"Our Jewish backgrounds, rituals and customs instantly connect us."
A hectic and fulfilling Purim season has just ended for me and Aliza. Our Beth Tzedec Purim Family Musical this year was dedicated to the memory of Jakob Ari Shapiro z”l, a beautiful and special 17-year old boy who was a part of our show for many years and who passed away last June. Jakob’s spirit was felt, and his presence was profoundly missed, at every rehearsal.
That’s the funny thing about the Beth Tzedec Purim show. We all become extremely close, more than you could imagine. Every year the cast and crew, some with us for the first time, some who return each year, repeatedly tell me that they love the camaraderie of the Purim musical. They can’t believe the strong and deep friendships they have created with people they might otherwise never have met. Not everyone who participates is a regular, or even irregular, shul-goer. Not everyone who participates is what you might call a “shul macher”. Some Purim Players are new to Toronto and don’t yet know anyone in town, and others have grandparents who were married at Beth Tzedec and have celebrated every family simhah since then at Beth Tzedec. And yet, the involvement of these people in the Purim musical bonds them as they move forward to create something for the community.
I believe that this is the essence of shul involvement. People who join a committee, any committee, do so because they either have a vision for the future of the synagogue or because they wish to offer support in helping to bring someone else’s vision to fruition. Along the way there are meetings, disagreements, cooperation, frustration, fulfillment and, as the journey continues toward creating something for the synagogue community, there are friendships and relationships formed. Shul friends are unique, different from friendships with work colleagues, golf buddies, mahjong partners, or Mommy and Me playmates.
Our Jewish backgrounds, rituals, and customs instantly connect us and give us common ground upon which we move forward together. Of course, I realize that shul involvement comes at the cost of time. Time given to a synagogue project means less time for something else. But for what? Television? Facebook? Addictive computer games? My wife is one of the busiest people I know and she always says, “Busy means I’m alive.” Be alive—get busy, involved, make a difference while making new friendships that will enhance your life.
After Purim, we all head towards Pesaẖ and beyond. The “beyond” for me refers to our May gala concert, The Great American Jewish Songbook. One of the highlight events of Jewish Music Week in Toronto, this companion to last year’s 100 Years of Jewish Hollywood concert is going to be simply spectacular. Celebrating all of the world’s favourite songs and the Jewish songwriters who wrote them, I’ll be singing with the Broadway Singers and the fabulous Songbook Orchestra. The evening will also feature a special appearance by Toronto’s newest children’s choir, Voices of Tomorrow, which made its exciting debut on Shabbat Shirah and about which everyone is still buzzing!
Last year we sold out very quickly and had a very long waiting list, unfortunately disappointing many of you. We’re hoping to avoid that this year by moving the concert to the larger George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, and by offering “early bird” tickets, available only to Beth Tzedec members before they go on sale to the general public. I hope you’ll take advantage of this and get your tickets early.
There is a marvelous committee of volunteers working together on this exciting project, and we always have room for more. Here’s your chance to get involved in something for the shul, something for the city, and something for yourself. There’s so much to do in bringing an exciting event like this to Toronto. No matter what your interests and talents, I promise that we can find some way to get you busy with us.
As always, I look forward to seeing you around Beth Tzedec in the coming months, and I hope to have you all join me at the concert in May.