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President's Message

Elliot Miller

President’s Message


We are excited to report that the plan to combine Kol Ami and Neshamah into one congregation effective July 1, 2018 has now been approved by both congregations. We look forward to learning, praying, playing and sharing as we build a strong Reform Jewish community together.




President's Message

Elliot Miller


How often has someone asked, “What’s New?” and you’ve replied, “Not Much”? It’s true that a lot of our daily routines are, well, routine. Yet, this month I could not honestly answer, “What’s new?” with “Not much”. Rather, it would be the opposite, perhaps I would reply, “A whole lot of something”.

By now, most of you have heard of the plan for Kol Ami and Neshamah to combine into one congregation at the end of this month. This is by no means a small undertaking. While Kol Ami and Neshamah are both Reform congregations based in Thornhill, we each had a religious school. Each congregation had its own prayer books, textbooks, and locations; each congregation had its own tunes to the same prayers, its own social agenda and, of course, its own Rabbi.

While the decision to keep Rabbi Streiffer as the leader of the combined congregation was an easy one, all the other factors and issues have required extensive discussions, Zoom meetings, e-mails and conference calls. Many of these have been successfully resolved, such as the decision to keep both schools open for the upcoming 2018-19 school year. Other decisions, such as how to combine the schools for 2019-20, will require a lot more discussion.

The other major news item that you have heard about for the last several months is our move to the Voluntary Community Support (VCS) model instead of fixed membership dues amounts. As part of the transition to the VCS model, we have been explaining the true cost of running our congregation, and we are asking our members to pay this cost to the best of their abilities. VCS also eliminates barriers to joining the congregation and increases membership engagement.

These two projects can best be described as “a whole lot of something” new, but neither is official yet. Both items must be voted on at our upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Monday, June 11 at 7:30 pm. Please make sure to attend, or if you are unavailable, please make sure to submit a signed voting proxy.

I look forward to seeing many of you there and working with you on the successful completion of both projects.



Message from the Education Director

Judy Silver

An Ode to our Teachers

Our teachers are brave,

Our teachers are fun

Here are some of the things That they have done


Planning lessons, working together

Facing long winters and terrible weather

Greeting each student with a smile on their face

Getting classes ready, everything in its place


Welcoming back students, embracing the new

Helping our students to love being a Jew

History, holidays, Ivrit and Torah Israel,

Shabbat, mitzvot and T’fillah


They also have lives outside Kol Ami Going to school, gaining a degree

Working, parenting, learning new skills

Doing other stuff to help pay the bills!


So, let us all gather on one special night

To thank our teachers for sharing their light

On May 11 their praises we will sing

Please join us for this very special evening!


This year we were blessed to have on our 2017-2018 staff:

Kali Singer – Gan and Grade 5/6 Hebrew

Lauren Bernstein – Grade 1-2

Allison Board – Grade 1-2 and Student Support

Ronit Baran – Grade 3-4 Hebrew and Religious School, Hebrew Through Movement Specialist

Ally Saks – Grade 5-6

Aiden Orzech – Grade 7- Hebrew and Religious School, Junior Youth Group Advisor

Mathew Zoltak – Madrichim (Grades 8-10)

Deborah Blay and Zoey Schwartz- Student Support

Lois Zoltak- Superwoman

Racheli Bachar – Conversational Hebrew Specialist

Aron Katz- B’nei Mitzvah Tutor and Youth Group Advisor

Heather Berger- Family Education Specialist and Munchkin Minyan

A Message from the President

Elliot Miller

Last month I promised you that I would continue the list of exciting events and activities happening this year. The Coffee House is one of our most popular events each year. Mark your schedules for Saturday, May 5th and come listen to the many talented amateur performers in our congregation. Maybe you have a hidden talent and were waiting for the right opportunity to demonstrate it? Coffee House is the right place: a receptive audience and you won’t hear “No” from any judges.

Adult Education is always one of our busiest committees, and this year is no exception. In April alone we have a session on Judaism and Organ Donation, dispelling the myths about restrictions on Jewish organ donors, and a study session led by student Rabbi, Jesse Paikin, titled, Old World, New Vision: What a 1,500 year old Text can teach us about Modern Zionism. In honour of Israel’s Independence Day, we will take a look at four stunning texts from the Talmud that have the power to define and inform a progressive religious approach to Israel.

If you like learning while eating, there’s Sushi and Study on April 19 and, of course, every Saturday morning we have Torah Study with free breakfast. Stay tuned for exciting news about this year’s Scholar in Residence program!

Finally, on a political note (not really, it’s actually a fiduciary item, but “political” attracts more attention), keep your schedules open on Monday June 11, which is our Annual General Meeting. This year we will have some very important projects to discuss, including the Voluntary Community Contribution model, so make sure you come and make your votes count.

Finally, if you are interested in serving on the Board next year, please let me know. We are about to form the Nominating Committee and would love to have people to talk about behind their backs.

Happy Passover. Chag Sameach.


