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2: Early Years

03/14/2019 03:00:05 PM

Mar14

Rabbi Elie Karfunkel

Rifky and I moved to Toronto in August 2000. Like any startup, we knew we had to have a Grand Opening to draw attention to the Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre.

With nothing else to really work with, we purchased Canada 411, a disk that listed names and addresses in any given postal code. Our first mailing list was made up of the Jewish-sounding names in the area.

We prepared to receive 300 kids. Crafts, games, two magic shows, it was going to be an outstanding occasion. The Kaplan family, the founders of the Centre and our partners in this endeavour, came down with their kids to cheer us on. Would we even be able to find them in the crowd?

Well, that event was a bigger flop than LeBron James in L.A. The fact that the Kaplan kids sat through both magic shows, for which they were the entire audience, brought the only smile to my face that day.

And then, there was the first service after a few months in the Village—which produced only two people. 

In fact, one of the guys told me after davening that he was moving to Thornhill the next week! How many Rabbis can say they lost half of their congregation in one night?

Still, without those who started trickling in, we never would have gotten anywhere.

This is why I stand in awe of all the Chabad Rabbis out there, especially in far-flung places. They’re a pretty special group. They put up a shingle and a mezuzah and get to work with great enthusiasm.

I often wonder how they keep at it—some don’t even get a minyan on Yom Kippur. 

My take is they don’t subscribe to Sigmund Freud’s view that man is motivated by his libido, or Alfred Adler who said man is motivated by power, but Viktor Frankl who said it was about man’s search for meaning.

When we live a life of meaning, pure enthusiasm reigns supreme. The other motivators are like a sugar rush that seems to work for the moment, but leaves us wanting.

So, thanks to all those original holy souls who ascended the stairs next door to Starbucks, and thanks to all the hundreds of Rabbis who came to Canada and worked for a pittance, and thanks to the Chabad Rabbis who inspire us all to live Jewish.

Sun, January 16 2022 14 Shevat 5782