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Sunday, July 5, 2015

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Orthodox congregation marks 100th anniversary

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Celebrating Sukkot at Cannon Street Shul in 1958

HAMILTON — One day in the late 1950s, a 24-year-old rabbi entered the Royal Bank of Canada. He sat down in a large chair to ask the manager for a loan of $500,000. The city’s Adas Israel Congregation needed the funds to build a new Orthodox synagogue.

When the manager asked what kind of synagogue they would be building, Rabbi Mordechai Green hesitated. At that time, nobody was building Orthodox synagogues. Congregations were building Reform synagogues or converting Orthodox ones to Conservative.

After Rabbi Green answered, the manager said that when he was a child in Timmins, Ont., his father died leaving his mom with six children. The owner of the local general store said, “As long as I have this store, your children will have food to eat and clothes to wear.” The owner, who kept that promise, was an Orthodox Jew.

The bank manager had spent his life wondering how to repay that man. That’s why he had asked the question.

“One act of kindness had multiple effects,” said Rabbi Daniel Green, Rabbi Mordechai’s son, who has been the rabbi of Adas Israel since 2002, in the building his father helped build.

Rabbi Mordechai Green served as rabbi from 1958 to 2002 and is now rabbi emeritus. He, his son, Daniel, and current and former members of Adas Israel will celebrate the congregation’s 100th anniversary on Oct. 28.

Rabbi Daniel Green said the ceremony will include the passing of a sefer Torah from one of the founding members to a child. The grandson of the general store owner in Timmins will also be attending. Rabbi Green stressed that the event is free and not a fundraiser. Organizers are hoping current and former members, as well as members of the community will attend the rededication ceremony, including children.

“We want people to appreciate a sense of history and recognize what the generation before them accomplished,” Rabbi Green said.

In 1912, a handful of Polish immigrants began a minyan in a small home on Caroline Street in downtown Hamilton. In 1918, they moved to a home on Cannon Street. By 1929, the home had been demolished, and the 38 families in the congregation erected a beautiful building, Adas Israel Anshei Polin (later changed to Adas Israel Anshei Sefard), known to most as the Cannon Street Shul.

The synagogue became the heart of the community and many simchahs and other events were held there. But as time passed, the Jewish community began to leave the downtown for the west end of Hamilton. Congregants took on a new goal – to relocate to that area and build a synagogue to accommodate 400 families.

This was an ambitious dream, but the determined families worked hard to fulfil it, along with their new spiritual leader, Rabbi Mordechai Green.

“These were immigrant families who were trying to make it in life. This building was the embodiment of that,” Rabbi Daniel Green said.

 In 1961, the new synagogue on Cline Avenue South was dedicated with dignitaries and Jewish leaders from around the world.

The shul now serves 375 families and provides education for all ages from 12 months to high school, as well as adult education. Its congregation is active in programs including youth groups, study sessions and workshops.

“It’s nice to see the vision of our founders perpetuated here,” Rabbi Green said. “With this rededication, we want to create a sense of purpose that can take us forward into the future.”

The centennial celebration will take place Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. at Adas Israel Congregation, 125 Cline Ave. S., Hamilton. Everyone is welcome. For information, call 905-528-0039.


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