Hakafot to Remember
At Gary Smorgon House we have multiple Sifrei Torot (Torah Scrolls) which we use in the Synagogue throughout the year. Some of them are used weekly and others are only used during Jewish holidays and on special occasions. We also have an old small Torah which is not-Kosher and is beyond repair. We therefore cannot read out of it but are still able to carry it around during the Synagogue dancing on Simchat Torah.
On Simchat Torah evening, it is customary to perform seven Hakafot (Circles) around the Bimah (Reading Table or Platform) in the Synagogue. Each Hakafah (Circle) is led by a different person who holds a Torah while reciting a prayer out loud. The remaining Torah Scrolls are held by other people who circle around the Bimah following the leader. We try to share the honours so that everyone has an opportunity to either lead a Hakafah or hold a Torah. Since the small Torah is very light, this is the one that we pass around to the residents.
*Mordechai is a High Care resident who moved to Gary Smorgon House six months ago together with his wife *Esther. They both attend Shul every Shabbat, and are often joined by their son and grandchildren. When I approached Mordechai on Simchat Torah evening to hold the small Torah, he was initially reluctant. He said that the Torah was too heavy and that he had difficulty walking. I told him that I would walk next to him the entire time and would assist him if necessary. He finally agreed, so I gave him the Torah and together we walked towards the Bimah in the centre of the Synagogue. As soon as his son noticed us he quickly approached to assist as well. The scene in front of us was absolutely beautiful: Father and son were dancing arm in arm while Mordechai clutched the Torah close to his heart. They danced slowly, but with passion and full of life. After a few minutes Mordechai became tired, so they both returned to their seats in the back of the Synagogue.
I then approached them and asked them how it felt. Mordechai had a bright smile on his face and said that this was the first time in his life that he got to carry a Sefer Torah. His son thanked me profusely. However, it was his wife Esther who was most impacted by this incident, by responding with the following: "Moving in to Gary Smorgon House was a very difficult decision for us. However, knowing that I would be able to attend Shul together with my husband and son made it a bit easier. Now that I have seen my husband dancing arm in arm with my son while holding a Torah; it has made the move worth it. Thank you so much for bringing this experience into our lives!"
Rabbi Yoseph Nerenberg
A Shabbos Feeling
It was an hour before the arrival of Shabbat when I got a phone call from the Montefiore Facility Manager telling me she had an issue.
A member of the community, Abe*, had called saying that he was an observant Jew and needed to move into Montefiore before Shabbat. The facility manager asked me whether I knew Abe and if I would be able to contact someone who knew of his situation. I happened to have known Abe but was not up to date with his current circumstances or health condition. I told the facility manager that I would make some inquires and get back to her.
I called another community member and his response was, 'I don't know much about Abe, but just yesterday his neighbour who looks after him called me. He had some concerns about him and mentioned that he may need some assistance.' He gave me the neighbour's number and I called him.
As it turns out, Abe had not been feeling well lately and was unable to look after himself properly, however when his friends and neighbours suggested that he come to Montefiore for respite, he had refused. The neighbour suggested that if Abe was saying that he wanted to move into Montefiore, and then we should try to accept him as soon as possible, as this would be what he really needed provided the opportunity. I told him that being less than a half hour until Shabbat came in, that it would be difficult but I would see what I could do.
I called back the facility manager and told her about the situation. After discussing it with another member of staff she said that she would accept him. I quickly called back the neighbour and gave him the update. The neighbour went to Abe's house, put some clothing in a bag and called a taxi. I asked the facility manager to please wait outside for the taxi as Abe would need help walking and would not know where to go.
Exactly two minutes before Shabbat came in, the taxi pulled up and Abe has been a happy member of Montefiore ever since.
The next morning when I came to run the Synagogue service, I saw a smiling Abe sitting in Shul. He said that he arrived alright and that the staff were very nice to him and made sure that he had dinner and settled him into his room. Abe has made many friends at Montefiore in a short time and has many visitors coming to see him here. Thank G-d, his health and general wellbeing has improved since coming to Montefiore and Abe is considering becoming a permanent resident in the near future.
A person in need, a phone call to Jewish Care, dedicated staff and a happy and healthy resident all in under an hour. Wow.
Rabbi Yisroel Kohn
Feeling at Home
This past month we have had many festivals, with the High Holidays and Succot. This has given us many more opportunities to hold Shul services and welcome into the facility more of the community who join us for the services.
There is an older gentleman who has recently started attending the services. He has become a regular, and he loves coming. He lives on the same block as the facility and is a survivor of the Holocaust. He enjoys having a l'chaim on whiskey at the Kiddush and has often shared his memories, thoughts and feelings with us. He is a true treasure, and we have embraced him as a part of our wonderful Munzer family.
I often honour him by calling him up to the Torah on the Shabbat, and with various other honours in Shul. He attended on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succot too. He even requested his son to come and sit with him in Munzer on Yom Kippur rather than joining the congregation at his son's Shul.
On Simchat Torah, the last day of the festival of Succot, I honoured him with holding the Torah while dancing around the Bima (the raised table in the centre of the Shul). Afterwards, overwhelmed by the joy of the occasion and his feelings, he came up to me and said, 'Rabbi, words cannot explain what emotions are going through my heart right now! I don't want to cry, but I feel I must. I feel so happy, and grateful for this experience. I cannot explain, but I just feel at home here. Thank you for giving this to me!'
Rabbi Schneier Lange
A Seder to Remember
At Gary Smorgon House we have multiple Sederim on both nights of Pesach to suit the needs of the residents. We first have an early condensed Seder for those that find it difficult to sit through a long Seder, and then a longer "Orthodox Seder" for those residents who wish to recite the Haggadah and perform the various customs associated with the Seder at the proper time.
On the second night of Pesach we were joined by Chanah – a resident who has lived at Gary Smorgon House for around a year. We began the Seder and went around the table and invited residents to take turns in reciting parts of the Haggadah out loud. We also sang many famous "songs" which were printed in the Haggadah.
Although Chanah declined the invitation to recite some sections out loud, every time we sand a song she clapped along and sang the tune to herself. She would close her eyes and swerve side by side in her chair to the tune of the song. She was getting noticeably emotional, as tears gathered in her eyes each time.When the Seder concluded a couple of hours later, Chanah excitingly turned to me and said: "Oh, Rebbe (Rabbi)! I remember my Zeyde's (Grandfather's) Seder in Poland when I was a child. He would dress up in his white Kittel (Robe), and all the people from my town would come to his home to hear him sing and lead the Seder. The songs that we sang tonight were the same ones I remember singing as a child. It has been so long since I have been at a proper Seder. Thank you so much for inviting me tonight!"
This, my friends, is why we do what we do!
Rabbi Yoseph Nerenberg