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7: Ohr Sameyach

05/10/2019 03:00:00 PM


Rabbi Elie Karfunkel

When Rifky and I moved to Toronto in August 2000, we were handed a space above Starbucks, with a name that was already chosen. 

We were supposed to be JLE: Jewish Learning Exchange.

Now, a JLE already exists in London, England. But the name didn't work for us. It didn't seem to fit with the link to the community that we were looking for. 

We then thought of calling it the Lower Village Shul, but nixed that one, too.  

I always liked the word “Centre.” As in, the Forest Hill Jewish Centre. And that’s been our brand ever since.

It ain’t easy having a long name. Officially, it’s the Albert & Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre, which is a part of Ohr Somayach International. You try fitting all of that on a jersey.  

At its core, Ohr Somayach is an outreach yeshiva In Jerusalem, which focuses on giving classes to young men, with discussions about the most challenging questions on Judaism. But also gives them to tools to be successful scholars. 

Each newcomer is handed a Gemara (Talmud) without any English—it’s all written in Aramaic. And that tome will become his most cherished possession.

The yeshiva is committed to turn each student into a star, never allowing them to settle with being good enough. A commitment to excellence that comes from the Rosh HaYeshiva, the dean of the institution, Rabbi Nota Schiller. 

We’ve had the honour of hosting Rav Schiller over the years, and this tenacity is at his core. I’ve never met a man so smart and so filled with energy, as if he’s just starting the yeshiva today, even though it’s almost 50 years old. 

(I still have 30 years to go before I can start publishing my “50 for 50.”)

On a personal level, my dear father-in-law was one the first Ohr Somayach students, and my wife is one of the first children of the yeshiva. Rifky and our whole family owe our lives to what came out of Ohr Somayach.

And so, the FHJC remains a satellite of this stellar organization—even if the rest of our name was changed.

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784