Rabbi Chezi Zionce
Rabbi Zionce provides spiritual guidance, counseling, insightful sermons, and assists in our lifecycle events. Rabbi Zionce has a wealth of experience and successes in developing synagogue communities. He was most recently the rabbi at Beth Tikvah Congregation in Naples, Florida (2007-2011) and prior to that, Synagogue Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina (2000-2006). Rabbi Zionce has recently returned to his native Toronto where he was the Hebrew school principal at Holy Blossom Temple (1984-86) and the spiritual leader at First Narayever Congregation (1986-1998).
Since his return to Toronto, the Rabbi has been an active speaker and volunteer at JACS Toronto, an organization which provides support to individuals in the Jewish community who are dealing with alcohol and drug dependency issues. Rabbi Zionce has also been serving as Associate Religious Leader at Habonim Congregation. We have great confidence that his outstanding people skills, his ability to bring great meaning to the study of Torah and be engaging with adults and children, will bring great benefit to our kehilla (sacred community).
Rabbi Zionce is originally from Toronto and a graduate of CHAT. His post secondary studies were at Yeshiva University in New York and York University in Toronto, He received his Rabbinic Ordination in Israel in 1996 under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. In 1986-1998 he was spiritual leader for First Narayever Congregation located in downtown Toronto. From 1999-2011 Rabbi was spiritual leader at synagogues in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Charleston, South Carolina and Naples, Florida.
The rabbi is the proud father of three children , Jacob, Micah and Shira.
Other career highlights:
- High Holiday Cantor : Satellite Beach, Florida; Thunder Bay, Ontario, and York University
- Group Leader: Numerous trips to Israel
- Spiritual Leader: March of the Living
- Founder and Rabbinic Leader: Downtown (Toronto) Jewish Day School
- Rabbi and Judaic Teacher: Camp Ramah
To contact Rabbi click here
Message from Rabbi Chezi Zionce
I am thrilled to be at Beit Rayim. Our synagogue has a long tradition of representing Egalitarian Conservative Judaism in the greater GTA and it is a dream come true for this rabbi to find a congregation that so closely matches my personal vision of a perfect Shul.
Our Shul is not fancy or formal. Yes, there is awe and transcendence, majesty and dignity, and there should be, for our G-d is not just a pal or a buddy. G-d is above and beyond us, and our architecture should express that truth. Our Shul is a home, located within the world, not just towering over it. It is a place where a person can sing out lustily, if his or her heart moves him or her to, and where one can even clap or dance, if the soul inside bids him or her to. This is what I have found at Beit Rayim!
Beit Rayim is a place where King David would feel at home, he who danced before G-d so lustily. It is a place where people can sit and study and not just listen to wisdom that is transmitted to them from on high. It is a place where people can feel comfortable asking questions, because they know that ours is a faith that honors the question, and not just a place where people are told what is true from the pulpit and have no chance to respond.
At Beit Rayim I found a Shul that is a warm and an inviting place where young people, old people and middle aged people, babies and b'nai mitzvahs all join together in forming a kahal, a sacred community celebrating Judaism.
May our congregation continue to grow both physically and spiritually.
For a collection of Rabbi Zionce's weekly divrei torah - click here
Cantor Eli Bard
Eli Bard has traveled thousands of miles over the decades, and puts the "I" in "International".
Eli was born in Shanghai, China. The Bard family fled the Communist occupation in mainland China in 1949, heading to Israel as refugees. Family reasons moved the Bards again to Buenos Aires, where they settled in 1954.
Eli completed a Bachelor of Optics Degree at the University of Buenos Aires, and after marrying Ester z"l, they chose to move to Israel. Eli received a Bachelor's degree in Industrial and Management Engineering from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), but was forced to abandon his Master's studies in order to serve as a tank commander for eight months during the Yom Kippur War at the Egyptian and Syrian fronts.
