The President's Perspective

Ian Scharf


Though the weather outside may have been frightful, the feeling inside Shaare Zion this winter has been one of warmth and excitement.

We celebrated Sarah Fankel’s 100th birthday on a Shabbat Morning in December. We celebrated our new members with some 20 new families. These events added sunshine and warmth to an otherwise cold and dismal month.

Besides our ongoing programming events, among which were Lunch and Learn with our Rabbi and B’nai Mitzvah, we had a number of broader endeavours.

There was the Purim celebration, complete with a puppet show that acted out the story of Esther. Over 130 children sat together, completely mesmerized, as they watched the hand-made puppets.

We had our scotch tasting night followed by a Band is Back evening with over 120 people attending.

All of this was going on despite the fact that our renovations were in full swing. They included, the small Sanctuary, and the Board Roomas well as the hallways and stairways. Lastly, the offices got a‘dusting off.’ I would like to thank Marvin Lerner, Chair of the House Committee, for being the driving force behind this work. It is not a simple task to achieve a ‘business as usual’ atmosphere in the midst of significant building projects, and Marvin and his committee made that happen.

On May 25th we are holding a Gala to celebrate Rabbi Moses’40th year in the Rabbinate. Joining us will be the four Cantors whoshared the Bima with Rabbi Moses at Shaare Zion. They include; Cantors Eric Moses, Gideon Zelermyer, Boaz Davidoff and Adam Stotland.

(Don’t tell the Rabbi but the evening will one on which he will be roasted.)

Co-Chairs Gerry Silverman, Linda Graif and Lori Dermer have weaved together an evening of music, laughter and delicious food.  If you are planning to attend  pick up the phone now and call the office because you will really regret it if you miss this night.

The other big summer event will be our 14th  annual  Celebrity GolfTournament, Chaired for a second year by Ron Robbins. Coming off our most successful tournament last year where we raised $25,000 for the Jewish General Hospital research into Hereditary Breast Cancer. I understand that the bar has been raised but we can only succeed with the help of each and every one of you. I hope I will see you there on August 14th.

I recently began to read a book called “The Story of the Jews,” by Simon Schama. He writes that in 597 BCE or so, some 800 years after Moses led our people out of Egypt, some Israelites began to move back to Egypt and then in greater numbers ten years later, after the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jews to Babylon.They immigrated to the area that Jeremiah called the province of Pathos, whose capital was a city called Elephantine. We know this because archeologists, in 1893 found papyrus writings in Aramaic from that time, located on the Nile Delta .

From these writings we get a sense of their rich Jewish lives, whichflourished in the midst of their pagan neighbors, who included, Persians, Caspians and Egyptians. They celebrated Shabbat, kept to the dietary laws and even celebrated Passover. One of the letters that was found included instructions to celebrate Passover on the 15th day of Nissan. These instructions included the exclusive eating of unleavened bread, the Matzo.

How strange it is to think of these Jews celebrating the act of our liberation from slavery in Egypt in the very country which marked their slavery.

By the time of the Persian conquest and the liberation and return of the exiled Jews to Babylon, these Jews in Elephantine had prosperedto the point that that they built a Temple, structurally based on the destroyed Temple of Solomon.

I could not help but be struck by their story. Not unlike our own lifestyle some 1,500 years later, this Jewish society could beourselves, Jews in our own style, open to the practices of ourneighbors without surrendering our names, identities and traditions. It is this steadfast faith, which does not change over the centuries, that keeps us strong. Shaare Zion is a rallying point for that faith, a beacon to our neighbors, and with your involvement, our guarantee for the future. 

I would like to wish you a Happy Passover.


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