Programs for Children & Youth

kids prepping food

2019-20 Youth B’Mitzvah Class: Challah Making Photo: Juana Berinstein

Youth B’Mitzvah Class

We are excited to announce that our 2022-2023 B’Mitzvah class is open for registration!

This class, taught by Cantor Wunch, focuses on various facets of Jewish identity, and will give students an opportunity to delve more deeply into their own Jewish lives and practices. It is open to anyone entering grade 6, 7, or 8 in September, 2022, and is a required element in preparation for celebrating this important rite of passage with Congregation Shir Libeynu. It can be taken either prior-to or concurrently with private B’Mitzvah tutoring. 

If you have any questions about the B’Mitzvah preparation process, or you are interested in celebrating the B’Mitzvah of your child(ren) and you have not yet booked the date for your simcha, please schedule a meeting with Cantor Wunch by clicking on the following link: https://calendly.com/cantorwunch 

Please note that at least one parent/guardian needs to be a member of our congregation in order to enroll in this class and celebrate with us. We will be in touch with all families who register for the course to discuss membership options.

The course will meet in-person, with an online option for those who cannot attend in-person, on Thursdays from 4:30-6:00 pm, on a bi-weekly schedule from September to May at a downtown Toronto location TBD. The cost is $800 per student. If cost is an issue, please contact our board of directors at slboard@shirlibeynu.ca. All requests for financial assistance will be kept strictly confidential.

Please click here to register

Read insightful and inspiring Divrei Torah (Torah commentaries) from two of our members, Emily and Aaron.

Emily’s D’var Torah

June 5, 2021

Book of Numbers 13:1 – 15:41 Sh’lach

It has been a long journey to get to where I am today. This past winter was not like any other I have experienced. It was challenging and stressful but my Torah studies and preparations for today always gave me lots of hope. It was a bright spot that I looked forward to. In a way we are all on a difficult journey, and I am so grateful that we can be here together and that we have the technology to help us, so that I can share my thoughts and feelings on the difficult journey described in today’s parsha.

Today’s parsha is from the book of Numbers, and it tells the story of the twelve spies who were sent out by Moses. They were told to scout the promised land of Canaan after escaping Egypt, which we talked about recently at Passover. It also talks about the violation of the sabbath and the commandment of the tzitzit. The 12 men return to Moses after searching for the Promised Land of Canaan for 40 days. They brought back milk and honey and a vine of grapes so large it took two men to carry. The men then presented it to Moses and the Israelites. The scouts showed them the riches of the land but they were doubtful that they could overtake it because the men in the promised land were much larger and stronger than they were. They said “we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” But two faithful scouts, Caleb and Hosea, who later had his name changed to Joshua, tried to reassure the Israelites and told the other scouts to not to lose faith. Caleb said “Let us by all means go up, and we shall gain possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” but the people were doubtful and threatened to rebel against God.

In Chapter 14, verse 11, God says to Moses, “How long will these people spurn Me, and how long will they have no faith in Me despite all the signs that I have performed in their midst?” In the end, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed into the promised land, while the rest were sentenced to roam the wilderness for 40 years so that only the new generation will find the promised land.

One very important thing that I have learned from all of my research, and not just on my Torah portion, is that Jewish people are strong. There are many reasons why I think this. Jewish people have been through many terrible events throughout history, and have had very difficult journeys. But we know that our journey is not over. Right now, this global pandemic, it feels like another very important part of our journey. But we need to have faith that we will be just fine in the end. One thing that I have learned and admire is that Jewish people take time to realize and reflect on all the challenging and hard times we have had in the past. I admire this because, even though it might be hard, we also remember how lucky we are to have what we have now, and to treasure what we have today. A good example is what we are doing right now. We are coming together as a community to remember the hard times, but also to celebrate what we have. I feel so lucky to be part of this great community.

Something that I noticed in my Torah portion is the leadership that Caleb and Joshua showed in their community. For whatever reason, the Israelites were doubting that they would make it to the promised land, and were losing their faith in G-d, even though they witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt and all the other miracles G-d presented in their midst. Even though they were losing faith, Caleb and Joshua showed leadership by trying to reassure the people that they will make it to the promised land of Canaan. What they did for their community is so amazing. They found it within themselves to speak up in front of a crowd of panicked people. I wish that I could have the courage to speak up in my community like they did.

