I grew up in London, Ontario, within a tight-knit Jewish community in which my parents, Sid and Ida Holtzkener, were deeply involved, and met Sholom—a Toronto boy—through U.S.Y. and Camp Ramah.
After we married, and as our daughters Ayala and Yedida were growing up, our home became a hub for friends and guests to gather for Shabbat and for Talmud study sessions which continue to this day. That sense of community, and of building a warm and open household, was a legacy passed on to Sholom from his parents, Helen and Lou, and it continues so to this day, because we value strongly the concept that Jewish continuity begins at home.
We both had fulfilling careers as educators, but now that we have retired, we are able to indulge in several community activities that reflect our passion for Jewish literacy and engagement. We sit on the organizing committee for Limmud, an annual conference that brings together various streams of Judaism to experience the rich diversity of Jewish heritage and contemporary thinking, and Sholom is founding a new school, Adraba, that will employ technology to foster Jewish literacy. Rifka is also the co-chair of the Client and Family Partners Panel at Baycrest.
As the years went on, we both came to regard tzedakah as a mitzvah that was about action rather than money. Sholom recalls with fondness the apple pies his mother Helen baked annually for Hadassah, and her deep commitment to the Adath Israel Sisterhood. To us, giving of one’s time, energy and talent comes naturally, and is just as meaningful as giving financially. Without the willing participation of community members, we might not have a Jewish Federation! It is therefore crucial to engage our next generation so that they understand that giving or volunteering at any level and by any means available to them is desirable and welcome.
Our ideal Jewish Toronto of the future would extend beyond the Bathurst Street corridor so that a vibrant, knowledgeable and proud community could thrive in a plurality. And it would recognize, as we do, that just as their members have benefitted from all the gifts accorded to Jewish institutions, programs and ideas through the efforts of past generations, so should they pay that generosity and stewardship forward for the generations to come.
How marvellous to discover that now, in our retirement, a gift of insurance to the Jewish Foundation allows people of varied economic means to support our community!