The scorching heat and puzzled looks from pedestrians didn’t affect the joy and strong feelings of unity experienced by congregants of Agudath Israel and Beth Shalom during their Torah procession, June 26.
The procession marked the impending amalgamation of the two Conservative synagogues as Kehillat Beth Israel, which became official a few days later on July 1.
Beth Shalom congregants sang and danced with the Torahs as they emerged from their temporary home at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre and walked down Carling Avenue to meet up with the delegation carrying the Torahs from Agudath Israel. The two processions met with great excitement and marched together back to Kehillat Beth Israel in the former Agudath Israel synagogue building.
They entered the sanctuary and placed the Torahs from both congregations in the ark.
Many in attendance were beaming with joy as they watched leaders from both congregations shake hands and sign the official documents that would see the amalgamation come into effect.
“It’s a very momentous occasion, not only for the city of Ottawa but for the Jewish people in general to see how two congregations that have lived side by side for so long broke down barriers and became one kehillah, one community,” said Cantor Daniel Benlolo.
“It’s been an amazing experience! People from both sides have been participating and there’s a ruach, a special spirit that is now in this synagogue … that we hope is only going to build from today on.”
“This really is an exciting process, we’ve really been phenomenally successful in bringing together two distinct cultures and two congregations that have a tremendous history in the city, and that’s exciting,” said Kehillat Beth Israel Co-President Stuart McCarthy.
McCarthy pointed to the new spiritual leader, Rabbi Eytan Kenter, and to Ritual, Education and Outreach Director Rabbi Deborah Zuker, as evidence of Kehillat Beth Israel’s changing dynamics.
“We’ve asked, ‘What’s needed for the future of Conservative Judaism in Ottawa?’ And that’s the focus we’re putting out now in terms of outreach to the community and outreach to members … and we’re quite unified in how we’re going forward,” he said. “So the future looks very good.”