Monday, 19 September 2011

Pre-High Holy Day Bitch Session

I haven't had a good bitch session on this blog in quite a while. I was actually starting to wonder if I had lost my mojo, but in reality it was more about the true exhaustion that I have been feeling due to political stupidity oozing out of every possible municipality, province, state and country. So here I present my pre-High Holy Day Bitch Session so that I might properly atone for my words, thoughts, and behaviour in the coming weeks. A sort of pre-confession confessional.
  1. I am truly appalled at the genuine nastiness that has become pervasive in all political processes. Neither liberals nor conservatives can claim the high road in this battle for the lowest of the low scumbag. NDP candidates trading on the name of the late Jack Layton in an effort to garner provincial votes is as distasteful a practice as there might be. Conversely, PC leader Tim Hudak attempting to polarize the electorate with characterizations of "foreign workers" vs "real Canadians" is abhorrent. I realize that Mr. Hudak was "played" by Mr. McGuinty and the Liberals, but his xenophobic Tea Party-like rants were disgusting even for a politician searching for votes.
  2. Since when did it become ok for a seemingly caring society to show such utter lack of concern for the most vulnerable? At two recent debates of the Republican hopefuls for the presidential nomination, morons in the crowd (I get that there exists morons everywhere, but this is my rant!) actually cheered for more Texas executions and actively shouted to let the uninsured die. I realize that the American electorate is at an unprecedented level of polarization, but really? Aren't we all in this together?
  3. In the midst of the craziness that has become Toronto City Council, comes this phenomenal article by Edmund Pries, an instructor in the department of Global Studies at Wilfred Laurier University. I have often wondered many of the same things that Mr. Pries comments on. The difference between a citizen and a taxpayer (note I use the compound word rather than two word phrase tax payer) is all about the self vs the communal. Once again I ask the question, "Aren't we all in this together?"
  4. The backwards steps being taken by women recently, especially in pop culture has me pissed. How can women in 2011 actually even think it is okay to watch a new television program based on the happenings in a 1960s Playboy club. I realize that it is fictionalized and probably a soap, but let's be honest. There is a reason that these clubs no longer exist. The misogyny and arrogance of the management and the cliental was horrifying. I cannot imagine that many women want to look back at these particular moments in history with nostalgia. I feel exactly the same way about the reboot of Charlie's Angels-the very first "jiggle show". When people use Mad Men as an analogy for how women are portrayed in the 1960s, I think that they totally miss the point of that show. Mad Men is all about the empowerment of women, not the idea of renewed subservience. And while I am on the subject, don't even get me started about lingerie football.
  5. It seems to me that if the Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee mayoral twins of Toronto want to even entertain the idea of cutting libraries, they should learn how to properly pronounce the word. That's li-brar-y Messieurs Ford, not li-berry. Your ignorance is showing and on public display.
  6. I am absolutely sick and tired of the anti-intellectualism that is pervading our political discourse. I don't want leaders that deny science, endanger women's health, put low income children at medical risk, or who believe that libraries are gravy. I want leaders who are smarter than I am, have creative solutions to complex problems, are willing to take those ideas from whatever side of the political spectrum they might arise, and who are willing to listen and work with their idealogical foes. I don't want change for change sake, and I don't want warmed-over leftover ideas from a era that is no longer relevant. Ronald Reagan is dead as is Pierre Trudeau. I want a leader who understands that we live in the twenty-first century and that our problems cannot be easily solved with thirty year old platitudes.
I am certain that there are many many many more, but these will do for now. Feel free to add your own in the comments section. For all these sins O God forgive me, pardon me, grant me atonement.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Impressions of a Magical Shabbat

As readers of my last post know, this past Shabbat was a time of tremendous joy for my synagogue, Temple Kol Ami. After years of seeming futility, construction hassles, city bylaws, not so nice builders, money issues, aborted land deals, aborted project deals, aborted partnerships-frankly the list is longer than the space this blog allows-we were finally able to dedicated our new permanent home after years of wandering. With September weather fully cooperating, we marched as an entire community up the street with our Sifrei Torah taking the lead, to our not quite yet completed new sacred space. There was singing as is totally befitting our Kahal. There was laughter and joy, and when that mezuzah was affixed to the sanctuary door, there were many tears. I was struck by how many different impressions and emotions were tied up in this grand event. I thought that I would offer you just a few of mine from behind the guitar.

