by John Lewsen, April 30, 2024

My second “one-year” term as Solel’s President coincided with an unexpectedly challenging time for us all. On the positive side, we came together for multiple joyous and meaningful gatherings as our Solel Community celebrated our first fifty years. With the generous help of numerous volunteers, my dedicated Board colleagues also made significant progress in advancing each of our agreed strategic priorities. However, this has also been a period of horrific events starting with the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel — and all that has followed.

At Solel, our continued sense of safety and security has been paramount. Fortunately, we have had the benefit of the proactive support and regular physical presence of the Peel Regional Police (PRP). We have also had the opportunity to deploy funding grants from the Province and the UJA Federation to further enhance our physical safety and security. Most recently we have been working with a synagogue security expert to review and update our security and training protocols.

As we come to the end of our Solel@50 celebrations our focus is shifting from our history to our future. This means understanding and charting our continued relevance and future role as a center for Reform and Liberal Judaism West of Toronto. Having agreed to run for President for a third (and final) “one-year” term while we consolidate our leadership succession, I look forward to continuing this conversation with you as we gather online for our Annual General Meeting on Monday, May 6.

Finally, what do I mean by hope? Rabbi Pollack spoke about this in her recent Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach Diva Torah, and I will share two quotes from the handout she provided that particularly resonated with me:

“One of the most important distinctions I have learned in the course of reflection on Jewish history is the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that together, we can make things better.”
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
The Dignity of Difference. Page 206.


“Hope locates itself in the premise that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty (there)is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone in concert with a few dozen or several million others.”
Rebecca Solnit
Hope in the Dark


My concluding image of hope comes from URJ President, Rabbi Rick Jacob’s poignant Passover message: “We must continue to hope for better days ahead. As we conclude(d) the seder with the words ‘Next Year in Jerusalem,’ let us hope that the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael will sit together under their vines and fig trees and, in the words of the prophet Micah, ‘none shall make them afraid’.”

I look forward to continuing to work together with the Board and all members of our Solel community in the spirit of leveraging our combined positive power of hope.


Filed under: President's Message

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