Back into civilian life, Eli was manager of the R & D department of a newly started Israeli contact lenses company. There, he helped develop and design special intraocular lenses which were tested and approved by international surgeons, and also, due to his fluency in Russian, English, and Spanish, became instrumental in the absorption of new immigrants into the labour force. When Eli arrived in Toronto in 1990, he obtained his licence as a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario, and is currently employed by Global Upholstery Inc. with the title of Director in charge of industrial engineering functions.
While in Buenos Aires, Eli and Ester had been founding members of Comunidad Bet El. This was their first "community project" in their young lives, under the mentorship of Rabbi Marshall Meyer Z"L which inspired them to become deeply rooted in the ideals and vision of the Conservative movement. Eli led the very first Kabbalat Shabbat at Bet El on March 1963 and, together with Ester, developed the cantorial department and support for all religious services. Eli also led the inaugural service on the occasion of the opening of the Jewish Theological Seminary - Latin-American branch.
In Israel, Eli led services, mainly at Bet Knesset Moriah, Haifa. Together with Ester and their son Uriel, he was invited to lead High Holy Day services at Congregacion Bet El Guatemala, and a thoughtful invitation brought him to Bnei Jeshurun, NY, to lead the High Holy Day services together with Rabbi Meyer. Eli has been the cantor of Beit Rayim since Shemini Atzeret 5755 (1994).
Eli and Ester z"l, have three sons - Uriel, Shalom, and Daniel.
Message from Cantor Eli Bard
Many centuries before the establishment of worship in ancient Israel, other Middle Eastern civilizations, such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians had an organized service with responsive prayers in which the priest functioned as reader and conductor. The priestly choir, and occasionally the public, participated with responses, similar to the practices in ancient Israel.
In the culture of Israel's neighbours, it was the priest who, during his offering of the sacrifices, simultaneously acted as a conductor or leader. He recited the prayers and was the only mediator between the people and their god.
Herein lies an important principle which differentiates Jewish worship from that of these other nations:
In Judaism, with the influence of the Prophets, the idea that G-d is near everyone, and that everybody is worthy to approach Him, became widespread. We find a clear example in Isaiah 63:16 – "Surely You are our Father". The relationship between G-d and Israel, as between father and children, entitled every Jew to pray to G-d without priestly mediation.
But as the people did not have sufficient education to express their wishes, usually a prominent man – "one of the people" – was chosen to be their representative. It is an interesting and important characteristic in the history of Judaism that from the very beginning, the spokesmen were men of the people. (According to A. Z. Idelsohn, this person could be a man or a woman).
If we want to examine the performance at the Temple in Jerusalem, we have a description in the Mishnah which refers to the service in the last Century BCE (Mishnah Tamid V). The Kohanim on duty recited a benediction and then the Ten Commandments, the Sh'mah, and the Priestly Benediction. After that, they proceeded with the offerings. Levites were in charge of musical performances as well as the singing of psalms and portions of the Torah.
The priest performed while sacrificing, but he never prayed for the people as an expression of human need in times of personal distress or thanksgiving.
The spokesman chosen among the people was called the mitpallel (lead one's self to pray). He became the messenger because he was recognized as one endowed with the rare power of prayer.
With the development of the institution of worship as a regular daily ritual, there arose in the last centuries before the Common Era the need to have a person who would recite the very simple and short forms of prayers and praises used at that time. At the Temple in Jerusalem, this function was exclusively in the hands of the priests – the Kohanim and Levi'im.
In parallel, houses of worship, the synagogues (in Hebrew Batei-Hakneset), were developed. In the first century BCE, there were around 400 hundred in Jerusalem alone. At that time, the function of the person chosen to lead the prayers was occupied by a layman called Sheliah Tzibur (the messenger of the community). It was an office of honour, and it was a distinction to be chosen by the Elders of the Synagogue for this function.
Naturally, the Sheliah Tzibur was well versed in the prayers and their meanings. After reciting the first benedictions, he had to improvise prayers according to the need of the hour, and then had to close with final benedictions, during which the community listened silently and participated only with short responses.