Message from the 1st Vice President

Elaine Page, 1st Vice President

Peace Train Sounding Louder

During our last Chanukah celebration, A Night of a Thousand Candles, you may recall that there was a group of approximately 30 Muslim women who sat at the back and enjoyed our musical celebration. These wonderful women were from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association and reached out to us in friendship. They had never been to a synagogue before and were curious about our ritual practice. After seeing all the candles, listening to the wonderful music and enjoying the delicious food, one of them shyly asked me, “Is it always like this?”

The Ahmadiyya are a group of devout Muslims who live by a simple message: Love For All, Hatred For None, and their practice is one of faith to their religion and their country. They abhor violence. Their huge mosque in Maple includes two separate structures: one for prayer; one for administration and community. It is really quite an impressive place, but more importantly their values closely align with Reform Judaism.

The Ahmadiyya Women’s Association invited the women of Temple Kol Ami to attend their annual Women Only Peace Conference, titled My Faith and Canadian Values. I participated on a panel representing Judaism. I was initially a bit uncomfortable accepting the invitation, mostly because I did not feel I could possibly represent all Jews. There was the further requirement to address the material using a religious text, which I found daunting. Rabbi Streiffer to the rescue!

At the conference, there was a small but mighty showing from Kol Ami. My sister panelists spoke of their pride about Canada, inclusiveness, health care, human rights, refugees and the importance of building bridges between us. As I listened, I was awash with hope for the future and the song Peace Train began playing in my head.

When I spoke, I took the opportunity to explain what being a Jew means through the lens of Tikkun Olam and Mitzvot. Next, I took some time to kvell about some of the attributes of Kol Ami. I spoke proudly of our work with the Indigenous community and the initiative that we undertook to recognize the territorial lands that we are situated on. I challenged them to do the same in their own communities. I shared with them our experience of standing in solidarity with our friends at the Noor Center after the tragic Mosque shootings in Quebec. I listed some of the great things our volunteer social action committee has done. Other initiatives that were highlighted were the blood donor clinics, our upcoming Organ Donation program and our Interfaith Committee. I am delighted to say that I had a very long list of accolades to choose from. On the Peace Train, we are indeed the little congregation that could. I concluded my talk by singing Oseh Shalom – and gave the English translation - May the One who makes peace in the high places make peace for us and for all the world.

A Message from the President

Elliot Miller

It seems hard to believe that one year ago your Executive was embroiled in lease and contract negotiations with Leo Baeck Day School and Zareinu about our future in the building at 36 Atkinson Avenue. As you may remember, the last stumbling block was removed on June 30, 2017, Mark Wolpert’s last day in office as President of Kol Ami, and we have settled in for the long term.

Without residency issues to worry about, we have been actively expanding and improving our congregation every day. Membership has increased by 12 families over last year, and we have had a corresponding increase in school enrolment.

Janis Prut has revived the Adult Social Committee with the Escape Room and Vodka & Latke events last year, A Day at the Races this year, and a 30th anniversary Gala scheduled for next year (keep the date May 16, 2019 free in your calendars!).

Saul Cohen and Caryn Silver’s Education Task Force has presented a number of recommendations to improve the long-term viability of our school. Anita Small, Norm Rosenblum and the Interfaith Committee have led us through a series of discussions on how we can become a more inclusive congregation.

The Kol Ami Choir is not just for special occasions anymore. We have been fortunate to hear them perform at Shabbat services, including Shabbat Shira, as well as their monthly Kabbalat Shabbat appearance. They keep introducing new music, so check the Calendar on our website (or HaShavua or the Voice) for the next time you can enjoy the music.

There’s much more going on, which I’ll update you on next month.

Happy Purim,


A Message from Kol Ami's Religious & Hebrew School

Judy Silver

Biennial 2017 in Boston!

Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the URJ Biennial in Boston. Imagine 6000 Reform Jews gathering for a week of learning, prayer, connection and song. It was overwhelming to witness and participate in all of the events that the Biennial had to offer. I attended multiple learning sessions each day on topics ranging from Youth Engagement 101 to Models of Congregational Education and Congregations that Collaborate. Each workshop allowed me to learn from my colleagues in the field of Jewish education, as well as from those who are at the top of their field in all areas of the Reform movement and learn their best practices.

Of course, there were many fun events at the URJ Biennial, as well. As a lifelong baseball fan, a tour of Fenway Park and learning more about Jews in baseball was the perfect start to the week. The whole week was an incredibly memorable and valuable experience. Some highlights of my time at the URJ Biennial were: Shabbat dinner with the Temple Kol Ami community; reconnecting with old friends from across North America; singing and praying with the musicians who make our t’fillah a wonderful experience; and finally, having the opportunity to listen to Reform movement leaders speak with absolute passion about our movement, Israel and social justice.

Please click here if you’d like to get a taste of Biennial and perhaps inspire you to plan to join Biennial in two years in Chicago.

