Back to the Future

by Arliene Botnick, October 1, 2022

It was the fall of 1975, my son was turning eleven. He’d been studying Hebrew at a rented facility in Etobicoke with a group called Western Suburban Jewish Community. But my husband Ron and I were thinking ahead to Bar Mitzvah and there it was one significant component missing from my son’s religious school experience. He didn’t know and we didn’t have a Rabbi. So, we did what others did in 1975, we looked for synagogues listed in the telephone directory. And for those of you who don’t remember what a telephone directory is, Google it!. We found the name Solel, and we discovered Solel had an energetic, devoted guitar playing, pipe smoking, curly headed young, recently ordained Rabbi named Lawrence Englander with a sparkling, sweet, involved wife named Cheryl. We knew that Solel would be the next step for our family and our son’s and his four siblings’ Jewish education.

There was no building or property that was owned by the Jewish community. We met in a rather rundown facility, that had a sketchy past, located on the Collegeway. Today, it is the beautiful site of the Glen Erin Inn. Some 50 years ago, it was neither beautiful, nor easily accessed. We joined Solel because we wanted community for our family, not just Jewish education for the kids, not just bar/ bat mitzvah but community. We wanted a Rabbi to lead and inspire us; we wanted Shabbat services and we wanted holiday celebrations with lots and lots of people! The old site of Solel wasn’t beautiful but it was “Hamish”- like a warm home. We felt at home there and my son became a bar mitzvah in the old building. Some of the new Canadian students, who were in my ESL class at Jane Jr High School class at that time, created posters to tack on trees leading to the old building so that our guests would not get lost in the wilderness- to them- called Mississauga. And it was difficult for some of my new Canadians to understand what a synagogue was. I explained in what I thought were simple terms. A synagogue is a place in which people who are Jewish pray, just like Christians pray in a church. A synagogue is like a Jewish Church. And their signs were beautiful and useable, except for the few on which the kids had drawn crosses -after all, I had said like a Jewish Church.

And it was hard to find, because there really wasn’t a paved entrance into the site. It was often more of a muddy path, in which we were often stuck, or we slid a little bit off, and don’t even ask me what it was like getting up there in the winter. Much of the time somebody had to come and push our station wagon up the hill, and we were often late for Hebrew school because of that! In the old building, there wasn’t even garbage collection, so, at the end of a service, we would pack our five kids into the car and my husband and we would drive home in our station wagon with the five kids and any leftover garbage bags because anybody with a station wagon was asked to take the garbage home with them!

As they say,”We’ve come a long way baby.” Today, we have a beautiful building, just recently renovated, with more renovations to come. We have paved roads that we can drive on and we have an amazing, dedicated and caring Rabbi Pollack, along with her 3 delightful children – one of who is there on the bimah with his mother singing and guitar playing on the High Holidays,- and her warm and welcoming husband Phil, who, among other talents, is a great Latka maker! Our Emeritus Rabbi Englander and his still involved partner Cheryl are still there for us. Telephone directories are gone but Solel lives on!

Your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren can become bar/ bat, b’nai mitzvah in a full and vibrant Jewish community that has taken 50 years to grow and blossom. Supporting Jewish families of all shapes and sizes and composition, Solel lives on. Solel is turning 50, and starting in the Fall of 2023- 5784- we will begin celebrating the golden anniversary of Solel community of Mississauga. And we will be celebrating a MIRACLE. 50 years ago, there was barely anything in Mississauga for our Jewish community and its supporters. We had done our best to create Jewish opportunities; we rented a school; we drove into Toronto for Hebrew school but there was no Solel. And we made it happen. We became the Pathfinders- which is what Solel means- and those of us who were there near the beginning, well, some of us are still around! Some are gone but not forgotten. And, as we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we want everyone who has been a part of Solel to join us to regale in this wonderful Jewish community that has celebrated so many simchas, danced with the Torah so many times, welcomed new babies into the B’rit, stood under the chupah with so many families, and supported one another in times of illness and loss.

And you can help us as we celebrate this upcoming 50th year. A number of programs are being planned for our 50th anniversary. There will be lunches, there will be a march from the old building area to Solel, there will be dinners; there will be special services. And we need you to come out and say, ” Thank God we have Solel.” One immediate need that you can help us with is email addresses. Over the past 50 years, we’ve had so many of our children become bar/ bat mitzvah, confirmands, and now many of them have seen their children, grandchildren become bar/ bat, b’nai mitzvah. We want to invite all of them back. We are so proud of them, but we have to be able to contact them. If you know of any of our students – your children, grandchildren, your friends or friends’ grandchildren or children- please ask them to contact us at the office and just give us their emails so we can invite them all to the amazing celebrations that we have planned for our 50th year beginning in the fall of 2023. We need a lot of email addresses and you are our resource for addresses. We’re counting on you so that no one that has been part of the past of Solel will be left out. In 1973, there was a dream, and today there is the fulfillment of a dream. We want Solel to keep growing. We will work to make sure Solel will keep strong. Let’s celebrate her birthday with joy and with resounding attendance from all those who have been part of Solel’s past, present and will be its future.

To you all, a sweet and happy new year. May you be sealed for good. And to Solel, we look forward to at least the next 50 years Keyn Y’hee Ratzon May it be God’s will.

Filed under: Educator's Message

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