TORONTO — Rabbi Baruch Taub, founding rabbi of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation (BAYT), is now rabbi emeritus of the synagogue, following a celebratory dinner Nov. 21. He will retire at the end of December and make aliyah.
Rabbi Baruch Taub
Rabbi Asher Vale will serve as interim rabbi beginning in the new year.
Rabbi Taub, who declined to be interviewed for this article, was feted by 830 people at the dinner held at the Thornhill synagogue he has overseen from its inception 30 years ago. The shul, which originally met in the rabbi’s home, has grown from 13 families to between 600 and 700.
“Tonight is to say thank you to our rav, and to pledge to build on the very solid foundations that Rabbi Taub built,” said Shloimie (Perry) Romberg, one of the dinner MCs.
As well, a Torah was dedicated in the rabbi’s honour earlier that day, a project that raised $300,000 for the Orthodox synagogue.
In a post-dinner speech, Rabbi Taub thanked his congregants and recalled the shul’s beginnings, paying tribute to developer Joseph Tanenbaum, who was the driving force behind the shul, as “a true dreamer and builder of Klal Yisrael.”
In the early years, Rabbi Taub noted, Toronto was “a strongly non-Orthodox community.” However, he said, the BAYT became “an extraordinary catalyst for tshuvah [return to observance]” for many families who made weddings at the shul, because young brides had to learn the laws of family purity to get married there.
Thornhill MP Peter Kent, Canada’s minister of state of foreign affairs, paid tribute to the rabbi as “a man of inspirational faith, boundless compassion, and impressive learning.”
Peter Shurman, the MPP for Thornhill, lauded the rabbi’s ability to build bridges between people of different religious philosophies, and Vaughan councillor Alan Shefman spoke of his wisdom and leadership.
Rabbi Yacov Felder, speaking on behalf of the Vaad Harabonim of Toronto – the city’s Orthodox rabbinic umbrella group – spoke of Rabbi Taub fulfilling the main task of a rabbi through his care and concern for every member of his congregation.
As well, he said, Rabbi Taub’s outreach has extended to the community at large. On a personal note, he added that Rabbi Taub has been “a friend to whom I can turn for advice and encouragement for his keen perception and understanding of all issues.”
Rabbi Taub’s son, Rabbi Shmuel Taub, spoke on behalf of the family, crediting the shul for its “blazing fire” of love of Torah, the land of Israel and the people of Israel, and his father as the “candle” that lit that flame.
Guest speaker Rabbi Nota Schiller, dean of Ohr Somayach Institutions in Jerusalem, also spoke metaphorically, likening Thornhill to a one-time desert, Judaically speaking. But, he said, there has been a “reforestation program.”
Rabbi Schiller also praised Rabbi Taub’s leadership and ability to inspire people “to transcend particular agendas for the greater good.”