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Shul reaches out with benefit concert

From left: Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli, Sharon Denise van Es, head of the dance department at Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, and Victoria Gerrard. (Photo credit: Gary Yokoyama of the Hamilton Spectator)

The Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton, Ont., will open its doors on Feb. 3 for a concert designed to bring together community members from across the city, to celebrate the memory of a longtime synagogue member and raise funds for an important charity.

“Beth Jacob sees itself intensely committed to the three pillars of the world, as described in the Mishnah: Torah study, devotion and acts of kindness,” said Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli.

“We understand that these three pillars are interconnected, so if we were to neglect our obligation to other human beings, our religious obligations would greatly lose their value. As we see ourselves not as an insulated bubble that just happens to be located within Hamilton, but an integral part of the general Hamilton community, it is important that acts of kindness are initiated not just towards Jews, but to everyone we encounter.

“Just like the recipients of our charitable endeavours include all people, it is valuable for us to initiate projects that will be carried out by different people who live in different ways. We may have different beliefs, we may pray differently or even not at all, but all share the same intrinsic human values. Co-operating allows us to do so much more than we would accomplish on our own.”

The concert is being produced in co-operation with the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, Empowerment Squared and the Auctionista. Performances will include dancers from the Canadian Dance Company, Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, To The Pointe Dance Project, Not Just Another Dance Studio, Mahasti Bellydance Emporium and Zacada Circus, as well as musical performances by Rabbi Lavery-Yisraeli’s band, the Mixed Blessings. They will play popular music, with a smattering of Jewish melodies, which will be accompanied by a variety of dance performances.


“I’ve been playing music since I was enrolled in the Vancouver Academy of Music at the age of three,” said Rabbi Lavery-Yisraeli. “Strings are my specialty. I started on violin. In this concert, I will be playing guitars, mandolin and charango, as well as singing. The band also includes another singer and tremendously talented musicians on accordion, keys, upright bass and drums.”

The event will honour Marvin Caplan, who died in 2017 at age 75. A Hamilton city councillor from 1994 to 2003, Caplan was a longtime member of Beth Jacob Synagogue and chair of the Beth Jacob Synagogue social justice committee at the time of his death. The synagogue held a similar concert last year and, due to its success, organizers decided to make it an annual event, choosing a different charity to benefit each year.

The indoor playground PlayVille will provide childcare for those aged two to eight. The event will also include door prizes, a fundraising game and a vendors’ market with food, baked goods and pottery. All funds collected, from both tickets and food sales, will be donated to Empowerment Squared.

Empowerment Squared helps immigrant and marginalized youth and communities through programs involving academic mentoring and recreation, including games, make-your-own-book projects, soccer tournaments and campus tours.

“This event demonstrates the role of religious institutions such as Beth Jacob Synagogue and community organizations working in collaboration, committed to the principles and values of social justice, bringing people together through acts of love and kindness,” said Leo Johnson, executive director of Empowerment Squared.


The concert will take place on Feb. 3 at 375 Aberdeen Ave. Doors open at 2 p.m., concert starts at 3 p.m. For information, call 905-522-1351, or search for Marvin Caplan Memorial Concert on Facebook. Tickets, which are $15 in advance or $20 at the door, are available via Eventbrite.

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