For the past 3 years we dealt with the Covid 19 threat by streaming our weekday services online through zoom but...

Effective February 4, 2023 we are resuming our in-person traditional Shabbat morning services.

The German Mills Community Centre is no longer available. Instead, we have arranged to hold our Shabbat services in the library on the lower level of Temple Har Zion, 7360 Bayview Avenue (elevator available). If you plan to attend please notify Ian Schlifer (click here) by the Thursday in advance. We ask that attendees wear a mask.

The Covid threat persists. Accordingly, we will continue weekday services on zoom. See our schedule for service times. Our zoom link is in our weekly Shabbat Bulletin. If you do not receive it, click here to email us for the link.

Our 8th Anniversary...who would have believed!

Kehillat Chaverim is a Traditional congregation that began operating on July 1, 2016. Since then we have held ~4000 twice-daily minyanim – weekdays, Shabbat, Yom Tov and High Holidays. Even now, while we have our services on zoom, there is a great feeling of friendliness and informality as we daven together. We are a community of friends who  care deeply about preserving a twice daily minyan in the German Mills area, other parts of the GTA, and now extending to Kingston and Los Angeles. We send our weekly bulletin to almost 200 families.


Our minyanim are habit-forming – we have several men and women who come regularly to our services who, previously, were never regular shul-goers. We have proven to be a convenient, warm, and welcoming location for people commemorating Yahrzeit or saying Kaddish for a loved one. We extend an invitation to you to observe these important moments with us whether you are a member or not.



This morning (January 11, 2024) Jo-Ann Slack presented a Dvar Torah for the upcoming month of Shevat

Am Yisrael Chai - The Meaning and History of this Jewish Rallying Cry

Am Yisrael Chai, literally "the  people of Israel live", is a slogan of Jewish continuity and resilience frequently invoked in moments of communal  hardship.  The phrase is said to have originated with a British Jewish Army Chaplain  who reportedly called it out at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen after World War II.  But the phrase is widely known today thanks to a song composed by Shlomo Carlebach with that title, which became an anthem of the fight to liberate Soviet Jewry.


The story of the song's origin is reportedly found in a 2003 letter from Jacob Birnbaum, who founded the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry in 1964.  Birnbaum was seeking a song to inspire activists at a major rally scheduled for April 1965 opposite the Soviet Mission to the United Nations and reached out to Carlebach, who was by then developing an international reputation as a composer and recording artist.  Carlebach wound up writing the song and performing it for the first time while on a trip to Prague.


After the New York demonstration, the song became an anthem and the words themselves a rallying cry, chanted at virtually every major Jewish political gathering in the decades that followed.


News reports record it being shouted at rallies in 1975 protesting the UN vote to equate Zionism with racism and to allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization to participate in a UN debate.  It was chanted when the then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir received an honorary degree from Yeshiva University in 1973.  As well ... when Israeli and Soviet basketball teams faced off in Moscow in 1989.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote it in the Visitors' Book during his 2009 visit to the Wannsee Villa in Berlin ... the location where the leaders of the Third Reich planned the Holocaust.


The words themselves appear nowhere in Jewish scriptural sources.  But the second half of Carlebach's song, "od avinu chai" (our father still lives), is derived from a story in Genesis in which Joseph, having revealed himself to his brothers, asks if their father is still alive ("ha'ad avi chai").  In Carlebach's rendering that question is turned into a statement.


The words have also been associated with the reprisal attacks against Palestinians known as "price tag attacks", with the phrase scrawled on property and buildings in Palestinian towns in response to attacks on Jews.


But for most Jews ... the words are an affirmation of Jewish endurance in the face of oppression.


Youtube:  Shlomo Carlebach ... Od Avinu Chai


An earlier Dvar Torah from Jo-Ann Slack

January 3, 2022


Understanding the Shema


I can read the English translation of the ‘Shema’ in less than 2 minutes …


When, Esther Gitlin (Markham, Chabad) decided to explain the Shema to us, Ladies, she needed 6 weeks.  I wish I could relay her passion … to do her words justice … Esther believes that the Shema is much more than a prayer.  The Shema is unequivocally the pivotal core of our Jewish being. 


Esther shared her personal mantra.  When she prepares for the Shema … she stops … she says to herself … “I’m making this moment count’.


How do you prepare to say the Shema?


Davening the Shema is a Mitzvah … and, with all mitzvoth … you begin with a Brachah …


Baruch Adonai …

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our G-d, King of the Universe …


Ancient deities would be known for a single attribute … good or evil, powerful or sublime.  Not so in Judaism … as we prepare to internalize the Unity of haShem … the good and the not so good.  Our ancestors offered prayer through sacrifice … and as we move our lips in prayer, it is as if we have offered up a sacrifice to haShem.


