Dr. Jonathan Levy
Dear TanenbaumCHAT community,
We are deeply shocked and saddened at the terrible attack and loss of life in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh today. When this type of act occurs in any community, it shakes us to our core. We are heartbroken at this violence, and our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh. We extend our deepest condolences to the families affected, and to the entire Tree of Life Congregation and the the Jewish Community of Pittsburgh.
At all times, and especially in times of heightened tensions, we work closely with local police and with The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) to assess our security needs. We have adopted and adhere to CIJA’s school security best practices and we will continue to be in contact with them. In a letter to the Toronto community CIJA stated:
“While there is no information whatsoever to suggest an elevated threat to Jewish communities in Canada, we have confirmed a bolstered police presence and increased patrolling in the vicinity of Jewish facilities by Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police, and in other cities across the country.”
The entire letter to the Toronto community from UJA and CIJA can be found here.
As always, we rely on the alertness and vigilance of our students, staff and parents. If something looks unusual or out of place anywhere on the TanenbaumCHAT campus, please let a staff member or security guard know immediately.
In the coming days our staff and administration will be discussing how to best teach our students through this moment, and how we can best support the Jewish community of Pittsburgh as well as our own TanenbaumCHAT community.
May those who have suffered loss be comforted among the mourners of Zion. Yehi Zichram Baruch – may their memories be for a blessing.
Jonathan Levy, Ph.D.
Head of School
It is my pleasure to announce the appointment of Rabbi Shlomo Gemara to the position of Vice-Principal of Curriculum and Learning, beginning in the fall of 2018. Rabbi Gemara brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, a love of students and learning and is well respected by parents, students and colleagues. Rabbi Gemara will assist with numerous aspects of the school, with an emphasis on curriculum development and, in particular, our Jewish Studies program.
Led by our Principal Mrs. Renee Cohen and consisting of Vice-Principals Rabbi Eli Mandel and Rabbi Shlomo Gemara, and our Director of Educational Technology Avital Aharon, our Educational leadership team is well equipped to continue to provide an outstanding program to our students. Like our other administrators, Rabbi Gemara will have a ‘Whole School’ approach, and work with all staff, students, and parents.
Rabbi Gemara was introduced to teaching as a Grade 9 student during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Due to a shortage of teachers, he and some friends were asked to teach Grade 3 and 4 children. The interaction with students and the feeling that he was making a difference were more compelling than he expected. "I actually fell in love with teaching, and it was quite clear to me that this is what I would like to do in the future." Shlomo has been a Judaic studies teacher, mathematics teacher and educational administrator for more than 30 years.
A native of Petach Tikva, Rabbi Gemara served in the parachute unit, Gedud 50, as a soldier in a Yeshivat Hesder. In this unit he served as a combat soldier in the First Lebanon War. He received his teaching qualifications as a high school teacher and a B.Ed in education from “Moreshet Yaakov” college in Rechovot, Israel. He was also very involved in the Bnei Akiva movement in Israel.
Through a unique and experiential program for High school students run by Bar-Ilan University, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and he taught Math for few years in the High school of Kibutz Yavneh. Rabbi Gemara received his rabbinic ordination at Kerem B’Yavneh, a Hesder yeshiva that combines Torah study with army service. He holds a Master's degree of education from York University.
The email from my synagogue came this past Friday at 5:45pm, approximately 75 minutes before the start of Shabbat. A general call was going to out the community to immediately mobilize a search for a member of our Thornhill synagogue, who had gone missing and was known to have some cognition difficulties. As this was an issue of Pikuach nefesh (saving a life), the email said our involvement in the search would supersede Shabbat. After thinking it over for a minute, I informed my eldest 2 sons that instead of going to evening services we would be joining the search. We jumped in the car and raced to the nearby command centre where over 200 volunteers were assembling under the direction of York Regional police, Hatzalah, and a search and rescue team. I was not surprised to see that among the volunteers were numerous TanenbaumCHAT parents, students and staff. My boys and I were given a quadrant to search; we drove to the area and walked through streets and parks looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Unfortunately, we were not successful and were told to head home by 7:00 pm.
With Rosh Hashanah approaching, many of us take the opportunity for personal reflection on how we could have behaved differently over the past year. While we are each responsible and accountable for our own actions, the liturgy on the high holidays is written in the plural form; we have sinned, our father, our king, we have stolen and so on. We rely on the communal nature of prayer and the power of the group to pray for our forgiveness. As a community, we take responsibility for one another’s actions.
After seeing how many people turned out with no notice on a Friday afternoon, the senior police officer on the scene, at the command centre, made the following statement "I have been doing this a long time and I have never seen a community mobilize in this way.” Seeing it myself, and hearing the officer’s words, epitomized for me what it means for a community to truly be “areivim ze baize - responsible for one another. (Babylonian Talmud, Shevuot 39a);” Whether in time of crisis or not, may we continue to demonstrate the power of our community to band together, to help each other, and to demonstrate to the world at large how special our community truly is.
May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
P.S. He was found safe early Saturday morning.