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Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Beit Rayim installs new spiritual leader

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Rabbi Chezi Zionce

TORONTO — Beit Rayim Synagogue will celebrate its 36th anniversary, dedicate its new worship space and formally install Rabbi Chezi Zionce at Shabbat services May 25.

Rabbi Zionce became spiritual leader of the 250-family, egalitarian Conservative shul last July. The synagogue has been in its new home, at the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus, since December. It is in rented space at the Schwartz-Reisman Centre.

The weekend will feature guest speaker Rabbi Saul Grife, of Philadelphia, Pa., who will install Rabbi Zionce.

The weekend also marks the anniversary of the Jewish community in Richmond Hill, Rabbi Zionce told The CJN.

The original grassroots congregation was called the Richmond Hill Jewish Community, according to a history on the shul’s website. It later changed its name to Shaareh Haim Congregation. In 1992, the synagogue fell victim to a recession, which forced the synagogue to close its doors that summer.

A small group started anew for the High Holidays, a few months later, at a local community centre. That was the beginning of Beit Rayim.

The shul’s new Aron Kodesh will be dedicated in memory of founding Rabbi Sol Tanenzapf and the bimah in memory of Ester Bard, the wife of Beit Rayim’s Cantor Eli Bard.

Rabbi Tanenzapf served the congregation until his death in 2006. He was followed by Rabbi David Eligberg.

Rabbi Zionce, a Toronto native who previously served congregations in Naples, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., said the new location is “wonderful. I really view it as being in the heart of the new Jewish community… It’s a tremendous energy-booster for our congregation.”

He added that Beit Rayim is “a young congregation [with] the largest supplementary Hebrew school in one location.” The school has 189 students.

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