I had the pleasure of spending Shabbes at the Adas Israel Congregation of Hamilton, Ontario.
It’s been years since I was last at that shul. I’d forgotten how many wonderful people I know there.
The Kiddie-Winkers, my daughter Exhibit One and my son Exhibit Two, attended full-time hebrew day school at the Hamilton Hebrew Academy in the same building.
Many of their former classmates are now getting married and beginning to plan families of their own.
I have a fair amount of my own history tied up there. So many people have come and gone who have had a profound influence on my life as a Jew. I will never forget them because they are a part of who I am today.
My dear friend, SG, and I arrived that afternoon. I drove in. She took a bus in from Toronto. Arrangements were made for us to stay with friends and colleagues.
We got together at minchah (afternoon) services in the small chapel. It was exactly as I remembered it. Kabbalat Shabbat… the service which brings in the Jewish Sabbath… was breathtaking and exciting. Unless you’ve experienced Friday night services at the Adas, you cannot truly appreciate the spiritual intensity and holiness that envelopes you in that small shul. Unlike some other synagogues, Friday night services there are packed with both men and women.
The Adas is very welcoming and accepts Jews of all stripes. Friday night was a real spectrum of the observant Jewish community in Hamilton from converts to those ‘rediscovering’ Judaism to modern Orthodox ‘kippah serugah’ types to ‘black hat’ Litvishers to yeshiva boys to hasidim.
SG and I enjoyed a lovely and spirit-filled dinner at the home of R’ Glaser and his family. In one of those special co-incidences, it turned out that both he and his wife met both of my children this summer. Mrs. Glaser met my son when her daughters attended the Jewish Camp Kadima (he ran the sports program) and R’ Glaser met my daughter in Jerusalem when she was studying at Aish HaTorah.
Shabbes morning, SG and I attended services. The dvar torah was given by the shul’s present Rabbi, R’ Dani Green, son of the former Rabbi, R’ Morton Green. His talk was, as always, inspiring, uplifting and meaningful. I met Dani when he was still in rabbinical school and we hit it off immediately. His father left big shoes to fill and, to his credit, Dani is doing a remarkable job. May he grow from strength to strength.
After doing a lot of catching up with old friends, SG and I went across the street for lunch with the Lavin family. There are a lot of people in this neighbourhood whom I love and admire but none more than the Lavins. They have opened their home and their hearts to me time and time again and they did not hold back on this occasion. When we came into their home, their middle daughter, T, said that she had something she needed to show me. She ran to her room and brought back an old beat-up and obviously well-used prayer book. She looked at me and said, “You gave me this prayer book when I was twelve years old and I have used it every day since!” She even showed me the inscription I wrote when I gave it to her many years ago. It was, for me, quite touching and moving. Lunch was fabulous with lots of lively and heated discussions about Torah, Judaism, life and, of course, T’s upcoming wedding. She kindly invited SG and me to attend and, G-d willing, next month we will all be together to celebrate this blessed event.
SG and I spent the evening at the Glaser home being charmed by their adorable daughters.
Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a study class conducted by R’ Selevan. His insights into Torah, Mishnah and Gemara open up an entire world of Judaism for me and those lucky enough to study with him.
After morning services, I went to R’ Glaser’s house to pick up SG, spend a morning with Mrs. Glaser and her daughters and take SG home to Toronto. Before we left, both girls blessed us with hand-made drawings for us to take home. The drawings are now ensconced in a place of honour on my fridge.
All in all, an awe-inspiring experience and one, G-d willing, we can do again soon.