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President's Message

Elliot Miller

There’s an old joke where the Presidents of the USA and Israel compare their jobs. “I’m the President of 320 million people”, boasts the US President. “So what”, counters the Israeli, “I’m the President of eight million presidents!”

Whether or not you consider it cynical, we have developed a well-earned reputation for complaining. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’ve heard the expression “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. It’s true in so many aspects of life, whether dealing with inadequate customer service, or ensuring your own needs are addressed when there are so many voices clamoring to be heard.

Kol Ami needs people who are willing to have their say and make their voices heard. In the past two years as “President of 270 presidents” I’ve been privileged to listen to the voices of many concerned and engaged members, highlighting critical issues to be dealt with by the Kol Ami Board and its executive. Many spoke to me directly; others, with the board member that they knew best. Still other people kept their concerns to themselves. It’s to this last group that I’m speaking when I say, if you want the board to take action on your issues, you have to make your voice heard.

How can you make your voice heard? Obviously, you can send an e-mail or speak to us in person. But the best way to get involved is by joining a committee, task force, or the Board of Directors itself. For example:

  • We are forming a Sacred Space Committee, whose responsibility it will be to ensure that Kol Ami continues to have a beautiful and welcoming sacred space (i.e. artists, interior designers, architects, ergonomists)
  • We are also forming a Negotiating Committee, whose responsibility it will be to negotiate leases and contracts (lawyers, financiers and anyone with good negotiating skills)
  • We are always looking for more voices on our Adult Education, Family Social, Adult Social, Communications, Newsletter, Membership, Social Action, Music, and High Holy Days committees, plus any others I may have forgotten.

If any of the topics listed above are of interest to you, or if you have a skill, aptitude or knowledge in any of them, please let me know.

It’s been an honour serving you as President these last two years. Join me in welcoming Dana Glickman, who will assume the role (and the address) on July 1st.



Book Review - Judas

Howard Mintz

Howard Mintz of Kol Ami gives his take on Judas by Amos Oz, the last novel of the late and great Israeli writer.

About 18 months ago, the Kol Ami Book Club discussed Judas, the final novel of late Israeli writer and political activist, Amos Oz. Oz believed in a vision of both Jews and Palestinians mutually recognizing each other’s national aspirations within two separate nation states. I am dedicating this review of Judas to his memory ....

Life is difficult for Shmuel Ash, a graduate student at Hebrew University in the late 1950’s. His long-term girlfriend has left him to marry someone else, who is financially more established. His parents’ business has gone bankrupt and struggle to support him financially while he studies. Shmuel’s research on Jewish views of Jesus, during his lifetime, seems to have stalled, and much to the consternation of his academic advisor, he decides to drop out and look for work. This is how Judas begins.

Shmuel finds work as a live-in caregiver for a cantankerous old man named Gershon Wald, who is physically disabled and largely wheelchair bound. Wald is a retired history teacher with a passion for heated intellectual discussions with people on the telephone. Part of Shmuel’s duties involve engaging in discussion with Gershon Wald. Shmuel is an idealist who is involved in a tiny socialist group at the fringe of Israeli politics.

Atalia Abravanel is the third presence in the home. She is the beautiful daughter of a deceased Zionist leader and is also Gershon Wald’s daughter-in-law. Shmuel is attracted to her intellectuality and beauty. She sends mixed messages to Shmuel regarding her interest in him and their relationship is fraught with difficulties.

There are two deceased characters in the book. One is Shaltiel Abravanel, Atalia’s father, who was expelled from the Zionist executive, under Ben Gurion, for not supporting the establishment of a Jewish state, but advocating, instead, for a bi-national Jewish Arab state. He was viewed as a traitor by the Jewish public, was shunned, and lived the rest of his life in isolation.

Gershon’s son, Micha, was a brilliant mathematician who was Atalia’s husband; he was killed in the Israeli War of Independence. His body was savagely mutilated. Judas Iscariot (Yehuda Ish Kariot) is also discussed at length by Oz. In Christian tradition, Judas is viewed as a traitor to Jesus for informing on him to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver pieces. Oz claims that Judas was not a traitor to Jesus, but a loving supporter.