                                                                                                       Who formest light and creates darkness …


For two whole pages in the prayer book, we glean how the Angels rise to the occasion and praise G-d.  But read carefully, for the Angels, this is not a matter of free choice.   


 obedient servants of divine

… with purity of purpose and united strength

reverently perform the will of their Creator …


Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord of hosts.


It is through a Midrash that Esther Gitlin provides clarity to these words of prayer, that can so easily become rote prayer.  When the Angels reach this crescendo in their prayers and look down (remember they were ascending Jacob’s ladder) … they look down … and they are jealous.  For Angels are not like Jacob … nor like us.  She explains:  We bear an earthly face, but from above, we are seen to have a heavenly face, as well.  Unlike the angels, who are so programmed to be only Angels, we have the potential to rise above our very potential. 


One more story ...


Moses is bringing the Torah down to the People.  But the Angels complained saying that they were more holy than the People and they wanted the Torah to remain with them.  Moses responds:  What does Torah say … not to steal, not to kill, etc., etc.  That’s why it must go down.  You, Angels are holy … you are perfect.   Humans need to struggle to be perfect.  G-d chooses us with all our foibles … above the Angels. 


In the Shema, we will declare our uncompromising belief in the absolute Unity of G-d.


One sentence … one sentence is all that is needed to define G-d’s mandate: 


Hear, O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One.


Shema … listen … hear … understand!        


Understand …G-d’s sovereignty … accepting the divinity of G-d … acknowledging the unification of one G-d.


Shema Yisrael:  Of all the Biblical names used to address the people of Israel … Yisrael … Jacob’s g-dly name … is the highest accolade.  Wearing this mantel … Yisrael … we are being prodded to be the best we can be … and by example, to show the world how wonderful being our best can be.


The Lord our G-d:  This is our ‘personal’ haShem … a G-d to whom our daily struggles matter.


The Lord is One:  He is … He was … He will be …the unpronounceable.  In this world of time and space … oneness is unique to G-d and we are the extension to this uniqueness.  We believe that G-d chose to make a difference … and He chose us to be his partner.


A comment on the writing of the ‘yan’ and the ‘daled’.  A Mishnah is used to explain this peculiarity:  HaShem created this world … but left off His signature.  He wants us to be His signature … to be G-d’s Witness.


Blessed be His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.


Initially, this line of prayer was not included in the ancient text.  Another Midrash is used to explain:  The Shema … our foremost prayer predates Jacob.  On his deathbed, he fears that his sons will abandon the faith … and so he has them promise to say the Shema.  Jacob’s response then is … Blessed be the glorious kingdom for ever and ever.  Or perhaps you would favour this Midrash … In our prayers, the Angels praise G-d in all his glory … and because we are not at their level … we say it softly.  But, come Yom Kippur, when we feel sufficiently angelic, we pray with more confidence … and we say ‘Blessed be His glorious kingdom for ever and ever’ out loud. 


Thou shalt love your G-d …


You can command obedience … but, not love.  During the Shema, G-d is asking us to create an environment in which our love … of G-d … can blossom.  To quote Esther Gitlin … the place of G-d in our everyday world, is at a distance.  Consider how in your life you draw those you love closer to you by doing something they would like/love … so similarly, you demonstrate your love for G-d by saying His prayer.


… with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might …


With your whole being … make your mitzvoth pleasurable to yourself … control your animal soul … ward off indifference … appreciate life … and … be willing to give up one’s own will for G-d will.  


That’s a lot to ask …


The Shema closes with a list of instructions …


You must teach … these exact words … not just to love haShem , but, to make haShem beloved.
The commandment to teach is repeated … the Shema is not only to be your personal prayer, but, communally shared … from generation to generation.


It is too easy to lose sight of our role in davening. Goodness … G-d’s blessings … from G-d … not our actions alone.  Therefore, the men among us don accoutrements … tiffilin, tzizit katan …  that thread of blue (lost in antiquity … and not to return until the Meshiach comes again).  Similarly we are commanded to adorn our houses … with Mezzuzoth.   These are our visual reminders of our partnership with G-d.


I end with a story … perhaps, one you have heard before.

