BEIT RAYIM SYNAGOGUE AND RABBI ZIONCE FEATURED IN CANADIAN JEWISH NEWS!
Canadian Jewish News - December 12, 2013
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Canadian Jewish News - Excerpt from December 12, 2013
Richmond Hill shul grows to 325 families
Staff Reporter for the Canadian Jewish News
December 12, 2013
Since becoming spiritual leader of Beit Rayim Synagogue more than a year ago, Rabbi Chezi Zionce has seen its membership grow by about 100 families.
An egalitarian, Conservative congregation located at the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Richmond Hill, the synagogue, which celebrated its 36th anniversary in the spring, now has a membership of more than 325 families.
The congregation started when a small group founded the Richmond Hill Jewish Community. It later became known as Shaareh Haim Congregation, but closed its doors in 1992. It started up again in a community centre later that year and changed its name to the current Beit Rayim.
At one time, Rabbi Zionce said, the synagogue was the same size as it is now, but “the congregation dwindled. It survived, however, and it has experienced exceptional growth at a time when many synagogues are floundering”.
A member of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Beit Rayim also runs the largest supplementary Hebrew school in York Region, with 200 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 7.
“Beit Rayim literally means ‘house of friends’, and our exceptional growth speaks volumes regarding our genuine focus on making everyone feel warmly welcomed,” Rabbi Zionce said in a telephone interview.
He said half of the membership is made up of young families, which dispels the myth that young people aren’t looking to join a synagogue.
A Toronto native, Rabbi Zionce, 55, said that growing up, he attended a number of large synagogues, and they didn’t foster a positive atmosphere. “Many did not allow young children in the sanctuary during services,” he recalled.
He encourages young children to run around, he said, and he and Beit Rayim’s cantor, Eli Bard, aren’t bothered by the noise.
“I have them come up to the bimah, and they follow the cantor as he marches with the Torah. The parents and grandparents kvell, and it makes the kids happy to come to synagogue. If we engage the kids now, they’ll want to keep coming.” he said.
“Even during the High Holidays, when we had about 1,000 people at the services, our seats were in the midst of the congregants. We complement each other, and we are close friends. This becomes evident during services.”
When Hebrew school started up again in the fall, he said, he stood in the parking lot to welcome parents and students.
“I want to make sure I know as many people as possible, and let them know I’m accessible.”
Many families search for a place to take their young children, Rabbi Zionce said, and “this is it. We’re located in a growing area, and we have a young family committee, so they can have a say in what we offer.”
Canadian Jewish News - May 14, 2013
Beit Rayim Installs New Spiritual Leader
TORONTO — Beit Rayim Synagogue will celebrate its 36th anniversary, dedicate its new worship space and formally install Rabbi Chezi Zionce at Shabbat services May 25.
Rabbi Zionce became spiritual leader of the 250-family, egalitarian Conservative shul last July. The synagogue has been in its new home, at the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus, since December. It is in rented space at the Schwartz-Reisman Centre.
The weekend will feature guest speaker Rabbi Saul Grife, of Philadelphia, Pa., who will install Rabbi Zionce.
The weekend also marks the anniversary of the Jewish community in Richmond Hill, Rabbi Zionce told The CJN.
The original grassroots congregation was called the Richmond Hill Jewish Community, according to a history on the shul's website. It later changed its name to Shaareh Haim Congregation. In 1992, the synagogue fell victim to a recession, which forced the synagogue to close its doors that summer.
A small group started anew for the High Holidays, a few months later, at a local community centre. That was the beginning of Beit Rayim.
Rabbi Tanenzapf served the congregation until his death in 2006. He was followed by Rabbi David Eligberg.
Rabbi Zionce, a Toronto native who previously served congregations in Naples, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., said the new location is "wonderful. I really view it as being in the heart of the new Jewish community… It's a tremendous energy-booster for our congregation."
He added that Beit Rayim is "a young congregation [with] the largest supplementary Hebrew school in one location." The school has 189 students.
The shul's new Aron Kodesh will be dedicated in memory of founding Rabbi Sol Tanenzapf and the bimah in memory of Ester Bard, the wife of Beit Rayim's Cantor Eli Bard.
Rabbi Zionce affixes a mezuzah to officially open our new Beit Rayim office
Beit Rayim Synagogue and School
Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus
9600 Bathurst Street, Suite 244, Vaughan, ON L6A 3Z8