The intellectual discussions in this book are often centred around the complexities of the Jewish-Palestinian national conflict and the difficult historical experience of the Jewish people in Christian lands.

To many in Israel, Oz had been considered a traitor due to his dovish views on the Palestinian issue.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is open to considering a range of perspectives on Jewish history, political Zionism, the origins of Christianity, and the concept of being a traitor.


President's Message

Elliot Miller

On March 1st we sent an informational email on Voluntary Community Support to the entire congregation. Those of you who were members of Kol Ami last year are probably wondering how successful was the transition from fixed membership dues to Voluntary Community Support.

Those of you who are new to Kol Ami this year are probably wondering about the Sustainer level, how it was calculated and what does it reflect. This President’s Message will attempt to address both those questions.

In general, we were very pleased with the results. Among returning Kol Ami members, 40% contributed a higher amount and overall contributions were up 8%. However, with 26% contributing the same, that means that 34% contributed less than the year before. We were fortunate that those that gave more gave twice as much as those who contributed less, hence the overall increase.

For all our new members, plus the 34% who contributed less than the previous year, it is critical that everyone understand the importance of “sustaining” the congregation. The Kol Ami sustainer level was calculated by looking at the total cost of salaries, office expense, school expense, occupancy cost, High Holy Days etc, divided by the number of membership units.

The sustainer level for 2019-2020 is $3,100, the same as this year. While that, at first glance, can seem like a significant amount, remember that it includes the cost of running the religious school. Therefore, if you are paying religious school tuition, you are already contributing toward the sustainer cost.

We know that not everyone is capable of contributing at the sustainer level. This year, 40 members contributed at or above the sustainer level, helping to offset those who couldn’t. But only by supporting Kol Ami to the best of our ability (tax deductible and available in monthly instalments) can we ensure the long-term viability of our congregation, meeting its members’ needs for simchas (e.g. B’nai Mitzvah), Chesed, lifelong education (school, Adult Ed, Rabbi’s learning series), ritual observance, and an overall feeling of community.



A Message from Judy Silver

Judy Silver

Editor’s Note: Judy Silver will be departing shortly to take on a new position. We all wish her the best!


Thank you!


Back in 2011 when I first set foot into the Kol Ami school as the Madrichim Coordinator, I had no idea that I would have the privilege of being part of this wonderful community for seven more years.


For the past eight years, I felt lucky to have a foot firmly planted in two congregations that I called home. It started at Temple Har Zion with my parents as founding members and my dad as the first Director of Education. I grew up there and was launched towards a Jewish career, first as a student teacher, then camp at GUCI, and finally living in Israel for three years. I realized that this is where I wanted to be - in a Jewish world doing Jewish things.


A move to Minnesota and a first taste of being a Director of Education in a small inclusive temple in Minneapolis gave me the “aha” moment. One day I came home from work and said to my husband Ian “This is what I’m supposed to do”.


Eleven years later, I’m back in Toronto, and looking for a new job. A call to Chari Schwartz was all it took to find yet another amazing welcoming community – Kol Ami.


In my time here, I have seen your children grow and learn, take on the task of learning a new language and command the Bima on their B’nai Mitzvah. I’ve watched them struggle, discuss, build their own friendships and engage in Reform Judaism. I have welcomed many new kids and their families and said goodbye to others. I have worked with professional, fun, dedicated and caring teachers. our little Kol Ami office, we worked together to make programs happen, meet deadlines and catch up on life. We supported each other through our struggles and celebrated our victories together.


Thank you for welcoming me into Kol Ami and into your children’s lives. Every student that has come through our doors and learned in our classrooms has a special place in my heart. I will truly miss them. It has been an absolute honour meeting and getting to know your kids and watching them grow and learn. Thank you for helping me grow as a person and as a Jewish educator.


If you ask any of our students what “Shalom” means, they will reply “Hello, Goodbye and Peace”. Thank you for your warm hellos when I first arrived, it will be difficult to say goodbye and I wish you all Shalom in your future.



  1. להתראות



Interfaith Discussion

Interfaith Committee

We wish to briefly summarize for you, the work of the Kol Ami Interfaith Committee as it pertains to our community development.

