Kehilla (Community)

by Arliene Botnick, October 1, 2020

During the Yamin Noraim, what has truly been affirmed is the strength of Solel as our Jewish community. The High Holiday season traditionally brings together Solel members, their families, our extended network of supporters, but this year – the year of COVID – our “togetherness” has been amazing. And perhaps, more than ever, we understand what it means to be a Jew!

For many of us, the spiritual side of our identity defines us. Thus, Friday and Saturday services, even in the virtual realm, have been attended in even greater numbers than when our building was open. We need to pray together, to say blessings together, to sing (even in our own personal living rooms) together. We need to be comforted and reassured as our Rabbi inspires us with her words and her music.

But our spiritual well-being is only part of who we are as Jews. We share a history (biblical and modern) that defines what we have experienced, what we have learned from those experiences and what we must do. As we were once slaves, we must free any who are enslaved. Since we suffered the pains of persecution and hatred, we must stand up against the hatred and persecution of any group or individual suffering.

We accepted God’s commandments and became God’s partner in the covenant and we must continue to live these commandments and work with God to make this a safer, better world.

And as a third arm of our identity, along with a shared spirituality and history, we share an identity as a community, a “kehillah.” We couldn’t be physically together over these High Holidays, but we could and did make sure that all of our community was “hugged.” A slew of volunteers (Solel’s “Uber” team) delivered awesome High Holiday gifts to our entire congregation. Delivering from downtown Toronto, to Georgetown, Milton, Erin and more, our volunteers, with their smiling faces and their GPS’s, arrived at our doorsteps with our High Holiday gifts. And of course, these 250 gift packages were put together by a small but mighty group of volunteers, who spent numerous hours ordering the items, laminating prayer cards, decorating the bags, addressing them, and so on. And our Rabbi signed, with a personal message, some 250 cards. A special Todah Rabah must go to Shawna Skryzlo, Jennifer Smith, and Robbin Botnick for all their work on this project, and to all of our drivers.

And we also have other super heroes. So many of you, in order to take ownership of the service and to allow so many faces to be seen, volunteered to send in personal videos of your part in the services. And one particular super hero, Joel Brown, spent an unbelievable amount of time putting together the most amazing possible High Holiday services. Yasher Koach to Joel. We couldn’t have done it without him. Our musicians, Ron Miller and Seth Subeck, were outstanding. Our drama groups (including our versatile and multi-hat-owning Rabbi Emeritus) are thinking: “This year an Oscar for sure!”

And best of all, we realize and appreciate what it means to be a community, a “kehillah,” and I personally would like to add one more defining quality, Solel. We are perhaps more than kehillah, we are mishpacha. So, to my Solel family, let us pray that we all be sealed for a better, a sweeter, and a healthier New Year.

Keyn Yehi Ratzon!
May it be God’s will.

Filed under: Educator's Message

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