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news from kol ami


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President's Message

Elliot Miller

Congratulations! You are guilty of Audacious Hospitality!


No, I haven't gone off the deep end. I can actually explain the cryptic (audacious?) comment above.

As a member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), Kol Ami is a proponent of inclusiveness, of welcoming people into our community regardless of gender, ability, financial status or marital status. The URJ even has a Vice President of Audacious Hospitality, with the definition of audacious being bold, fearless or daring. That person's job is to encourage congregations to look at ways in which they can be welcoming to people that may have been overlooked in the past.

At Kol Ami we have been, and continue to be, active in audacious hospitality. We stream our Shabbat services and Torah Study for people who are unable to be here in person. We provide signing for Deaf members and we have a wheelchair accessible entrance. We welcome LGBTQ members and couples and we don't turn away members for inability to pay.

One area where Kol Ami is at the forefront of hospitality is with interfaith families. We have many couples and families with one non-Jewish parent, and we believe they feel as welcome as those who are Jewish. But we realize that there is more work to be done. As the Rabbi has mentioned, he plans to be the first Toronto Reform Rabbi to perform a Jewish wedding for an interfaith couple. And as you will see elsewhere in the Voice, we are about to start a 3-part series on interfaith issues vis a vis community engagement, ritual and governance.

Join us to share your comments and opinions and help Kol Ami continue to be a leader in Audacious Hospitality.


A Message from the Director of Education

Judy Silver

What’s new at school?

We have several new families who have recently joined and/or are tasting our school for the first time through our “Taste of Kol Ami” program! It is so exciting to see new students in our hallways and classrooms. Please contact me if you’d like to take an active role in connecting with our newest families to show them around and get to know our Kol Ami community.

Have you seen these websites? They are waiting to be explored! -

It provides ways to listen to and hear the Alef-Bet, (Under “Hebrew for Children”), background about the Jewish holidays, the Torah Parashiot, and Israel. It presents a definite traditional view and wording, but provides excellent and child-friendly information. The Hebrew links are perfect for parents with little Hebrew knowledge, but would like to help out their children with their Hebrew learning.


Bimbam is a studio that makes Jewish videos, apps and animated stories. It offers Jewish videos for all ages, parents, and provides videos that teach all about Jewish life and a video for each Torah parasha. It’s a great resource!


Not sure when the holidays are? Want to look up the candle lighting times and Torah readings? Need a Jewish calendar to download? It’s a great place to go.

My personal favourite:

Not sure if it’s a Jewish holiday? Just go to:

You will get a yes or a no.

And just one more: Kol Ami

Go to the learning tab and Religious School to check about snow days, to look at the school calendars and to read the parent handbook.

Thanks for a great start to the school year!

Judy Silver

A Message from the Social Action Committee

Marleine Kay

Yom Kippur Food Drive

Let all who are hungry eat Please bring non-perishable food items and cans with you to our Kol Nidre, or Yom Kippur services, and place them in the Vaughan Food Bank bins in the foyer of the shul. Every week, the Vaughan Food bank feeds the escalating number of working poor and impoverished families in our community. More than ever, families and individuals struggle to keep a roof over their heads and have enough left over for food. Homeless souls live in the City of Vaughan fields and many children tragically go to school hungry. We can help!

Volunteer with Jewish Immigration Aid Services

There is an incredible Kol Ami volunteer opportunity to help resettling Yazidi refugees in the GTA. IMG_20170803_170625227_HDR (002) The photograph on the right was taken in Toronto on Thursday August 3rd, 2017 at a vigil outside of the US Consulate, to remember the Yazidi’s and their ongoing enslavement, torture, and death at the hands of ISIS. Many are holding up photos of their loved ones who have been murdered, and photos of missing daughters and sisters who have been sold into sexual slavery by ISIS.


Kol Ami now has a wonderful opportunity to help Yazidi refugees get settled into their new lives in the GTA. Many of us know first-hand, and from our parents and other family members, what it is like to be a traumatized refugee and a survivor of unbearable genocide, starting out life again in a new land, a new language and new culture. It’s a daunting task.