Holding on to faith when things seem uncertain Is another important thing that I learned from today’s parsha. I found it interesting that Moses changed Hosea’s name to Ye-Hesea. Why would he do that? I did a little research and I found out the Hosea means “he who helps”, or “salvation”. By adding the Hebrew letter yud, Moses added G-d into Hosea’s name changing it to Ye-Hosea or Joshua. This new name means “G-d may save”, or “G-d Is salvation”. Moses made Joshua’s name into a prayer. I believe that the message here is that those who have faith will overcome their challenges; even when things seem uncertain.

I know that I cannot yet do what Caleb and Joshua did. But I did show a small part of my community some light and brought some joy to their day through my tikkun olam project. My showing of tikkun olam was to bring the brightness and joy of Ahabbat to my great grandmother, Bubbie Regina, and her friends at her retirement home while they were in lock down. Even though we are not able to be with our loved ones due to COVID-19, I found a way to bring a little bit of joy into their lives. With help from my mom and dad, I put together 30 Shabbat kits with candles, challah, grape juice, photos and prayers, and dropped them off at the retirement home. The staff said that the kits brought much happiness and joy to their days. That was all I needed to hear to make my day go from good to great. I know that I will continue to grow into a strong member of my community and help others.

We are all still on a journey and we must remember to have faith and to remember that we have overcome challenges in the past, and that we will again. I know that I will continue to have faith, especially as these difficult times continue. I look forward to spending time with my friends and family, and the Shir Libeynu community. I am also excited to become a strong and reliable person in my community. I am so grateful for the amazing support from my trope teacher and good friend Bella, Paula, Rabbi Lithwick, my brother, my mom and dad, and to my family and friends. I also want to say a special thank you to my Bubbie Lucy and Zaida Marty for making you backyard so beautiful and for letting us take over their house these past few weeks.  You have really helped to make today special for me.

Thank you so much for helping me through this wonderful journey.

Shabbat Shalom.

Aaron’s D’var Torah

May 1, 2021

Thank you all for being here to celebrate my big day. I have learned that rituals, prayers and celebrations are important to link me to my family for many generations. They also help me form my identity and who I am today. This is a big part of my Torah portion.

I have always learned the importance of identity, community and family. I am the proud Jewish son of proud Jewish lesbian moms. Without identity and family there isn’t much to ground me, help me to figure out what is important and give me values and morals to not only be true to myself but also be good to others. Our actions affect us as well as others.

I am so grateful to have a wonderful and supportive family made up of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and of course my moms, for teaching me that.

I am also so fortunate to have amazing friends who also share my values, interests and most of all like to have fun. They are helping me with my Tikkun Olam project. Tikkun Olam means “repair the world” in Hebrew. We have a responsibility to make the world a better place. My friends and I are trying to help with food shortages in our community especially during Covid by going door to door with our wagons when we can in my neighbourhood on a food drive and bringing the food to charity boxes.

My portion is all about Community. It is called Emor which takes place between Passover and Shavuot and Emor means “Speak” in Hebrew. That works for me in two ways. I’m shy and I don’t love public speaking but also because once I am comfortable with you, I don’t stop speaking. Many of you out there are familiar with this.

God told Moses to speak to his people to lay out when and how holidays and rituals should happen. Many of you who know me will know that I like my downtime. Coincidentally, one of the directives by God was that there be a day of rest. God and I think alike. In Leviticus, God tells us that we need to take a break but not just any break. A break that is different from all the other days. In this case, the Sabbath.

This pause, or resting period is also what union activists have fought hard for and won in terms of the work world. In the workplace, it is legislated that workers must have breaks and days off for their health, safety and security.

My family has had a long history of labour activism and social justice in general. Having protections for the community is so important like the importance of having paid sick leave during a pandemic.

Feasting and bringing people together to share food and cultural traditions is in my portion as well and is also a ritual that many Jewish people and people of all cultures share today.

As Jewish people, we come together to eat and celebrate holidays just like the Passover seders that just passed that hopefully people were able to experience this year but also for weekly Shabbat dinners.

Covid has made that difficult if not impossible either because people don’t have enough food during these hard times or because we cannot get together with our families out of fear of catching or spreading the virus.

That is why I really wanted to do something in my small way to help with food challenges since it is not only important for survival but also for the community.

Preparing for my Bar Mitzvah was a lot of work but that said, I definitely don’t regret it. The Bar Mitzvah process has given me more of an understanding of being Jewish and also a confidence in myself.

I also really love the fact that my Bubie and Barney, Bubie and Zaidie and my aunts, uncles and cousins all took part in the service to make it so special for me.

As I embark on this journey toward adulthood, I know it is important to remember the past and all I’ve been taught in order to make a difference in the future.  I also want to thank you all again for helping me and my family make this day really special.