The Roman Emperor of Jerusalem had amongst his advisors, the wise Rabbi who he would consult on all things Jewish.  Wishing to reward the Rabbi, he summoned him to his court and presented him with a large, precious gem.  The Rabbi’s neighbours asked what gift he intended to give the Emperor in return.  The Rabbi gave great thought indeed to what he, a humble soul, could possibly give the Emperor of all Judea.  Finally, the Rabbi returned to the court with a small wooden box.  The Emperor was none too pleased … I gave you a precious stone worth many, many shekels … and in return you have given me this box, which for all I can see has no value.  The Rabbi begged the Emperor’s indulgence.  True, you gave me a precious gift of great value … for which I must now place guards at my door, so that no one steals it from me.  I, in turn, gave you a Mezzuzah … a wooden box containing our most precious words … place it on your doorpost …  and know that its placement there means G-d is guarding you.


This morning Jo-Ann Slack presented a Dvar Torah for the upcoming month of Av

Dvar Torah:  July 09,  2021


I’ll begin on a personal note …

10+ years have passed since my dear sister, Maxa, of blessed memory, passed on.  As her family was not inclined to do so, I found myself attending Morning services and reciting Kaddish in her memory.  11 months came and went … and I continued on …

 No one was more surprised than I …

 Perhaps it was the sincere welcome and support David Sefton extended … Perhaps …

 There were many times, I questioned my presence at Morning services … repeating the same prayers, day following day.  Wasn’t I supposed to find it boring?

 As time passed, first words (my favourite … lovingkindness), followed by a turn of a phrase, and finally certain prayers, in entirety,  provided not only comfort and solace but, meaningful direction to my day.

 So, 10 years have passed, and I am still drawn to Morning prayers.

 Each morning, I search out my favourite prayers …

-worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness …

-our lives we trust into thy loving hand …

-grant us this day, and every day, grace, kindness, and mercy, both in Thy sight and in the sight of all men …

-cause a new light to shine upon Zion, and may we all be worthy to delight in its 

splendor …

 And, for my 2 sisters that have passed …

-refusing to acknowledge death as triumphant … permitting the withered blossom, fallen from the tree of mankind, to flower and develop again in the human heart ...


And truly, these personally meaningful lines of prayer would have sustained my attendance …

 But, then … Covid happened!  And, like the rest of you, I searched the web for programs to fill my day.

Chabad Thornhill was one of my answers.

Over the past 6 months or so, a ½ h on Monday mornings was reserved for studying Morning prayers. 

 And so, this morning, I want to share a few insights that I have added to my understanding of Morning Prayer thanks to Esther Gitlin … who I must say, for me, is a truly inspirational speaker.

Esther Gitlin suggested that Morning prayers be likened to ‘steps of a ladder’ …   as we complete each step on the ladder, we prepare for and allow ourselves, to emotionally climb to a heightened level of devotion.

She addressed the ‘how to’ …  how to use Morning Prayer to elevate ones intent of devotion.

The steps are as follows:  1) Introductory morning prayers, 2) the Ashrei, 3) the Shema and 4) the Amidah.  Fortunate for you, … I have only covered Step 1 and Step 2 …

Baruch Atah Adoni … Blessed art Thou … those 3 words set the stage for ones initial engagement to Morning prayers.  The use of  ‘Atah’ … a deliberate choice of the personal pronoun when addressing G-d.  How very powerful … that we pray to a G-d who truly cares about us … on a personal level.  

The first Baruch Atah Adonai …

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who removest sleep from mine eyes and slumber from mine eyelids.  Research tells us that during our sleeping hours, our body slows down … so when we return to our waking hours … and read the words … ‘brought my soul up from the grave’ … we have much to be grateful for … another day!

Chabad orders the 15 Blessings in the chronological order of our greeting a new day … from our very waking to our actively participating in daily life.

-who openest the eyes of the blind … truly seeing and taking note of our surroundings …

-who releasest the bound … literally, the blessing of being able to move …

-who raisest up them that are bowed down … having the strength to undertake whatever emotional burdens we might face that very day …

-who clothest the naked … just as we dress the Torah, because it is holy … so we dress ourselves, sometimes, specifically taking that extra effort … for example, for the Shabbat, for the Yom Tovim … we are compelled to understand that our body, too, is 

holy …

-who provided for all my needs … nothing to do with material needs.  G-d has graced you with all the wisdom and understanding you will need, so that you journey through your day … you perform at your optimum … no one can expect more … G-d does not ask for more …

-who girdest Israel with strength … donning those articles of clothing that are sanctified.  As you put on your teffilin … do so, not out of habit, but with sincere intent …

Moving on to the next passage of interest …

Were it not that we are Thy people, children of Thy Covenant, descendants, of Abraham … seed of Isaac his only son, who was bound upon the altar, the congregation of 

Jacob …

Early on in our Morning prayers, we enumerate our Ancestors … calling on G-d … trusting that on their merit … G-d will be our Redeemer, too.  We include mention of the Akkadah (The Sacrifice) … as we repeat these words, we are promising that we will meet the day’s challenges with the same piety as did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

When we reach the prayer … Baruch She’amar …

Praised be He who spoke and the world rose … praised be He.  How infinitely wonderful it is to acknowledge … each day … the creation of something from nothing. 

