Jeremy Golan
Registered wedding officiant, chaplain, and educator.

How will Beth Tzedec attract the unaffiliated?

Will They Shlep To Shul?

As you well may know, Beth Tzedec is now offering free membership to those under 40. This is bound to ruffle a few feathers, especially since there are many people (above 40) who could use a break right now. This comes at a time when many synagogues are closing down, due to dwindling interest (and ultimately) paying members.

Ever since I was a child, my father was sure to point out every Jewish institution in every city that we visited. Due to our proximity to Niagara Falls (and Buffalo, prior to online shopping) I become acquainted with the small white structure on Ferry Street, tucked beside some seedy motels and a place to buy cheap souvenirs. Sadly, I never went inside, nor did I ever see the lights on from the porch.

As with everything in Jewish Life, nothing is straightforward, instead packed full of “greyish” nuances and kinks. Many synagogues close due to financial considerations, making it impossible to pay a rabbi and keep the lights on. Other synagogues are well financed but are located away from a strong Jewish community, making it unviable to walk on a regular basis.

With such a rich Jewish population here in the GTA, it makes perfect sense that a “Mega-Shul” would court the unaffiliated youngsters of our community. I believe that their intentions are sincere, and I commend them for being proactive. While it is great that they are “offering something for nothing”, you are essentially entering the Kiruv world of Chabad and Breslov. In other words, it can be a bigger “sell” to convince someone to become “Shomer Mitzvot”, even if the requirements are more relaxed by comparison.

Good News

There are some unaffiliated Jews who love Chabad, this being the perfect route to their growing Jewish Identity. However, many would feel uncomfortable with an Orthodox Rabbi, as sad as this sounds. 5783 is not the year to fight each other, throwing mud at each other while facing growing external threats. Since we are all part of Am Echad, I think that it pains all of us when a Jewish institution closes. Today I heard about Omnitsky‘s potentially closing in Vancouver, a Canadian Jewish staple that originated in Winnipeg decades before.

Why Join Beth Tzedec

  1. Nonjudgmental of personal observance outside Shul
  2. Accepting of blue-collar workers (trades, manufacturing e.g.)
  3. Free Hebrew Classes
  4. We will give you a funeral if you have tattoos
  5. LGBT and interfaith families are welcome
  6. Make new friends
  7. Fun kid’s programming
  8. Israel-connected
  9. Tik-Tok Crazy
  10. Food!

Wrap This Up!

While I have never been a member of BT, my grandfather z’l and uncle z’l are buried in their cemetery. I have met the caretaker before, with him taking me on his ATV to find my Zaydie. Saying this, my income does not allow me to raise my family in the community. While my son would love to be involved in some Jewish programming, our generation faces different concerns than our Baby Boomer parents. Young families are worried about making their mortgage payments, seeing their debt extend past their lives.

Imagine buying a house last year?

Torah is not just for the rich.

What do you do when a young Jewish couple is expecting, and they want to get married before the baby comes? What if they are young, perhaps penniless? There are many wedding officiants who would jump at the opportunity, thrilled at the honour to be a part of something so magical and pure.

Going Forward

I pray that Chabad expands and reaches every community in the world.

I pray that BT seizes this chance to revitalize the Toronto Jewish Community.

May we all put our differences aside and work together for the benefit of our group.

About the Author
Jeremy Golan is a registered officiant, school chaplain, and teacher living in Toronto Canada. A staunch supporter of the Jewish State, he is interested in creating peace through dialogue.