To the Next Fifty Years

by Arliene Botnick, May 31, 2024

You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it .
(Pirkei Avot 2:21)

Some 50 years ago, a handful of families began the task, and it wasn’t an easy task. There was no official Jewish presence in Mississauga, no Rabbi, no religious school, no Jewish community center, no designated burial area, no Torah scrolls, no siddurim, but this handful of people began the task. And it did take time. We’ve already talked about the early years when there was no synagogue, but a young Rabbinic student joined us monthly, flying in from Cincinnati, to lead services at what is now Glen Erin Inn (and it definitely did not look like it looks today!) The young talented/amazing student – Rabbi Lawrence Englander, – upon graduation, was hired and remained with us up until 10 years ago when the much larger group hired our talented/amazing Rabbi Audrey Pollack; Torah scrolls were donated and prayerbooks were loaned to us. Cemetery plots were purchased in Pardes Shalom. Some of that small group started volunteering at community Bingos (which raised and still raises significant funds for us) And anyone who had some teaching skills and some Hebrew background volunteered to teach the kids, and to prepare them as they became B/B Mitzvah.

And that small group kept working, became a larger group and were able to build our Jewish home, Solel. Into that building went more Torah scrolls and more siddurim (that we would eventually create in our own style) and then we got some artwork and furniture and Solel had a home. From 1973 to 1979, the larger handful had worked very hard and on December 31, 1978, we marched, walked, danced, sang from our temporary home at Glen Erin Inn to our new home at 2399 Folkway Drive, But the task was not yet completed. The handful became the armful that continued to work, created a Solel constitution, hired more staff, members continued to volunteer to be teacher; committees were formed; Bingo workers kept ‘bingoing!’ We got involved in the wider community. We partnered with other religious institutions to create the Mississauga Food Bank, and to build two subsidized housing apartment buildings. We helped create the 905 Interfaith Group – now called the Interfaith Council of Peel. We opened our doors for our neighbours to visit, and to learn about who we are, who Jews are, at our annual interfaith service. We welcomed numerous schools of other faiths into our building so the younger people could learn who Jews are, and what our holidays and life cycle events signify, and to learn about what we share with other communities and how the differences should not stop us from respecting one another.

Now we are here today completing our Jubilee year. Solel is 50 years old, but the task is still not completed. and just as it wasn’t easy 50 years ago, it’s still not easy. Our building, like some of our members, is tired and needs to perk up. We have an expanded washroom space and a beautifully renovated foyer, but it reminds us of how much we need renovations in our sanctuary, in our kitchen, in our office space. Our committees have done so much work, but like our building, some of our committee members are tired, and they’re waiting for the next generation to say that they are going take up the task. Added to the opportunities and challenges that face us now, we are in a somewhat more hostile environment than we were in 50 years ago. The fallout from the shocking and deadly attack on October 7 and the resulting and virulent antisemitism, even among some of our former friends, is both frightening and sad. But one thing that Judaism has always been able to do is survive. The hope that we sing about when we sing Har Tikvah, the hope that allowed people to dream about once again having a Jewish state, will not be extinguished. Though there are so many challenges to it, our hope still knows that we can continue and thrive and grow in Mississauga.

A handful started the task and didn’t know how far they could get with it but look at what has been accomplished. Solel has thrived and grown and become a part of Mississauga, valued and respected. Now the work of completing the task has to continue. Some of our founders have passed away, and others are taking a well-deserved rest from leadership. But for the rest, we are counting on you to support and lead our Jewish community into the next 50 years. The vatikim (the old timers) will be there to advise you, but it’s on to your shoulders that the work of completing the task falls, and then on to the shoulders of your children and your children’s children, and on to the shoulders of all those who move into the area and continue to say we want a Jewish community here where we live.

So, thank you for celebrating our Jubilee year with us. Thank you for remembering how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go. Solel means pathway and let us continue to walk on the pathway of Jewish living together right here in this community west of Toronto. Thank you for taking on the task that the small handful only dreamt could come this far in 50 years. To Solel’s next 50.

Filed under: Educator's Message

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