  • Walking up Atkinson Avenue, I was stunned by how many passersby rolled down their windows and started singing the Shabbat songs with us. One young woman was so engaged with her rendition of L'cha Dodi that she almost missed the light. They also took pictures, clapped hands, and honked horns of support. Sometimes living in the north Jewish ghetto has its perks.
  • I loved how the young and the young at heart all marched together holding hands, singing, laughing and all took a turn to carry a Torah.
  • I was terribly moved that our youth members were so thrilled to be asked to protect our Torah scrolls by carrying the chuppah. I realize that it is a total cliche, but these young people are our future and the dignity that they displayed as they proudly led us on the last few steps of our journey was a joy to behold.
  • As we gathered in the parking lot to sing Hiney Ma Tov-How good and how pleasant it is that brothers and sisters can sit here together-I watched with pure emotion as our oldest member paraded  up the pavement straight and tall. He was absolutely determined to be a part of this walk, so to watch his daughter drive in reverse up the street in perfect alliance with the rest of us so that he could be there, brought tears to my eyes.
  • We gathered ten song leaders from within our small congregation to play and lead the music. 10!!!! They played guitars, drums, tambourines, or simply clapped and sang. More were asked and simply could not make it, but sent lovely notes of regrets. Look at the musical culture we are creating at our synagogue.
  •  As the Sifrei Torah came into the Beit T'fillah, we asked all of the children to come forward to open the brand new ark. Dozens of them stood proudly on the bimah awaiting their moment. As a turned around from the congregation to see them, one little girl fresh off of her first summer at Camp George, was singing Hava Nashirah with such gusto that she was imploring all of her friends to sing with her. I went up to them all and conducted an impromptu junior choir on the bimah. It was pure magic.
These are just a few of my thoughts and I know that every single person who was in attendance has their own. Everybody had a different vantage point, was with different people, heard different stories. So I would like to open up this spot for you all to respond. In the comments section below, please leave your most memorable impressions from this past Shabbat. Use some economy of words and don't be afraid to post more than once. I will then compile them all into an article for next week's Voice. We will also cross-post this blog to our Facebook page so that more might view it. If you choose to remain anonymous that is perfectly fine, but it might be more interesting if we knew who you were. So get writing Kol Ami. We want to hear from you. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Joys of Elul

I have been tremendously moved by the Jewels of Elul that have been making their way into my mailbox every day during this month of Elul. These little gems have been carefully prepared by people from various walks of life, in the hope that they might better facilitate our preparations for the upcoming Yamim Noraim. They have been small rays of light and have moved my spirit tremendously. If you haven't yet signed onto this site, I urge you do so by clicking above and registering for the remainder of the month. I promise that you will not be disappointed. 

The daily messages and the upcoming excitement at my own synagogue this weekend has really jump-started my thought processes. I have much to say, (when is that ever surprising?) and I am certain that individuals far more eloquent will do a much better job in expression, but I thought that I might begin with an anecdote from my childhood.

When I was a child, it was family tradition to wrap all birthday, Chanukkah, and anniversary gifts in yesterday's newspaper. Rarely did The Little Bro or I receive a package that was brightly coloured, (unless Mom found the comics section!) done up with ribbons, or that didn't transfer black ink to our eager hands. I have often wondered if my parents were ahead of the recycling curve or if wrapping paper was simply too costly to be wasted being torn to shreds by a six year old. Whatever their motivation, they instinctively understood that the outer trappings of the gifts, while important to generate excitement, had nothing on the gift itself, and what was inside the box and the sentiment behind it were what truly mattered.

This week at Temple Kol Ami we will be witness to the culmination of almost twenty-four years of work. We will be moving into our new, shiny, almost completed, permanent home. We have been nomads for the entirety of our existence and this Shabbat we put down roots. It is tremendously exciting. For those of us who have been witness to the many fits and starts over the years, I fully expect tears. For those of us who are a little newer to the process, I fully expect tears. We deserve the moment and we should all bask in the beauty, the experience, and the holiness of the scared space that we have communally created, but we cannot afford to become blinded and complacent by the beautiful package. We must fill this space with all that we have been, all that we are, and all that we are yet to be. We must pray together, sing together, and study together so that this new Makom Kadosh-this Holy Place-becomes a gift that truly matters. 

I cannot think of a better way to enter the month of Elul than by gathering as a Kehillah Kedoshah-a holy community-and marching our Sifrei Torah into our new home. We are just beginning our preparations for the High Holy Days and this milestone will set an auspicious tone for what is yet to come. I hope that you will all join us this Shabbat as we embark upon the next steps in our journey.