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Rabbi Micah Streiffer


“The whole world is one town.”

(Yiddish proverb)

Each year in late winter (around the time we’d all like to scatter to warmer climates) we read a Torah portion about the importance of togetherness:

וַיַקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶ֗ה אֶֽת־כָל־עֲדַ֛ת בְנֵ֥י יִשְרָאֵ֖ל

Vayak’hel Moshe et kol adat v’nei Yisrael.

Moses brought together the people of Israel…(Exodus 35:1)

These are the opening words of the Torah portion called Vayak’hel, in which Moses speaks about the importance of Shabbat and about how to build our sanctuary. The Hebrew word vayak’hel (וַיַקְהֵ֣ל) comes from a root that means “gathering” or “congregation.” (The word kehilah, community, comes from the same root.) It is noteworthy that when Moses goes about teaching our people about these most important Jewish practices, he וַיַקְהֵ֣ל - he brings us together to forge us into a congregation.

This is, of course, one of the most basic lessons of Judaism: our Jewish lives – and indeed, our lives in general – are richer when they are lived together.

This year, we have some Vayak’hel to do ourselves, as we will be undertaking the project of welcoming the members of Neshamah and forging a single, stronger community from the identities, practices, and traditions of our two congregations.

There is much that Kol Ami brings to this venture. As you know, we are an active, learned, intimate community whose members support one another throughout the year. We have an incredible menu of services, programs, and learning – at a very high level – yet we still manage to be what some have termed the “Cheersof synagogues: the place where everybody knows your name.[1] Neshamah also brings a great deal: a strong commitment to youth education, willingness to think outside of traditional boxes, a spirit of ritual creativity. (Wait until you experience “Visual T’filah!”) Our task will be to maintain and celebrate those values, strengths, and experiences that are core to our congregational life, while opening ourselves up to the project of building something together.

This is an exciting moment in our congregational life! The road will not be without bumps – some of what we do over the next year will feel new; there will be experimentation; there will be trials and errors. This is all part of the process of forging our path ahead. As a congregation, I hope we can commit to two things: First is a commitment to enter into this project with excitement and curiosity, with faith in the power of what people can build when they come together. Second is a commitment to Hachnasat Orchim – the Jewish value of hospitality. There will be new faces at shul in the coming months. Please reach out and welcome our newest members when you see them. Please try to think of yourself as a host, welcoming new family members into your home.

Our first opportunity to be hosts will be at Rock Shabbat in the Park on Friday, June 15 at 6:30. For the third year in a row, we will gather at the outdoor amphitheatre of the North Thornhill Community Centre. This year, we will be inviting the members of Neshamah to celebrate with us as well. Please mark your calendar to come sing, pray, eat, and Vayak’hel – bring together our whole community!

Kol Ami means “Voice of My People.” This has always been a congregation where every voice matters. Thank you for lending your voice to this extraordinary community. I am looking forward to exciting times ahead!


Rabbi Micah Streiffer


[1] Can you believe the rabbi just compared our synagogue to a bar??


Tue, August 9 2022 12 Av 5782