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Ann and her daughters

Leo and I have been coming to the Narayever since I moved to Toronto in 2005. We always felt very welcome, and as our family grew it became a place where we could bring our girls for Shabbat services and fun family programs. They have grown up at the shul since their baby namings. We appreciated the way all of us could get familiar with services at our own pace and avail ourselves of friendly help for developing our synagogue skills when we wanted it. There was a lot of support for our bat mitzvah celebrations, and we couldn't imagine doing them anywhere else. Even during the pandemic, the Narayever made us feel connected to the community, and this has been an important part of our lives in Toronto. We are happy to see the Narayever growing and adapting with its new building project to meet the needs of the 2020s and beyond. We look forward to being a part of the community for many years to come.
- Ann Komaromi and Leo Livak

 

Liz and her grandson

I have been a member of the Nareyever for 18 years. Originally I joined because my mother was very ill and I wanted to be in a supportive, Jewish community through that time.  The community was indeed supportive and I renewed my membership without hesitation. I found the Narayever community to be friendly and welcoming. There are many ways to explore my Jewish identity.  Rabbi Elkin is a compassionate, knowledgeable spiritual leader and I think is a key part of setting the warm, non-judgmental tone. I now have a wide circle of valuable friends who I met through the shul. After I joined the shul I realized that my grandparents came from villages in Galicia very close to Narayev where our original members came from.  Being a shul member helps me feel continuity with the relatives who died during the war and with those who immigrated to Toronto. The shul gave me an opportunity to get to know Jewish liturgy which at the time of my joining was pretty superficial. It also helped me develop my leadership skills and meet even more members by serving on committees and joining the Board as Chair of the Membership Committee, Vice-President, President and Past President. All were interesting, challenging positions. Before the pandemic I would frequently go to weekly services. Now, I appreciate the many on-line shul activities which are consistently interesting and help me feel connected with the shul.  I look forward to the completion of our building renovation and once more being able to see people in person, celebrating our accessible and environmentally sustainable building.
- Liz Bohnen

 

Lesley

I joined the Narayever when I moved to Toronto in 2007 and my husband Mark Guttman and I were married at the shul as new members June 24, 2007. We had met with Rabbi Elkin, liked him, but the truth was we did not know many folks and we decided to give the place a test drive.  Looking back now, years later, in 2021, I would say the more you give to this place the more you get out of it. Of course that is true about life itself.  I could never have known then when I walked down the aisle as a bride how much I would learn and grow Jewishly from being a part of this community.  I was drawn to the community because I wanted to be in a place where women had the opportunity for ritual honours such as sharing a Dvar Torah.  I also yearned for a place that was down to earth and friendly.  One of the powers of this place is its smallness. Everyone matters. I started the World’s Smallest Jewish Fiction Club because I looked at my nightstand and thought I love reading Jewish books, why not create a club?  The original chapter – still devouring amazing books each month - is now close to celebrating its bat mitzvah!  I wanted to welcome folks into our home for Shabbat and started Kesher Shabbat (in the Before Times) where we get to know each other better over a Shabbat meal.  From Kesher new friendships emerged with members from different parts of the Jewish world in Toronto. Mitzvah goreret mitzvah, goodness creates more goodness. It sounds corny but this notion contains a powerful truth. The  shul pivoted quickly and with a lot of innovation, power and flexibility to create a Jewish digital life and that is a testament to Rabbi Elkin, as well as the small but mighty collection of powerful volunteers operating backstage to create this warm welcoming Jewish ecosystem. 
- Lesley Simpson

Gary and Jill with their daughter, 1992

My husband, Gary and I joined the First Narayever around 25 years ago. For a few years before we joined we attended High Holiday services at the JCC. Overtime we started attending Shabbat morning services fairly regularly and then it just felt right to join. After living in Jerusalem, Narayever felt like home - there was an informality, enough Hebrew, tradition and engagement to touch the parts of us that were missing Israel. As a new immigrant, the shul was an important part of my social fabric; many of our family friendships started at shul. Our life at the shul has evolved overtime. When our kids were little we attended services two or three shabbats a month, which merged into pre-B-Mitzvah attendance. Later on, our daughter was part of a small group of teens who continued studying at the shul and co-led the Shabbat morning children’s service. I was active on the youth committee and chair for a while, involved on the celebrations and food committees. Long before that, Gary was engaged in discussions about the previous renovation. When the kids were in their teens my husband’s parents died and attending services to say Kaddish was important to him. A year or two after my mother-in-law died a member of the nominations committee called and asked me if I thought Gary would join the board as the building chair. I responded, ‘no way, he is over committed on another board, but call him and see what he says’. Little did I realize how dedicated Gary is to Jewish community continuity. Since that time between us we have served on the board for 9 years. Until the Covid lockdowns, attending Shabbat services provided a zen moment in my week: time in community, time to reflect, time to engage intellectually, time afterwards to connect socially.
- Jill Magen-Lichtblau

 

