Look What You Missed
Jan 17th 2016

I have devoted most of my bulletin columns as President of Beth Tzedec to delivering messages of which the dominant theme has been transformation. I have described the selection of Hariri Pontarini as the architects of our building renovation, the forthcoming changes in the shul building and personnel, our re-affiliation with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and our array of programming that seeks to target every possible demographic in the community. In this column, however, I want to be retrospective. I want to tell you what many of you missed. Two recent events at Beth Tzedec deserve this treatment: our 60th Anniversary Gala held November 1, and the Remembrance Day Shabbat Service held November 7. 

We wanted to conclude the celebration of our 60th anniversary year with a joyous and memorable event where we could come together for a night of dining, dancing and reminiscing. Sixtieth Anniversary Committee co-chairs Paul Rothstein and Marvin Miller emceed an evening no one wanted to end. And Patti Rotman, our Catering Committee chair extraordinaire, made sure everyone’s smaẖot hereafter will be measured against her soaring standards. We began the fête with drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the foyer adorned with 1955 décor. There we ate our chopped liver, pigs-in-a-blanket, latkes, deviled eggs, shepherd’s pie, knishes, brisket sandwiches and barbequed salami (yes, these were just the appetizers) and quaffed our choice of gansa gimlets, meshiginah martinis, shtikele Singapore slings, ver vaist whisky sours and 60th Anniversary sea breezes. 

When the doors to the Banquet Hall were opened, nearly 300 celebrants in attendance (many men in tuxedos and women in ball gowns) were ushered into the beautifully decorated hall with the partition wall up, displaying the Sanctuary and its impressive bimah in the distance. Our Chair of the Board, Sheldon Rotman, announced that everyone was being given The History of Beth Tzedec Congregation, our just-published book dedicated in loving memory of Irwin (Bob) Cohenz”l . In my brief remarks, I referred to the lesson we learned a week earlier from Prof. Yehuda Kurtzer, the North American Director of the Hartman Institute, that the Jewish People’s key to vibrancy and success has been to be forever undergoing change while maintaining a veneer that we are adhering to tradition. Rabbi Frydman-Kohl delivered a passionate reflection and blessing to the congregation, and Cantor Spiro treated us to a medley of hits from our 1955 creation to the present. Our beloved ritual director, Lorne Hanick, guided us hilariously through his video presentation, making the point that the exhausting climb up 14 stairs from the street to the front doors of Goel Tzedec was replicated in the climb up from our floor to the aron hakodesh in the Sanctuary. What were they thinking? (As an aside, as I reported on Kol Nidrei and in a previous Bulletin, we plan to alleviate that ascent soon.) Larry Wallach entertained us with his touching video history of Beth Tzedec. Once the dining began, we were treated to a five-course feast superbly presented by Applause Catering. We danced the night away to the frayleikh music of the Zemer Orchestra. We are grateful to the Beth Tzedec Men’s Club and Sisterhood plus an anonymous donor for their sponsorship of the evening. We rejoiced! What a party! 

Moving forward six days later, our ẖazzanim delivered a most moving Remembrance Day Shabbat service which I hope we can someday make available online. Cantor Sidney Ezer explained before he began Musaf that a few years ago, he had an idea to sing Oseh Shalom in the Kaddish Shalem to the tune of The Last Post. From there he conceived the idea of having a special Musaf service on Remembrance Day Shabbat incorporating hymns typically sung at Remembrance Day ceremonies, as well as famous songs from the First and Second World Wars. Foremost on Cantor Ezer’s mind was recreating the mood of the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Cantor Ezer included the Voices of Tomorrow children’s choir, since “children need to learn about the horrors of the past and have the power to shape the future”. 

We prayed Kaddish Shalem accompanied by the Beth Tzedec Singers singing The Lament as droning bagpipes, thereby creating a sombre sense of mourning. The Voices of Tomorrow led us in L’Dor Vador to the tune of Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone. Cantor Ezer explained that the prayer speaks to declaring God’s greatness from generation to generation, while Pete Seeger’s song ironically bemoans the fact that from generation to generation, we never learn and continue to perpetuate hatred and violence. Cantor Simon Spiro moved us with his arrangement of the poem "For the Fallen". 

Other tunes to which we davened were I Vow to Thee My Country, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, O Valiant Hearts, The White Cliffs of Dover, Reveille, We’ll Meet Again and O God Our Help in Ages Past. We were utterly awed. 

My apologies to those who contributed to these magnificent events whose names I have neglected to mention. We seek challenges, improve continuously and expand our members’ expectations to levels other shuls cannot meet. I wish you had been there with us.