Laurie has been coming to services at Shir Libeynu ever since its first service at the Cecil Community Centre. Finding a place for himself, his co-parent and their children where they could feel accepted and welcomed was no easy task. Shir Libeynu fit the bill perfectly. It was a place that not only celebrated diversity, but embraced it, and created a space for spiritual connection as well. Shir Libeynu took Laurie back to his shul-going days and reminded him of his enjoyment of the High Holy Day services as well as other Jewish-themed events.
Laurie is one of the owners of Mark Lash Designs, which designs, manufactures and imports fine jewelry. Laurie has also worked on many boards for fundraising, including the 519 Church Street Community Centre, Pogo, the Herbie Fund and Mount Sinai, to mention a few. Laurie is most proud of his greatest accomplishments: his son, Ben, and his daughter, Andi.
Laurie’s flair for decorating and food presentation has made many of our events things of beauty. In his third year on the board, Laurie helped to organize the Shir Libeynu Pride Shabbat reception and coordinated all our High Holy Day kiddushes. Laurie often hosts meetings at his home, and he plans to focus on special- events coordinating, including our bnei mitzvah simchas, in the coming year. He will also work on fundraising initiatives for the community.
I grew up surrounded by the mixture of different cultures: Jewish, German, and Russian. At age 17, I moved to Moscow to study Chemistry at the Moscow State University and graduated in 2014 with Master’s degree in Chemistry. Later, I worked as a Researcher at the Department of Medicine, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany where I performed research and testing of blood, drinking water and other fluids. In the summer 2013, I worked on a project “Redox properties of Green Fluorescent Proteins” at the Chemistry Department, University of Southern California, USA. The summer of 2014, I spent at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot on a project in Computational Chemistry. In August of 2014, I returned to Los Angeles where I started my PhD program in Chemistry and worked as a Teaching Assistant. In summer of 2015, due to health circumstances, I moved to Toronto, Ontario, where I am currently working as a Private Tutor in Math, Chemistry and Science.
Professionally, I became a lawyer in 2015 after graduating from the University of Toronto and spending a year working at the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I have additional professional experience as a practicing litigator and, prior to becoming a lawyer, as a program manager and outreach coordinator at a non-profit in Minnesota. I intend to use my skills and experiences to help Shir Libeynu maintain its current successful course
I have an insider knowledge of Jewish and LGBTQ communities. My professional experience includes teaching, research, writing, editing materials for publishing, updating websites, developing new programs, planning events and doing outreach and educational work for Toronto Jewish and LGBTQ organizations and community groups. I have taught Hebrew language and Jewish history in Jewish schools. I have also taught Jewish history, religious studies, and gender studies at York University and Trent University.
In 2012 – 2015 I served on the executive committee of Kulanu Toronto in the capacity of Director of Education. I have also spent several years on Jewish Diversity Committee at Congregation Darchei Noam and on planning committee at University of Toronto Qu(e)erying Religion. In 2011, I organized and led Queer Academia Discussion Group on Meetup, Facebook, and at The 519 Church Street Community Centre. In 2013, I was a member of GLBTQ Jewish Forum at Miles Nadal JCC in Toronto. In 2014, I was a co-organizer of the panel “Toronto Queer Jewish History” at University of Toronto.
I hold a Master’s degree in Humanities from York University and a Graduate Diploma in Jewish Studies from Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York. I am currently finishing my Ph.D. in the same program, with concentrations in Jewish studies and queer studies. My studies and research focus on Jewish queer culture and community. On this subject, in 2012-2016 I have delivered 5 papers at Jewish Studies conferences, panels, and seminars and 27 presentations, lectures, and workshops in synagogues, JCCs, and Jewish groups and events across the United States and Canada. My award-winning essay “Study and Desire: Jewish Queer Continuum in Yeshiva Narratives” has been accepted for publication in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.
My major areas of contribution as a Shir Libeynu board member could include adult education programming, outreach, community/membership engagement, and marketing/promotion. I believe that developing strategies for increasing our profile in Toronto Jewish community and for greater engagement of members should be among our priorities.
In addition to teaching I volunteer with the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Archives especially on special events and find it rewarding giving back to the community. I keep very physically active with the gym, pilates, yoga and biking. For the past several years I have volunteered for Sar El in Israel during the winter (Feb/Mar). We pack and sort medical supplies on an IDF base and I find the work a great way to do my part in helping to defend Israel as well as a way to meet others from other countries wanting to do the same. During my free time in Tel Aviv I take tours and socialize with a friend from Toronto who made Aliyah.
I have worked on the Boards of three LGBT Jewish organizations in the past and have served as both secretary and events planner. I have been a member of Shir Libeynu for the last 5 years and find that both the diversity and the close ties of the members to be important factors which set this Shul apart from many others. I feel that with my experience and energy I can give back to the community and also strengthen my connections.
Other Shir Libeynu Volunteers
Lorne Blumer: Contemplative Chanting Sessions Leader
Harriet Eisenkraft: Shabbat and Programming Coordinator; Communications Director; Shiva Helpers’ Coordinator (Chevra Kadisha)
Vered Phillips: Choir Director
Dorothy Rusoff – Co-director, Bikkur Cholim (Visiting/Helping Ill Members)
Jonathan Silin: Education Director
Bonnie Smith – Co-director, Bikkur Cholim (Visiting/Helping Ill Members)