Kol Ami established an Interfaith committee in August 2016 to identify and examine interfaith issues at Kol Ami. Kol Ami recognized that interfaith families are a growing reality in the Jewish community. As Jews, we can feel a responsibility to connect with our fellow Jews who choose to construct their own Jewish lives in an Interfaith construct; they do not choose to run from Jewish life but rather to construct a Jewish path that includes a non-Jewish partner (with or without children).

Moreover, we can choose to engage non-Jewish partners in a manner that reflects our respect for their choice to be a part of our community and facilitates their learning, identification, and engagement. It is an opportunity for us to embrace each other, grow and mature our community just as Jewish communities have done so for centuries.

Our committee, together with our community, has considered how to extend this embrace in a way that respects our values as Reform Jews and provides a respectful, helpful pathway for non-Jewish partners who seek to engage our community and Jewish life, more fully.

Over the course of the past two years, the committee received community input through numerous interviews and focus groups, provided a series of educational programs (scholar in residence weekend, invited speakers, Torah study) and held a series of discussion forums to educate and dialogue on the relevant issues.

After community consultation and extensive within-committee discussion, it became clear that a primary matter of concern was the existing constitutional restriction on the rights of non-Jewish members of Kol Ami. We examined those restrictions, again soliciting input in 2018 from the community through a community program and consultation from the board of directors, school committee, choir, snow birds, and individuals who responded to our outreach. Based on our congregational consultations and approaches used at other congregations, our committee recommended that our constitution be changed to remove several restrictions. We presented this to the board in the Spring 2018 and decided to present it at the 2019 AGM to discuss and then vote as a larger community after our merger took place.

We will be putting forth resolutions related to participation of non-Jewish partners in Kol Ami community life in June 2019. These resolutions will be the subject of voting at the AGM.

Our hope is that it provokes thought and engenders open-hearted discussion. Our intent is that we embrace one another in discussion and extend the conversation moving forward to strengthens us as a community. We hope many of you will come for discussion and voting!

Informational Session - May 27, 2019 AGM June 17th, 2019

Warm wishes,

Interfaith Committee, Kol Ami

Anita Small & Norman Rosenblum [Co-Chairs]; David Bernstein; Audrey Diamant; Peter Diamant; Andrea Gregor; Tomas Gregor; Elaine Page; Sylvia Starosta; Rabbi Micah Streiffer [Ex-Officio]

Seeking a Director of Family Learning & Engagement (2019)


We are Kol Ami, a vibrant Reform congregation in Thornhill, just north of Toronto. We are searching for an energetic and engaging Jewish educator to partner in re-envisioning and implementing our school and youth and family education. This is an exciting time for our community as we recently integrated another congregation into Kol Ami and are beginning the process of combining two schools into one.


About Our Program

Kol Ami runs our school program on Saturday mornings as part of a Shabbat experience that encourages participation by the whole family. Our dynamic approach to Judaism blends the traditional and the modern. We are a warm, intimate, and inclusive congregation that values life-long learning, spirited and musical prayer, Tikkun Olam, and our vibrant community. Although small, we are a highly active and engaged congregation with a lay leadership that works closely with our professionals.

We are looking to take our lifelong learning experiences to the next level.




The successful candidate will create an engaging and nurturing environment for children and their families to grow, learn, connect and build relationships with one another and with Judaism.


Responsibilities include:


  1. Direct the youth and family learning (including our Saturday school), Hebrew, post-B’nai Mitzvah and high school Madrichim programs.
    • Evaluate the current model and curriculum in collaboration with the Rabbi and Religious School Committee and design and implement a new model and curriculum. The expectation is the curriculum, will be developed and installed within the first 24 months.
    • Oversee school operations including budget and hiring, training and supervision of staff.
    • Oversee informal educational offerings, including youth groups, monthly Friday night “Rock Shabbat” programs, etc., in consultation with Rabbi and cantorial soloist.
    • Work directly with teen youth and supervise the Junior Youth Advisor(s).
  2. Supervise B’nai Mitzvah tutors and plan B’nai Mitzvah family programs.
  3. Work with families to provide opportunities for engagement throughout the year and implement family holiday observances in collaboration with clergy.
  4. Represent the congregation in the community, including at meetings of the Reform Educators’ Council, Supplementary School Principals’ Council and other public events.