Volunteer opportunities for Kol Ami are extremely diverse, from greeting the refugees at the airport, to helping them get established in every way possible here, including assisting in finding more permanent accommodation. Unlike other refugees who come to Canada, our Government only provides 2 weeks of accommodation for the Yazidis. We will need to help them learn how to grocery shop, get their OHIP card, open a bank account, how to enroll their kids in school, how to take the TTC, etc. If you have an old cellphone you don’t need, then please consider donating it.

Please contact Marleine at 905-763-1136 or for the full list of volunteer opportunities. Let’s form a strong team of compassionate, helping hands as soon as possible.

It doesn’t matter how little or how much you can help, because every moment

spent helping these tragic people is a mitzvah beyond word.

“How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment to start to improve the world”

- Anne Frank


Because we are Kol Ami and together we CAN make a difference

A Message from the President

Elliot Miller

Shana Tova - we say that a lot this time of year. We wish each other a happy and healthy year, and hope for Gmar Chatimah Tova, to be inscribed in the book of life.

Yet being inscribed is only the first step in enjoying a happy and prosperous year. We get out of life what we put into it. If we put a little effort into our work, our friendships, and our family, we reap the rewards of that effort. (I "like" you on Facebook, you "like" me back).

The same is true at Kol Ami. It is possible just to come to High Holy Day services and then disappear until it's time to say Shana Tova again next year. But it doesn't have to be that way. Kol Ami offers a wealth of opportunities to enjoy a happy and productive year. Here are some examples of where you can put in a little effort and get a great deal more in return:

  • Chesed - this committee provides moral support to congregants who are ill and includes the minyanaires who organize shiva services
  • Social Action - this committee offers programs to inform and educate the congregation on social and public affair issues that are of concern to the community
  • Social Media Coordinator - this person will work with the Communication, Membership and other committees to ensure that Kol Ami has the best possible on-line presence
  • Fundraising - this committee oversees short-term fundraising projects

We have something for everyone; Adult Education, Interfaith Committee, High Holy Day and Ritual Committees, Membership, Religious School Committee, Music & Choir, Finance, Youth, etc.  Feel free to contact me or Rabbi Streiffer to find out more about any or all of the ways in which you can give a little and get a lot in return.


Shana Tova,


A Message from the Director of Education

Judy Silver

The first day of Kol Ami School is almost here!

Saturday, September 9 – First day of Religious School


We will be gathering in the Kol Ami Sanctuary to welcome in a brand new year with smiles and music, old and new friends:

9:00am Opening Day Assembly in Sanctuary for all families.

9:20am Students and parents move to see the new classrooms.Students remain in their classes, Parents join Judy in the common room (library) to hear about the highlights from this coming year.

12:00pm Plan to join us today and every Shabbat for Shabbat Family T'fillah (SFT) in the Chapel!

Torah Study will begin, as usual, at 9:15 in the chapel. (Parents are more than welcome to join a few minutes late)

Wednesday, September 27 - First day of Hebrew School for

Grades 3 – 6

5:30pm Pizza Dinner for Students who opted in. Classes begin promptly at 5:50pm.

As always, please use the entrance on North Side of building on Wednesday evenings.

Saturday, October 14 - Meet our Teachers! 11:00am - 12:00pm

Our classrooms will be open for you to visit, learn more about the curriculum and meet our amazing teaching staff!

If you haven't renewed your membership and registered for Religious School, it's not too late!

Returning Students: Click here

Please refer to our calendar on our website for school happenings!

Changes are afoot this year!

The entire school will be in the east end of the upper floor, classrooms 206-212, including the beautiful common room located in the centre (previously the Leo Baeck Library). We will be sharing this space with Netivot and Zareinu. The classrooms are big and bright and ready to be filled with fun and learning. If you have any donations to beautify or enhance our classrooms, please let Judy know. We are especially looking for kid-friendly area rugs or large mats, furniture, and art that would work well in a classroom. Other supplies (arts and crafts, Jewish themed games, etc.) would also be gladly accepted.

This year we are blending the grades. As usual, Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten students will make up our Gan class. Grades 1and 2 will also continue to be together. Grades 3 and 4 will make up one class, as will Grades 5 and 6. The B’nai Mitzvah year (Grade 7) will be a single grade.

