May 18, 2017
Various ethnic groups and residents had a chance to tour the sanctuary of Congregation B’Nai Israel and the Niagara Jewish Community and learn a bit about the religious customs of the Jewish community during the Niagara Folk Arts Festival Open House 2017.
It was a chance for the Jewish Community to explain the teachings and practice of their faith. The event featured in addition, photographs of the holocaust, photographs of those who served in the past wars, past marriage registries, scroll of honour received by a member, minutes of special meetings held at the synagogue and photo of the Women Auxiliary Of the Synagogue.
Deborah Heck, a member of the congregation conducted visitors round the basement exhibition. She explained the significance of some items on display.
Argentinean born Rabbi Ronang welcomed visitors to the sanctuary of Congregation B’Nai Israel. His role is to teach and hold prayers. “We respect the Torah – 5 books of Moses.”
“It is about the history of our people and the commandments that should be followed as Jews.”
Rabbi Ronang said the Jewish community is about delivering a message of peace despite everything it had gone through in the past years.He noted that the community is always looking towards the future.
In the sanctuary was Fanny Dolansky who explained the displays to the visitors. On display was the Torah. The Torah is read from right to left. The text of the Torah is not supposed to be touched. A pointer called a “yad” is used to read the Torah. The Torah is always handled with care. It weighs between 20lbs and 40 lbs and should not be dropped when carried. If a Torah were dropped, one would need to fast for cleansing and atonement.
On display were horns of rams. The horns were used for various events during the biblical times. It was blown to announce the beginning of the Sabbath, summon people to the assembly, summon people to prayer; it is blown on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The horns are not blown on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is a day of atonement.
Harold Nash, St. Catharines born member of Congregation B’Nai Israel and immediate past President of the organization told Mosaic Edition that the community had grown over the years. It has been able to retain a Rabbi, a difficult feat to achieve by small synagogues.
Harold Nash speaks of the historical development of the congregation in St. Catharines.
The Jewish community of St. Catharines has been part of the mosaic of Canada since the late 1800s when the first Jew was actually recognized as part of being citizen of St. Catharines.
The community consisting of 30 families decided to build a synagogue at the corner of Church and Calvin streets. The congregation started off as very orthodox congregation with separate sitting for men and women. But at the end of 2nd World War there was pressure for a more modern kind of community. The congregation grew to a point where the St. Catharines congregation changed to become a conservative congregation where men and women now sit together.
The congregation has about 150 families.
“We want to be friendly with everyone and extend our hands of friendship at very opportunity”, said Harold Nash.
The Klezmer Orchestra rendered Jewish music and songs.