Desired Skills

The successful candidate will have a proven track record that demonstrates:

  • A passion for and knowledge about Judaism and familiarity with Reform Judaism.
  • Innovation and creativity with strong programming experience.
  • The ability to relate well to both children and adults.
  • Knowledge and familiarity of current general educational best practices and advances in Jewish formal and informal education.
  • Excellent organizational and communication skills.
  • Strong working knowledge of social media best practices.
  • Ability to successfully supervise and mentor other education professionals.
  • Effective collaboration with clergy and senior leadership.
  • At least a bachelor's degree in education, Judaic Studies or a related field.


Salary is commensurate with experience.


This position is a full-time role beginning July 1, 2019; earlier if available.


Please submit resume and cover letter to: by Friday, May 31, 2019.


President's Message

Elliot Miller

When I was growing up in Montreal (St-Laurent to be specific), we had four sets of cutlery and dishes; meat, dairy, Passover meat and Passover dairy. I was never sure which plates to use when we ordered pizza with pepperoni on it, so we usually ate that directly out of the box.

We were members of an Orthodox shul, although we often drove to services, and we never ate pork, unless it was disguised with a name such as “spare ribs”.

What I suppose I’m saying is that I grew up Reform, without knowing it. I was raised with a love for Judaism, its holidays and traditions, the land of Israel, the Hebrew language and the prayer liturgy. It didn’t matter that we weren’t kosher or shomer-Shabbat, we were proud to be Jewish and celebrated it in our own way.

That is part of the attraction to Reform Judaism in general, and Kol Ami in particular. The essential elements of Judaism are front and centre: we celebrate the holidays, in the sanctuary and in our schools, we make connections to Israel, we teach our children to read Hebrew and to pray and to be proud of being Jewish.

And at the same time, we are inclusive, non-judgmental and welcoming, regardless of how many sets of dishes you have, and which ones you use when eating pepperoni pizza.

So celebrate being part of your community by continuing to observe it in the way that is most meaningful to you, knowing that you will always be welcome at Kol Ami.



Educators' Corner

Judy Silver & Cally Rootenberg

Kol Ami's Shabbat School

There is so much to look forward to!!

I think I can safely say that we are all glad that February is now history and we can look forward to Spring and all that it brings. Was it a coincidence that Purim fell on the very first day of Spring? I’d like to think not! Our Purim celebration was everything that we could hope for - an amazing Purim Service and Spiel were filled with music, laughter and the retelling of our story of perseverance and freedom. The carnival and Haman’s Hideaway provided something memorable for everyone and we couldn’t have done it without the cast of volunteers, actors, and donors. Thank you all.

It usually feels like the school year speeds very quickly to the end of our school year once Spring arrives, and yet there is so much to look forward to!

With Spring in the air, our students and teachers will be diving into everything Pesach! I look forward to taking in the aromas and sounds of Passover in the hallways of our school.

Our Madrichim are putting together an Israeli Shuk experience for the whole school!

Our Grade 7 students will be celebrating three more B’nai Mitzvah together and visiting the Mikvah together!

Our Gan and Grade 1-2 class will be participating in the final Rock Shabbat of the school year! Grade 6 families will spend time experiencing Jewish literature with Heather Berger.

Our students will continue advancing in Hebrew and moving onward and upward in their Hebrew levels.

Our teens will enjoy some time at retreats, escape rooms, and NFTY Spring Kallah together and with other teens from the GTA!

(And if I may, the Blue Jays season will be well underway – hopefully a great thing this year!)

Have wonderful first moments and Spring and all the joy that it may bring!

Judy Silver


Neshamah School of Kol Ami Highlights 

Chag Purim, Chag Purim! Students explored the holiday by putting their acting skills to the test, designed hero masks, unique greggors and more!

And our Purim clothing drive for Ve'ahavta was a great success! Students packaged bags reflecting on the Jewish value of matanat l'evyonim (giving to those in need) as well as the physical and emotional needs of the homeless in our city. Kol hakavod to our school community for helping make this possible! And to Heather Slapack and the Social Action Committee for helping bring the packages to Ve'ahavta.