The First Narayever Congregation has been our spiritual home since 1995. We were born into small Jewish communities and had raised our children in small communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario. When we returned to Toronto after 15 years away, we gravitated to the Narayever where we had family and where the traditional egalitarian approach was a comfortable fit. From the beginning, we were warmly embraced by this very welcoming and inclusive congregation and were soon invited to participate in a number of the shul’s committees and programs. Because of our many moves, we had learned that the best way to become part of a new community is to get personally involved. Over the years, because of our affiliation with the Narayever, we have grown in our Jewish practice, invested in stimulating learning opportunities, enriched our circle of friends, and are always appreciated for our engagement in the ritual and programmatic offerings of the shul. We have been warmly celebrated on life’s milestone occasions and surrounded with comfort and ritual assistance when dealing with family losses.  As an educator, Brenda has had opportunities to work with our youth and delights in seeing the congregation’s children develop, through their involvement in services and programs, into young leaders and committed members within their generation. Through the years, she has gained confidence and derived much satisfaction from learning to leyn, serving as Bar/Bat Mitzvah Coordinator and acting as Gabbai and Honour’s Coordinator during Shabbat and holiday services. Jerry has been able to transfer his skills acquired from work experience in Jewish communal service and administration to provide support in fundraising, canvasser training and building renewal. He has had the privilege of volunteering in a wide number of outreach areas. For both of us, acting on the Narayever’s ingrained values of hesed, tikkun olam and social action have been meaningful and fulfilling. We have been blessed with the wise and caring Rabbi Ed for twenty years, who has become for us a friend, teacher, advisor, mentor and steadfast presence. Our synagogue staff and volunteer Board have always been of the highest quality, ensuring that we meet the needs of our congregants and progress into the future in responsive ways. During these many months of the pandemic, our lay and professional leaders have created virtual events that have sustained and bonded us as a community. We couldn’t be prouder of our connection to this amazing congregation.
- Brenda and Jerry Enchin

 

Francine, kayaking

I've been a member of The Narayever for 7 years, although I was coming for a few years before that. I was introduced to the shul by a client of mine who mentioned that a minyan was needed for Rosh Hodesh services, which started early in the morning. The Rosh Hodesh service once occurred on a Sunday. Thus I learned about the Sunday minyan and became a regular there. Next thing you knew, Rabbi Ed asked if I wanted to lead part of the Sunday minyan. This is what I love so much about the shul. There is a way of being drawn in, of finding what brings you fulfillment and enlightens you. The community is warm, welcoming and inclusive. There is so much in which to be involved. I love the social action committee's strong support and outreach to our Indigenous community, the wide and varied educational offerings, both religious and secular and a stress reduction relaxation class was something I didn't know I needed until I did. By joining the book club I have been introduced to wonderful literature I probably never would have read. During this trying year, The Narayever has meant more to me than I realized. Having a community to support me, and regular religious services to strengthen my connection to G-d has helped me weather this storm and know that life carries on and carries me with it. I find joy in the everyday and know that if I need help a whole community is there to support me.
- Francine Dick

Faye

When I first started going to the Narayever, I was around 7 — not old enough to understand all the great things about the Narayever. In fact, I still don’t understand all the great things about the Narayever because I am always learning more great things about it! I joined because my family had joined, along with my cousins. I did not have a part in deciding to go to the Narayever, but if it were up to me I would choose the Narayever anyway! The Narayever community is, in one word, welcoming. I feel welcome at the Narayever for all different aspects of myself and I know my family and friends there feel it too. Last year, I attended the B’nei Mitzvah class every two weeks. My cousin Max and I got to learn about Judaism together and after the first few classes, we made friends with new people! This class is my biggest Narayever memory. There was a sleepover for the B’nei Mitzvah class that stands out in my mind because in one night, I learned so much about my classmates and had so much fun. We learned about Judaism together, and I made one of my best friends ever in that class. I am so grateful for the Narayever because without it, I never would have met this amazing person and other amazing people who I talk to daily. The Narayever has impacted my life in terms of Judaism, friendship and family, and I am so happy I go to the Narayever!
- Faye B.

I’ve always thought that Chazal had something to say for any and every situation. In this case, it is Hillel who said: “Do not separate yourself from the community”.  I think he must have been talking about the Narayever. It was during Shiva for my husband Ted and for Isabel Malkin’s sister Kathy that the idea of a Narayever evening minyan was floated amongst the people who had been attending the services. Both Isabel and I were committed to 11 months of Kaddish and gladly said that we would be there every night. Others volunteered to help make the minyan and seamlessly, our Shiva minyan was transformed into the daily evening minyan (except for Erev Shabbat). Motzai Shabbat, we make Havdallah, and we have reconstituted the Rosh Chodesh morning minyan too. What a machayah to daven with friends at the end of the day. We have a chance to chat as people arrive, and after the davening as well, if people wish to stick around. Especially in these challenging times, seeing the faces of friends every day is a real comfort. For shul members with a yahrzeit, they can say Kaddish with fellow Narayeverniks, and share some thoughts about their loved one. For those who join us for their Shiva, we encourage them to invite family and friends to come and daven with them and make the Zoom room available for them after the service to continue the conversation. We also offer a special Shacharit service to mark the Shloshim, where people are encouraged to speak about the loved one who died; family and friends are welcome to join for that service as well.  For me and Isabel, the evening minyan has been a key factor in our ability to mourn those we lost in the company of people who care about us. The Narayever has proven once again that it isn’t just a shul, it’s a community.
- Julia Gluck

Jodi

Our family joined the Narayever 6 years ago when our kids were 10, 8 and 5 years old. We have now celebrated two b'not mitzvah with the shul and have enjoyed meeting wonderful and down to earth people, participating in holiday celebrations, and countless Shabbat services.  The Narayever has been such a great and nurturing community for our family, offering the kids opportunities to meet new friends, to explore their Jewish identities in an open and inclusive environment, and to lead.  We each connect with the shul in our own ways, and I hope that we'll continue to find different ways to connect with the Narayever community at different stages of our lives.
- Jodi Block

   
   
   
   
   
   

 

Thu, June 17 2021 7 Tammuz 5781