob, we have the opposite problem: almost all of our new members are under 40, because our Rabbi does an excellent job of applying traditional Judaism to modern issues that matter to young people: environment, gender, social justice, and more. I said our problem is the opposite of other shuls: we are hearing from some of our older generation- the founders, stakeholders, donors- that you are pained by the alienation you feel with this ‘new’ Judaism at Beth Jacob that no longer feels true to what you grew up with. Some of you are attending less and donating less because your synagogue no longer feels like home.
“What a great problem to have!” the audience said.
But it’s not. It’s a bad problem and it is a serious one: we are hurting and displacing some of our cherished members who contributed substantially to making Beth Jacob what it is.
And so the questions I’d like to pose to you are:
What specific, tangible suggestions can you give me to keep our ever-evolving faith desirable for multiple generations? Is it even possible? Do we need different services and programs for each demographic? What does that look like or feel like?
What are you missing that you would like to see? If we make it happen, will you come and bring friends?
And I suppose most importantly: Jewish continuity is not possible without the support of our older generation; most young people have not established themselves into a place financially where they can donate to a shul sufficiently to maintain the services they require for meaningful engagement with their faith.
How, specifically, would you like Beth Jacob to look for your children and grandchildren? Will you take an active role in helping me make that a reality?
I’m not in this job to bring my own agenda to Beth Jacob, my role is to listen to what our members want and to make that vision a reality.
Please tell me what you want to see. You can email me
or call my desk at (905) 522 1351 x 10.