Social Action Committee for helping bring the packages to Ve'ahavta.

It was a day of food and feasting! Students learned about the special manna that G-d gave the Jewish people in the desert. Reflecting on the upcoming Jewish holidays: Purim, Passover and Shavuot - students experienced eating and preparing special foods for these holidays. Ready to bake at home Hamantaschen. Toaster Matzah in under 18 minutes! A bagel and cream cheese schmooze.


Want to see pictures? Follow us @Neshamah on our Facebook page.

A Message from Neshamah School of Kol Ami

Cally Rootenberg

Neshamah School of Kol Ami

February School Highlights

Hiddur Mitzvah: Our students learned about the beautiful ways Jewish people in our community express their connection to G-d.

Shabbat: Each grade group focused on different Shabbat rituals and customs and decorated/designed candles, challah covers and Kiddush cups to have in their homes.


Want to see pictures? Follow us @Neshamah on our Facebook page.

Grade 7 Mitzvah Project: Raising Awareness for the Passover Food Drive

Our grade 7 students have been learning about poverty and hunger in our community, the affect it can have on families and what we can do as a community to help make a change. They will be taking an active role in our school to inspire their fellow students and will be collecting non- perishable food to support the NCJWC Passover Food Drive. (Collection bins will be beside the storage room at Lebovic campus and at the Kol Ami office closer to the drive)

Upcoming Dates

March 3rd Neshamah Next: How To Do The Most Good - with speaker Mark Rootenberg

March 20th Kol Ami Purim Carnival @36 Atkinson Ave.

April 7th School Bingo Fundraiser @Lebovic Campus

February 23rd and March 30th (Saturday) Grade 7 students will participate in a study session and attend a classmate's Bar Mitzvah. 9:00am - 12:00pm at Kol Ami (36 Atkinson Ave.) This will replace the Sunday program on February 24th at Lebovic campus.

Up Next We Explore!

Judaism and food/ Purim


President's Message

Elliot Miller

This month’s President’s Message is about two Jewish holidays that I think about a lot in March: Purim and Rosh Hashanah!

I’m sure some of you are wondering whether I’ve been consuming some new type of edibles, since those two holidays happen 6 months apart and have nothing in common – other than on both occasions I get up in front of a group of people and make a fool of myself.

At the risk of confusing you any further – here are the reasons I think of both holidays in March. Purim is kind of obvious; it’s the fun holiday, where we get to dress up, drink and act silly. Kind of like a frat Halloween party. And Kol Ami gets in the Purim spirit with a party for all ages; our annual Purim Carnival and Spiel, to be held on Wednesday March 20th at Kol Ami, 36 Atkinson.

For me the highlight is the musical parody, or spiel. This year, in honour of the film that picked up 4 Oscars, we present Shushan Rhapsody, based on the music of Queen. A bunch of your favourite Kol Ami ham actors, including Dana Glickman as Esther, Ben Burko as Haman (booo), Aiden Orzech as Mordechai and Ryan Berger as King Achashverosh, will have you singing and laughing at the outrageous story. Look for me in the critical role of “Minister #2”.

After the play, the fun hits another level. The kids make a beeline for the carnival, with fun games and activities, while the adults sneak upstairs to Haman’s Hideaway, where adult beverages will be served. Overall, this is a night not to be missed.

Okay, what’s with Rosh Hashanah? Together with Yom Kippur, they comprise our High Holy Days, one of the most important events of the year. If you were at Avani Event Centre last year, you surely noticed how beautifully the hall was set up for our services, and how seamlessly all the people and the moving parts worked together.

But that doesn’t happen by itself, and preparations for High Holy Days start as early as March (actually, booking the hall happens even earlier). That is why I am thinking of High Holidays at this time of year. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS! The High Holy Day Committee will start meeting soon to make sure that everything is in place for September 30, 2019 Erev Rosh Hashanah. Please call 416-779-0792 or e-mail me ( if you would like to help in any capacity.



Sun, June 16 2019 13 Sivan 5779