The 18th of the month of Elul is the birthday of two great luminaries — the Baal Shem Tov (R. Yisrael ben R. Eliezer, born 1698), founder of the Chassidic move¬ment, and the Alter Rebbe (R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, born 1745), founder of Chabad. Together, they formed the foundation of the Chassidic revolution of Jewish life, one that continues unabated to this day. It is no wonder that this day infuses the month of Elul with life – 18 being the numerical value of the Hebrew word “chai,” which means life. There is no better time, since this day also marks 12 days before Rosh Hashana, one day to reflect upon and repair one month of the previous year. The day was marked with an uplifting community farbrengen gathering hosted by the JRCC West Thornhill, led by Rabbi Levi Jacobson and famed speaker Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson and attended by dozens of community members.


After over a year of limiting most community events to virtual gatherings, it was nice to get together in person for the annual pre-Rosh Hashanah Challah bake. Over 200 women gathered simultaneously on Thursday, September 2 at all JRCC branches to bake Challah together in advance of Rosh Hashana. According to Jewish tradition, when a group of women gathers to partake in this sacred tradition as one, it opens up the heavenly gates to their prayers, and draws blessing for the entire community – and it was a moving and powerful experience for all those who participated.


In the days and weeks leading up to the High Holidays and the Jewish New Year, the JRCC branch in East Thornhill hosted a unique event to engage community children in preparation for this important time of year. The program featured a variety of interactive activities and workshops designed to both entertain and educate, including educational games, tastings of traditional foods, holiday-themed crafts, and more.


Dozens of volunteers of all ages, from 5 to 80 years of age, heeded the call for people to come help organize, package and distribute High Holidays packages for the community. Thanks to their amazing devotion and hard work, packages were distributed to thousands of homes throughout the GTA. Each package contained the traditional Rosh Hashana foods of apple, honey and pomegranate, a card wishing a Happy New Year from the community, a High Holidays Guide, a tzedaka charity box, sweets for children, and a magnet featuring a photo of the Rebbe holding a Torah scroll. The packages were received with great joy and huge smiles when delivered to homes. We would like to express our special gratitude to our volunteers who made this whole giant project possible, and to the Yummy Market management for their generous donation of beautiful red and gold New Year's apples. The devotion of such time and energy and the entire process, from the packaging of the gift packages to the distribution to homes throughout the community, was a beautiful expression of the unity of the Jewish people, which is the central theme of the High Holidays.