It seems like just yesterday that I was at Beth Ora Congregation in St. Laurent for the formal installation of Rabbi Marc Jablon. Well, that was in 1987. Last year the now grizzled veteran of the pulpit gave notice that he planned to retire and a thorough search for his replacement began. It ended with the appointment of Rabbi Anthony Knopf, a native of Manchester, England who most recently served a congregation in Cape Town, South Africa.
I recently sat down with Rabbi Knopf, his charming wife Carly and synagogue president Howard Sholzberg. The rabbi was offered the job last fall, accepted and arrived with his wife and their four children in May. “Our personnel committee was very taken by him,” said Sholzberg. “I got to meet him via a skype conversation. After about 45 minutes I felt like I had known him my whole life. Immediately we arranged to have he and his wife flown to Montreal from South Africa for six days. He stayed with one of our members. We were all sold on him at that point.”
The rabbi already has sent the right vibes through the synagogue with his new open door policy. He sits in an office right next to the front entrance. His door is wide open and a posted sheet of paper lists all of his personal phone numbers. “People can drop by and see me anytime,” he says.
Beth Ora has a membership of more than 600 families. Rabbi Knopf is only 36 years of age. “I expect him to be with us for a lifetime,” said Sholzberg.
Carly Knopf is a Jewish studies teacher, who is presently taking courses to become a life coach. “My goal is to help people dealing with matters related to trauma, addiction and chronic pain,” she said. “There are a lot of people struggling with these issues.”
Rabbi Knopf is still becoming familiar with his new congregants. His objective is to reach out to the youth and young families on matters ranging from Torah to programming. “I was born in England, lived in South Africa and now I have arrived in Canada,” he remarked. “It is a beautiful international experience. The congregation here has been so welcoming to us. So has Rabbi Jablon and Heshy Benshimon, who leads our services. I teach Torah in a way which shows its relevance to the issues people grapple with in everyday life and to social justice. I am passionate about understanding and teaching Jewish values and exploring the ways in which communities can reflect those values. I believe strongly in the power of community to bring out the best in people and to form a space for applying and living Jewish values.”
You can log on to the Rabbi’s website at www.toratchayim.co.za.
A SHOUT OUT TO AN ARTIST: Joseph Dibari is a Mile End resident who loves to paint. I have seen his work displayed at the St. Viateur Bagel Café on Monkland. Next month he will be donating some of his art to a charity golf tournament at St. Raphael in Île Bizard. A native of Dorval, Joseph has been painting since 1990. He has attended art shows across the globe in places such as Italy, Holland, Mexico, and even Iceland. By day, he works at the popular St. Henri breakfast restaurant called Yolande. Joseph even finds time to work on a project in Acapulco, where he sells used clothes and canes for the blind at subsidized prices.