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DN: The Early Years - Reflections from Ron & Debbie Cowitz

09/08/2016 11:29:58 AM


Memories of a Beginning

We remember one evening in the early ‘60s when Harvey Freeman called us and asked if we knew ‎anything about ‎Reconstructionism. Of course we answered in the negative He said that it was a fourth ‎movement in Judaism in America ‎and that a group of people were meeting to discuss it and would we ‎like to attend. We agreed and attended with the ‎Freemans at the Chernick’s house (Aviva Chernick’s ‎grandparents). We attended several meetings and became very ‎interested in the Movement.‎

Several of us decided to form a Study Group and it became our Reconstructionist Chavurah and we all ‎asked our friends to ‎join with us. The Chavurah continued for some time with monthly meetings. We ‎attended the Reconstructionist ‎convention in Montreal in 1967 and became more inspired after meeting ‎Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan and other “big machers” ‎in the Movement. We remember Rabbi Manny ‎Goldsmith coming to Toronto and talking to our Chavurah about the ‎Movement. ‎

We remember that sometime later Rabbi Lavy Becker put an ad in a Toronto paper and called a meeting ‎at the Park Plaza ‎Hotel for interested people. We believe that the Mendelsohns were at that meeting ‎when Rabbi Becker strongly ‎suggested that the attendees start with Yom Tov services that fall. We joined ‎with them and others and had services at the ‎Bathurst JCC with a Torah donated by Rabbi Becker and ‎Dorshei Emet Congregation of Montreal.‎

We remember that the Torah rested in the basement of the Cowitz residence wrapped in a flannel sheet ‎and was carefully ‎carried to our various places of worship (e.g. the basement of Town House Restaurant ‎on Eglinton Avenue, the Diet ‎Workshop premises in an office building at Bathurst and Wilson, the Zionist ‎building on Marlee Avenue, York Mills ‎Collegiate where we held Yom Tov services, a Greek Orthodox ‎Church on Bayview Avenue, also for Yom Tov Services, ‎Congregation Habonim, the Bathurst JCC, the “pit” ‎and the main hall at the  B’nai B’rith, and finally at our downstairs ‎premises at 15 Hove St.) We remember ‎that at the beginning there was never a dream about having our own building or a ‎children’s school.‎

We remember a meeting with Rabbi Ira Eisenstein at our house and the various rabbis from RRC who ‎attended at the ‎Cowitz hotel (Rabbi Allan Lehman, Rabbis Joel and Rebecca Alpert, Rabbi Ron Aigen, and ‎Rabbi David Teutsch who visited ‎with us) We also remember Rabbi Joy Levitt who was our first student ‎rabbi who came to us on a regular monthly basis.‎

We remember the shul (now named Darchei Noam – the name suggested by Eric Mendelsohn, we ‎believe) decided to ‎incorporate and I (Ron) completed the legal work and obtained our Charter which is ‎now in our archives.‎

We remember especially October 4th, 1975 when our daughter Risa became the first Bat Mitzvah in the ‎shul (Parsha ‎Bereshit), and our late friend Rabbi Sol Tannenzapf conducted the services that Shabbat at ‎the JCC. We also remember we ‎mimeographed the first Supplementary Readings for the shul which ‎included the Parsha because there were too few ‎chumashim available.‎

We remember all the Rabbonim who helped us along the way and especially Rabbi Richard Hirsch, who ‎still visits with us ‎every Yom Tov, with his “list of 10” to keep us focused on our changing world.‎

We remember settling in at 15 Hove Street and the move to our present quarters on Sheppard Avenue.‎

The rest is history.‎

Photo from the files of Ron and Debbie Cowitz

Tue, 3 August 2021 25 Av 5781