You wouldn’t necessarily expect vibrant Jewish identity to flourish in a town called St. Catharines, however that is exactly where I started and how I came to be a committed, connected Jewish woman in the wonderful city of Toronto.
My story is not a unique one, but it weaves its way around Ontario, drawing on history and Jewish commitment in smaller communities along the way. My parents, from Hamilton and Toronto, moved to St. Catharines as a young couple for 2 years. That was over 40 years, 3 children and 2 grandchildren ago. St. Catharines was not new to our family history. My great-grandfather was the first spiritual leader there over 100 years earlier. But it was new for my parents. They had to make a conscious effort to bring Judaism into the home, as it clearly was not going to be infused into us at school or in the playground. We grew up going to shul each week, and Jewish summer camps and youth groups. We trekked to Hamilton and Toronto regularly to be with family for the holidays. Finding kosher meat wasn’t as easy as running to Bathurst St. Buying matzah on Passover was a bit of schlep. Yet they did it, regularly and seamlessly. Our identities became Jewish identities, even in our little city.
Years later, I find myself in ‘the big city’ of Toronto. I love life here, and my Jewish life here. I love the opportunities the city gives me – personally, professionally, and spiritually. I relish the opportunities I have been given to engage with this thriving Jewish community, and to give back with all my heart. And yet I know that everything I am comes from my start in our little city, and from the grounding that my grandparents instilled into their children. They carried their Jewish commitment with them to St. Catharines, and I know we will continue to carry it with us wherever our Jewish lives take us.
I count my blessings to be able to live in a flourishing Jewish community, in the secure and free country that is Canada. I want those that follow me to be able to tell similar, fairy-tale stories of wonderful families, beautiful communities, and vibrant Jewish life for generations to come.