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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Darchei Noam celebrates 40 years

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Rabbi Tina Grimberg

TORONTO — Congregation Darchei Noam, Toronto’s only Reconstructionist synagogue, will mark its 40th anniversary and pay tribute to Rabbi Tina Grimberg on her 10th anniversary as spiritual leader on June 8 and 9.

A celebratory Saturday morning Shabbat service will be followed by a gala fundraising concert at the shul the following evening.

The concert, titled “From Jaffa to Broadway,” will feature jazz-cabaret singer Theresa Tova, and award-winning performer Aviva Chernick, of Jaffa Road.

Over the past decade, the congregation has grown from 250 to 455 households, the rabbi told The CJN. “It was always this marvelous, thrifty Jewish institution that could do a lot out of nothing,” she said.

In 2008, Darchei Noam moved from rented premises in the B’nai Brith building on Hove Street to a large renovated building (the former Adath Sholom Synagogue) on Sheppard Avenue West, and programming has doubled and tripled, the rabbi said. “The beauty is that, as many changes have taken place, there’s still that core of chavurah, of we can do it ourselves… Decision-making is done from the grass roots.”

Demographics have skewed down agewise, and children are “a huge part” of services, she added. As well, she noted, there is “incredible diversity” in the pews – including black, Asian, gay and lesbian congregants.

Phyllis Angel Greenberg, Darchei Noam’s cantorial soloist and a member almost from Day 1, remembers when the congregation was “a tiny little group of people that carted the Torah around in trunks of cars” for services in people’s homes.

At the time of its inception, the shul was Toronto’s only egalitarian congregation, said Greenberg, who grew up in a Reconstructionist synagogue in Montreal.

Rabbi Richard Hirsh, now executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association was hired as the synagogue’s first full-time rabbi in 1981.

A constant for Angel Greenberg over the years has been the “strong sense of community” at Darchei Noam. She noted that people attend regularly from all over the GTA, including Mississauga, Thornhill, downtown Toronto, and the Beach.

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