Just about one year ago we davened on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur with our friends at Congregation Ahavat Yisroel in Cote St. Luc, a suburb of Montreal. It was the very last time that we would be together as a minyan—that we would fulfill our roles as rabbi and rebbetzin of a group of people that we loved deeply.
Our minyan was not typical; it met over a period of 25 years. Space was rented from a Senior Citizen Residence, and it was there, in the lower level of the building, that we celebrated happy and sad occasions with our balabatim. This minyan was composed of total goodness. Everyone was there to daven quietly and concentrate on what they were doing. The dvrei torah on many occasions were lessons on how to live better lives and be better people. No one paid dues, and the rabbi did not receive a salary. Only for the chagim were seats sold, and that is how the minyan was able to sustain itself.
Our minyan became a home for Yachad-Chanukah parties and Purim shpiel. Whenever we were able to, we included the Yachad members from Montreal in our activities. It was our minyan that during the Intifada came to the fore in assisting in running two majorly successful Israel Vendor Fairs. Business keepers from Israel came and spent time with their hosts, davened with us, in many cases, where they had not davened before and were amazed by the devotion that these simple Canadians felt towards their brothers in Israel during a desperate time.
When we announced to the minyan that we were making the move back to the States, we shared with them our feelings of loss over not being together anymore, and they in turn felt an array of emotions. For most, it was a painful decision to find another minyan where they would feel as comfortable; where their children could run around and sit with the rabbi; where they could learn to daven properly if they had never done so, and especially where they knew that they would never be judged. What we needed to explain to them was the great loss that we would feel by no longer being a part of their lives on a daily basis.
Our decision was a traumatic one for us as well. Although the prospect of living closer to our children and grandchildren after being miles away for so many years was exciting, the prospects of beginning a totally new life was daunting. Going from an existence where you know “most of the city” to feeling as though you are total strangers is not easy. After living in a large city where we knew every Rav, were involved in Federation and mingled with the chassidishe olam, to suddenly find ourselves with no history that anyone knows of has been challenging. Every little thing that one would take naturally, such as where to buy an esrog and lulav, is totally unfamiliar to us.
We know that life will never be the same, but for the New Year we see a light—we are grateful to those who have welcomed us. Nina mentioned the other day that she crossed Queen Anne Road and met someone she knew. It made her so happy that she was recognized and acknowledged. Little things that everyone takes for granted we no longer do. We are overwhelmed by the level of devotion to Yiddishkeit here; it is a new experience for us to be surrounded mainly by people who are Shomer Mitzvot.
We hope to become more and more a part of this special community and wish everyone a Shanah Tova.
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick