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Thursday, December 25, 2014

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Cream cheese and the Jewish future

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Avrum Rosensweig

Changes are upon us. 

Awhile back, Open Window Bakery closed its doors in Toronto. The Negev Bookstore no longer exists there. In June, a major Jewish gathering praying on behalf of the kidnapped Israeli teenagers was held up in Richmond Hill, Ont., north of the city. The new editor of Canada’s major Jewish newspaper was born in 1980, and the leaders of two of the country’s largest Jewish organizations, Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto/UJA and B’nai Brith Canada, are retiring. The State of Israel is now underwriting programming in the Diaspora, and more Jews live in Israel than outside of it. 

There is nothing subtle about these changes. Open Window had the finest cream cheese in the city, and Negev had the greatest selection of fine prayer shawls and Judaica. They are both gone. Rallies and prayer vigils in the past were generally held in central Toronto, but now our community’s larger assemblies are trekking northward. At 34, Yoni Goldstein, is likely the youngest editor of The Canadian Jewish News ever, and that has impacted the style and demographic of this publication. Community leaders Ted Sokolsky and Frank Dimant were born shortly after the Holocaust, around the time of the establishment of the State of Israel. They led when the Diaspora played a significant fundraising role in the development of Israel, when many major volunteers were survivors or individuals who had fought in World War II and Israel’s wars. 

What now?

Where do we go to find well-whipped cream cheese for less than a fin, and what do we do when we need a new kippah for less than a 10-spot? Are we to expect a further unfurling of the Jewish community northward? Or is it possible that lonely northerners will decide to return to their parents’ stomping grounds farther south? 

With the advent of younger publicists, writers and social media directors, will the Toronto Jewish community’s newspapers and social media sites deal less with anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, the State of Israel and security, and – the world allowing – increase intellectual, cultural and economic material such as pieces on alternative forms of Judaism, Jewish rap and symphonic compositions, debates on meditation versus prayer and kosher gourmet cuisine?

And what of our new leadership?

A recent media release stated that Frank Dimant’s major success was fighting anti-Semitism. Will B’nai Brith’s newest leader have the same agenda, or will he/she pursue the proliferation of community-based Alzheimer care buildings, something Dimant oversaw brilliantly? What of the newest iteration of the Toronto federation? Will it expand its cadre of agencies or create a different model whereby all local Jewish services and facilities find a soulful home on north Bathurst Street?

Is there a professional out there who has the skill and dexterity to fundraise as Sokolsky has done, or will the UJA machine require some subtle or not-so-delicate tzedakah adjustments?

Now that Israel is in the midst of reversing the financial relationship between them and us, where does the Diaspora fit? With our shrinking Jewish population and increase in intermarriage, as well as an uptake on aliyah from places like France, Mexico and the United States, where will our funds be spent and on what? 

Will our new Toronto leadership manage a closer relationship between us and Eretz Yisrael, or will it scramble to consistently remind our new generation of Jews that should they need Israel’s right of return, it is there for them tomorrow, and that we are blessed to be sending our 19-year-olds to university and not to battle.

We are staring through the proverbial window of time, watching the wheels of the clock spin round. Nothing rests. Everything changes. If only, however, we could be guaranteed of one thing – an affordable container of savoury cream cheese.

P.S. So long you old boxers. Thanks for a most absorbing match.

Avrum.rosensweig@veahavta.org 

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