The teachers and I are looking forward to a wonderful school year ahead!

See you in the fall!

Judy Silver

Director of Education

A Message From The Director of Education

Judy Silver

Summer Reminders from Judy:

It’s not too early to register your students for the 2017-2018 school year!

Please click on the link and in two minutes you’ll be done and we will have your information!

Updates to your current school registration can be made on your 2017-2018 Membership Renewal form. Tuition fee(s) will be due at the time of Membership Renewal



Cleaning out the kids’ rooms while they’re at camp?

Looking to declutter?

We would love to help you out! Kol Ami school can use:

  • Gently used Jewish themed Childrens’ books
  • Left over B’nai Mitzvah kippot
  • Arts and crafts supplies
  • Office supplies
  • Holiday items
  • Manipulatives and fidgets
  • Board games and puzzles
  • Puppets
  • Costumes

Send Judy a note to or give her a call 905-709-2620 ex. 4 to arrange drop off times.

Thanks, and have a wonderful and safe summer!

See you in the fall.

Judy Silver

A message from the President

Elliot Miller

Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities, opens with the famous line "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Many people would look at the recent decisions by CHAT, Associated Hebrew Schools, and Leo Baeck to sell their buildings and/or close their York Region schools as a sign that we are in the midst of "the worst of times." Some people would like to focus on the need to "survive", by slashing programs and operating bare bones congregations.

But I will argue that at Kol Ami we remain in "the best of times." We are a vibrant congregation with exciting and rewarding programs and services, an engaged membership, and a world-class Rabbi and Cantorial Soloist. In addition, we have the luxury of an investment fund, that allows us to plan for the future without having to worry about the ability to pay our bills today.

With the continued support of our membership, leadership, clergy, and staff, we can continue to thrive in these complicated times. "Thrive", not "Survive." Whether our long-term home is in the Leo Baeck building or somewhere else, the most important thing is that we, at Kol Ami, are a community. And I look forward to continuing "the best of times" during my term as President of Kol Ami.



Elliot Miller

A Message From the President

Mark Wolpert


In just a few short weeks, my term as President of Kol Ami will come to an end, and Elliot Miller will be taking over as President. Before I step aside and officially become Immediate Past President, I would like to offer my thanks to all of those who have helped me over the past two years. I have been fortunate to have had two very capable Boards whose tireless work and commitment has made an incredible difference to our Kol Ami community. Thank You. To the Chairs of our Kol Ami Committees who’s work impacts our members most directly, thank you for your commitment and hard work in support of our congregational goals.

I have been very fortunate to have had the support of our Past Presidents who were so involved in the discussions and negotiations of our new lease agreement with Leo Baeck and Zareinu. Your guidance and wisdom is greatly appreciated.

And a special thanks to my Exective team – Nicole Arnold, Caryn Silver, Elliot Miller, and Aviv Haras. Over the past two years, we have dutifully met each Wednesday at noon to discuss and review all open issues at Kol Ami and ensure we were moving our congregation forward. Thank you so much for all of your hard work.

I would also like to thank our full time professional staff, Rabbi Micah Streiffer and Joanne Shinwell, who I have had the pleasure of working with on an almost daily basis during my time as President. It has truly been a great partnership. I would also like to thank our part time professional staff, Judy Silver, David Bernstein, Mathias Memmel, Aron Katz, and all of our teachers for all you do for Kol Ami.

Lastly, I would like to thank our Kol Ami members who have reached out to me with advice, expressed their concerns, or just given me words of encouragement, thank you for putting into action your passion and care for Kol Ami.

Kol Ami is a small congregation that acts like a big congregation and we can only do this through the support and dedication of all of our members and staff. Thank you all.


A Message From ARZA Canada

Rabbi Benjie Gruber


I have now been living and working in Canada for four months and I have four more months to go. I am so happy to feel and see the love of Canadian Reform Jews to Israel. It is inspiring and it fills my heart with joy. I have been meeting many many people and feeling the love and support to Israel.

