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Monday, June 29, 2015

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A working man and woman’s conference

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We need a massive community conference organized by the working man and woman with an agenda that is anything but fundraising.

The invitation list will include shut-ins and poor people, Russians and Israelis, children and teens, haredim and Reconstructionist Jews, Ethiopians and Jews from South America. The fee to attend will be pay what you can.

 A dvar Torah will be given by every denomination. There will be workshops, including one on “How do we change this community so that it is warm, caring and giving to the stranger, newcomer, single person?”

We’ll ask members to speak – for example, folks who moved to Toronto from Montreal, Kitchener, Halifax and Vancouver Island. Rabbi Rafi Lipner can lead that workshop as he is doing a great a job at Shaarei Tefillah Congregation creating a special, unique outreach environment. Darchei Noam leadership continues to do a good job on that front as well.

Establishing priorities? Now there’s a tricky one. The question, with no preconceived answers, will be, “What should our community priorities be?” Lots of wacky stuff from some quirky people will come out of this (like a need for handball courts), but I bet the conclusions would make a lot of sense and likely trump some of the silly stuff we invest in today.

Keynote speakers will be the frontline Jewish Family and Child staff who work with foster children and adoptive kids. We’ll hear from the rabbis who generally do not get enough respect in our community (although many remain far too quiet on some crucial issues).

“Ladies and gents, now we’ll hear from a humble mother living in Thornhill, and seniors living in homes for the aged who helped build this town.”

We can set up a debate between downtown Jews and uptown Jews on how their lifestyles are different, and who has it better.

Let’s hear from the Yeshiva bocher, and the student at Montessori. We’ll co-ordinate a lecture given by singles, ranging in age from 20 to 80 and we’ll have a chance to listen to directors of smaller non-profits and their challenges in trying to be heard in a community dominated by the federation and B’nai Brith.

Wouldn’t it be something to hear what’s on the mind of our “green” Jews working hard to create a healthier world? I always thought our kosher restaurateurs would have a thing or two to say of importance. What is their perspective on our relationship to Israel and peace in the Middle East, or perhaps on Jewish nutrition?

What about our Jewish actors, musicians, artists… accountants? What’s on their minds?

The goal of this conference will be to hear the true heartbeat of the Toronto Jewish community and the real dreams of the working woman and man. At some point during the daylong event, let’s honour a man by putting his name on one of our community buildings because he taught 500 bar mitzvah boys their parshah for free – as my dear friend Burt Serfaty’s father, David Serfaty z”l, did. We figured his donation to the community was about $500,000. That’s a lot of coin.

The Toronto Jewish community working man and woman conference and its agenda would be a welcome departure from the one-dimensional fundraising stuff we all expect. It would be financed by the community – foundation grants and personal donations – and co-ordinated by regular folk. Its character would be kind and sincerely inclusive –something we all yearn for. 

The big boys are invited, but only to listen.

Avrum.rosensweig@veahavta.org

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