A Trip Back In Time

by Arliene Botnick, November 28, 2017

Let me take you back in time……

Fall 1975. A young couple with 5 kids between the ages of 2 and almost 11 decided that the part-time Hebrew School (Western Suburban Jewish Community) was good, but not enough for their children. The oldest (Ian) was getting ready to become a Bar Mitzvah, but there was no Rabbi and no synagogue. Just classrooms and only Hebrew – no Judaica to help the kids understand why they had to learn Hebrew.

So that fall, we visited a new congregation (Solel) being housed in a very dilapidated former monastery (which today is the beautiful Glen Erin Inn). The rest….is history!

Solel has become our home; its members, our extended family; its Rabbis (both Rabbi Englander and Rabbi Pollack) our spiritual guides, mentors and friends. Now back to 1975.

As a young working mom having to drive in 1975 from our home in Malton to Solel, it was a traffic challenge (no 403 at that time). I’d rush home from teaching at Jane Jr. High School in Toronto, pick up the kids and set out for the 45 minute trek to Solel. We’d eat in the car and since it was such a long trip, not worth going home and returning, I volunteered to teach Grade 6 Judaica. Then, Ella Stoch – may she rest in peace – volunteered me to teach Kitah lc as well.

Life went on. After Ian’s Bar Mitzvah at the old location, 3 more children became Bar/Bat Mitzvah at the New Solel (on Folkway opening in 1979). We were preparing for Bat Mitzvah # 5 scheduled for the fall of 1986 when tragedy struck, and completely unexpectedly, my 41 year-old husband, the father of our kids, died in the spring of that year!

But life had to go on. Solel, especially Rabbi Englander and Cheryl were there for us. The 5th Simcha took place on November 8, 1986 and the Torah was passed from my mother Jenny – may she rest in peace – to me, to my other children and finally to #5 – Karen.

My personal involvement at Solel now began to morph into a professional involvement, as I eventually became the Director of Education in June of 1987. I went back to school and obtained my Masters in Education and then earned the title of Reform Jewish Educator from the NATE (National Association of Temple Educators), now the RJE (Reform Jewish Educators Department of the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism).

My children and 13 grandchildren have Solel as their home and their community. And each and every one of the children/students at Bet Sefer Solel is, in a strong sense, my child as well. We have grown up together and are growing older together.

Solel means Pathfinder from the Biblical prophet Isaiah, Solu, Solu-Blaze, Blaze the pathway. Solel is our Pathway to Jewish life. Today, hopefully more will find their pathway to Solel. It is our Kehillah, our community. We learn together, we pray together, we celebrate together, we mourn together and we rejoice together. Thus it has been for some 44 years. May it be God’s will to continue for at least that long.

Keyn Y’hi Ratzon

Thank you all for honouring me on my 30th anniversary as Solel’s Educator and supporting our Youth Lounge renovations.

Filed under: Educator's Message

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