To close, I would like to thank Temple Kol Ami for giving me the opportunity to participate this year and learn so much in such a short time. Further, the Temple Kol Ami Religious School teaching staff deserves a special thank you for holding down the fort in my absence!

Happy 2018!

Judy Silver


Director of Education

A Message from the President

Elliot Miller

Happy Secular New Year!

In mid-December, I had the honour of attending the URJ Biennial in Boston. For those unfamiliar with this event, it is a bi-yearly (hence, the name) gathering of thousands of Reform Jews for a few days of celebrating, learning, socializing and re-energizing. Despite the relatively small size of our congregation, six delegates proudly represented Temple Kol Ami. Congratulations, team!

Since I was not raised in the Reform movement, the URJ Biennial was an eye-opening opportunity to personally experience the music and spirit that characterize it. The positive energy starts in Reform movement camps and youth programs, and carries over to adult programs. I was moved to be one of nearly 6,000 people who celebrated Kabbalat Shabbat with an 80-person choir and professional band that felt like a sing-along version of Les Misérables.

At URJ President Rick Jacobs' keynote sermon on Shabbat morning, and at sessions that I attended on Sunday, a common theme was strengthening the bonds between North American Reform Judaism and Israel. I would like to share with you some of the key points:

It is possible to be supportive of Israel, while at the same time critical of some of its policies.

  • There are many facets to the Israel discussion: Peace/Land with Palestinians is only one. Social equality (e.g. Women of the Wall) and the Orthodox monopoly are among other issues in the discussion about Israel.
  • In their new book, A Fragile Dialogue: New Voices of Liberal Zionism, Rabbis Stanley Davids and Lawrence Englander explain how to talk to others about Israel, including the need to be willing to engage ideological opponents, and to be willing to learn from the dialogue or exchange.

Let me know if you would like to learn more about this topic or any of the other sessions we attended.



President's Message

Elliot Miller

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for your condolence wishes on my mother’s recent passing. It is heartwarming to know that the Kol Ami community is there for you, not only for celebrations and simcha, but also in times of sorrow and loss.

I would also like to thank the group that attended our first Voluntary Contribution Model information session on Monday, November 13, 2017. If you were there, you heard first-hand about the exciting change to what we used to call membership dues. You would have heard Mark Wolpert, Barry Stein and Rabbi Streiffer explain why sticking with the old dues model and expecting better results was like the definition of insanity: trying the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result.

Needless to say, the dues model issue is a very important conversation, and we expect all members to attend one session over the next couple of months. Dates and times will be posted in due course, so please check to see which session works best with your schedule.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate Landon Fink on his Bar Mitzvah, which will be on Saturday, December 2. As the Kol Ami family, let’s show up to help Landon’s family and friends celebrate his special day!

Shalom and Happy Chanukah (first night Tuesday, December 12)


A Message from the President

Elliot Miller


Happy November (or Movember, to some),

During the High Holy Days you may have heard me thanking the choir and musicians or the High Holy Day committee and ushers. Unlike the people called up for aliyahs, whose names are mentioned when they approach the bima, the volunteers in the aforementioned groups work tirelessly and relatively anonymously to ensure that we have beautiful and well-organized services. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to un-anonymize (yes I know that’s not a word) those volunteers and list their names so they can be thanked individually.


Jeff Bornstein Lisa Freud-Goldman Karen Paikin
Rick Bornstein Michelle Golubev Heather Pechen
Wendy Bornstein Ron Gordon

Norm Rosenblum

Jerry Bernstein Paul Harding Yulia Sharivker
Arlene Blostein Sharing Harding Kathy Stein
Barry Freud Eve Lipsyc Melanie Tinianov
Barb Frisz Mathias Memmel  



Jeff Bornstein Ron Gordon Karen Paikin
Wendy Bornstein Ena Moffat Norm Rosenblum



David Bernstein Keren Edelist Max Spivak
Jeff Bornstein Paul Harding Rabbi Micah Streiffer



Naomi Cohen Janis Prut Ashley Winick
Eve Lipsyc Errol Seef  



David Ben Salem Justin Glass Jakob Nagel
Cy Charney Wayne Haymer Annie Papernick
Rhona Charney Jay Kowal Manny Prut
David Cohen Lynda Levenstein Michelle Prut
Ian Edelist Marla Nagel Lorne Rovet
Tali Rovet Annette Seef Ed Yudin
Lori Sandler Sylvia Starosta Gord Zwaigenbaum
Joseph Sharivker Barry Stein Hannah Yudin
Sandee Sharpe Shelley Yampolsky  



Jay Kowal Rich Kowal Scott Nokleby
Tessa Troughton    


Wow, as you can see, that’s quite a list! It might not make for very exciting reading, but it certainly sends a message that these holidays don’t happen by themselves and that we have a great community of volunteers.

I apologize to anyone whose name may have been misspelled or who was omitted by accident, and I look forward to seeing you at the exciting events listed in the Voice and the weekly HaShavuah.

Until next time,


Wed, August 15 2018 4 Elul 5778