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Rabbi Elie Karfunkel

The Rabbi

For the Love of Baseball
Rabbi Karfunkel loves baseball. Really loves it. When he’s not at the Forest Hill Jewish Centre, you’ll finding him pitching a ball to his children on his front lawn. His love of baseball goes way back. When he was 13 years old, Rabbi Elie was the pitcher and shortstop in the Staten Island Jewish Baseball League. He played shortstop in high school and is very proud that, as a student at Manhattan Torah Academy, he was chosen to be the mascot for the Lion’s basketball team when they played at Madison Square Garden. Yes, he dressed up as a lion. Fun loving, exuberant, and infectious, Rabbi Elie connects with the people around him; in fact, he is still friends with the kids he grew up with.

Getting Serious About Jewish Education
In his early 20s, Rabbi Elie went to learn at Neveh Zion, in Israel, where he was inspired to continue his Jewish education. Under the guidance of Rabbi Berel Wein, Dean of Shaarei Torah, in Monsey, New York, Rabbi Elie received smicha (rabbinical ordination). He regularly spent time at the home of Rabbi Marcus in his hometown of Staten Island and lovingly recalls it as his “second home.” It was there that he saw first-hand the beauty of Torah permeating a rabbi’s family life and home. He felt blessed and inspired.

Marriage and Children
Rabbi Elie met Rifky Idels in 1995. They married in 1996 and had their first child that year, the first of nine. In their first year of marriage, the intrepid young couple moved to Oshawa, where Rabbi Elie was the Chief Rabbi of Durham Region. Although only 22 years old, Rabbi Elie was inspired to lead the community, which opened its arms to the rabbi and his young wife. He was the chaplain at both the Whitby jail and the hospital and taught “Hebrew Culture Club” under the auspices of NCSY at several public schools.

The Early Seeds of the Forest Hill Jewish Centre
In 2000, Yaakov Kaplan approached Rabbi Elie and asked him to lead a centre of prayer and learning in Forest Hill. With only 10 families in its orbit, the doors opened on the second floor at 446 Spadina Avenue. It took a full year to get a minyan for Sabbath services. Today, there are more than 200 families as members and over 500 people who participate in weekly activities. Thousands are touched by the Centre each year. The Centre is known for its vibrancy and energy, dispelling the notion that synagogues are boring and dull. It is a place, Rabbi Elie says, that reflects the “Cheers” theme song: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came…”

More Important Facts About Rabbi Elie
Outside of the FHJC and his front lawn, Rabbi Elie can be found kibbutzing with his buddies in the Forest Hill Barber Shop and schoomzing with people on the street.

Favourite English Book: Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger

Favourite Hebrew Book:  Nesivas Shalom by the Slonimer Rebbe z”l

Mon, November 18 2019 20 Cheshvan 5780