This is great and amazing, BUT I feel and think, we have a problem. Being a supporter of the State of Israel is very important. Knowing whom to support and how, is what makes a real difference. ARZA Canada (and The Israeli Reform movement it supports) is more than another Zionist organization. It is a cause we should all support and believe in.

We can make a real difference. We can help shape the Jewish character of the State of Israel.

Issues of religious pluralism, recognition of conversions and weddings, Rabbis’ salaries, Women of the Wall and more, are issues that we can influence by supporting ARZA Canada. This should be the mission of Reform Jews regarding Israel. This is not less (and I as one who served and serves in the IDF, think even more) important than supporting the IDF. It already has an enormous budget.

Israel is a successful country. We have an army, we have hospitals, we have agriculture and hi-tech, and so much more. We have made tremendous progress in the almost 70 years since the creation of the State.

But, in the issue of religious pluralism we are way behind the other areas we have made progress in. The issue of making sure Reform Jews in Israel and around the world receive rights and are recognized as a legitimate stream of Judaism is urgent. Reform Jews in Israel must have the same rights as Reform Jews in Canada. For this to happen, Israeli Reform Judaism must be recognized as a religious stream with the same legal rights as the Orthodox.

I am asking you all to recognize the urgency of this matter. This is not different than when we hear of Israel needing our help on one issue or another. The past has shown that you rally around Israel in times of crises and I am sure you will do this in the future. But now, for us to continue to develop a pluralistic and egalitarian country we need your help.

We (ARZA Canada, IMPJ) are pioneers. We are struggling for recognition. The chance to be a Chalutz, a pioneer, helping to build the country physically was 70-80 years ago. Now we are the Chalutzim influencing the spiritual and moral aspect of Israel. Come, join us, be a pioneer, make a change.

I call upon you, be a member of ARZA Canada, be a pioneer and help make Israel an even better country than it is now. Please make a donation to IMPJ through ARZA Canada by clicking here.

Benjie Gruber

a message from our director of education

on Wednesday, 23 November 2016.

Experiential Learning at Kol Ami

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.”
― John Dewey

Along my journey these past two years towards earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education, I’ve been introduced to the educational philosophy of John Dewey. He believed that students thrive in an environment where they are allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum, and all students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning.

Simply put, instead of learning about something, students are learning by doing.

Last year, UJA’s Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education partnered with the Jewish Theological Seminary to offer Toronto’s Supplementary Educators the opportunity to learn more about “Jewish Experiential Education” and how we can bring it to our supplemental schools. They have provided our school with a generous grant so that we may introduce Experiential Learning to Kol Ami. I attend the seminars and Kol Ami’s teachers, in turn, are learning from me.

What is unique about Experiential Learning? We start by altering the space, even leaving the classroom completely. We provide opportunities for the students to dynamically interact with the subject material, using multiple senses and methods, such as researching, playing and building. And why do we do this? We do this to create a greater sense of community. We want to give the students time to reflect on their learning. Just as we sometimes remove the classroom from the learning, we want to take the learning out of the classroom, into the world.

You may have noticed some Experiential Learning going on already:

  •  Lights turned low in a classroom, a Shabbat table set with candles, kiddush cups, challah, flowers, and kippot for a weekly welcome to Shabbat.
  • Students experiencing the Jewish Life Cycle by “raising” dolls and modelling the rituals as they grow up.
  • Students shopping for art materials using play Shekels in an Israeli Shuk to complete a High Holiday project.
  •  Students creating their own Sukkot and demonstrating their understanding of the rules that guide Sukkot building.
  •  Moving and responding to Hebrew commands during “Hebrew Through Movement.”
  •  Playing games that require co-operation, active learning, and community building through Jewnior Games.

We are currently planning an all-school Chanukah program that will feature Experiential Learning at its core. Our students will be able to explore Chanukah through the lenses of History, Tradition and Freedom.

As we introduce Experiential Learning to our students, you can join in the learning. When your students hop into the car at the end of the school day, try asking,  “What did you do today?” rather than, “What did you learn about today?” I hope these questions and conversations will bring their learning out of the classroom and into your homes

Judy Silver

Mon, October 23 2017 3 Cheshvan 5778