During morning prayers, we include the concept of the Wandering Jew.  O gather from the four corners of the earth those that hope in Thee.  Perhaps, because as a Nation, we have travelled far and wide to the 4 corners of the globe, we can now pray to be redeemed and returned to Zion.

The 2nd level of Devotion is ushered in as be begin the Ashrei …

For this is the duty of all creatures towards Thee, O Lord our G-d and G-d of our fathers, to give thanks unto Thee, to laud, adore and praise Thee, even beyond all the words of song and praise uttered by David, the son of Jesse, Thine anointed servant.


Well … the Rabbis thought better of leaving it in the hands of the supplicant … who might not find words of such magnitude to do the ‘job’ right.

And, so, King David’s Psalms  … songs of praise … were chosen to give reverence to 

G-d …

As a prayer, the Ashrei is held in such high esteem … it is repeated 3 times in the course of our day … twice during Shacharit … and once more at Mincha/Maariv.

You probably knew, but I didn’t, that Psalm 145 is written acrostically … but, coming to the letter  ‘Nun’ … an exception is made.  ‘Nun’ does not get to begin its poetic line … slipped into the line beginning with its following letter, the ‘sof.  In so doing … David was able to circumvent the negativity of the letter ‘Nun’ itself  … or so, I have been told!

6 Psalms in which we acknowledge and praise G-d …

So, how many times have you read the line …

And Thou givest them their food in due season.

‘Food’ … our most basic of needs … a need that must be satisfied each and every day.   When we pray … Thou givest them food …  we acknowledge G-d’s presence in our most finite being.

As we approach the conclusion of the Psalms of Praise we recite:  

Amen, Amen.Rabbi Yhudah haLevi … 1040 … Spain … poetically wrote:  Through prayer the heart wants to soar … to leave the body for that moment … and join the Eternal G-d. And how do we show that … how do we make that shift … we pray ‘Amen, Amen’ … and, then, we stand!

In honour of Rosh Chodesh, I will conclude with these words of prayer.

Then sang Moses and the Children of Israel this song unto the Lord.

I sing unto the Lord, for He is highly exalted …

The Lord is my strength and song.

And He hath become my salvation.

This is The Song of Redemption … the very song that Miriam sings in the Song of the Sea.  Moses has borrowed her words … let it not be mistaken … they are Miriam’s words. Miriam knew, as women of all ages have known … to look forward during hard times … to look to the future.




Mark Richler has kindly granted permission to reprint his essay below commemorating Yom HaSho'ah

I’ve seen pictures, and I’ve watched movies.  I’ve heard stories, and I’ve read poems.  I know names, and I know numbers.  If someone asked me, “How many Jewish people lost their lives in the holocaust?” I would tell them, “Six million.”  If someone asked me, “Where did Anne Frank hide from the Nazis?”  I would tell them, “In a secret attic built by her father.”  If someone asked me, “Which factory owner that was a member of the Nazi party, saved hundreds of Jewish lives?”  I would tell them, “Oskar Schindler.”  These questions, I can answer, and I want to be able to answer these questions.  I need to be able to answer these questions.  However, if someone asked me, “What do the walls in Auschwitz feel like?”  I would tell them, “I don’t know.”  If someone asked me, “What does it smell like in Treblinka?”  I would tell them, “I don’t know.”  If someone asked me, “How does it feel to march proudly with thousands of other Jewish teenagers, to show Hitler, and to show the Nazis, that they failed and we lived?”  I would tell them, “I don’t know.”  These questions, I cannot answer, and I want to be able to answer these questions.  I need to be able to answer these questions.

I have been to Israel before.  I went in the summer of 1996.  At the time, I was only 11 years old, but there are few things I remember as well as I do that trip.  I had been at Camp Kadimah in Nova Scotia for 3 weeks prior, and was incredibly excited to be going to Israel.  In my mind I thought I was going to the Promised Land.  This is a great feeling to have, but it doesn’t equal the feeling of going home.  The feeling of going home is what I wish to have as I enter Israel, because that’s what it is; it’s home.  I can’t expect to get that feeling simply by going to a land that we love, but I believe that by going to lands and places we dreaded and hated before, it will make the land that we love seem a lot more sacred.  By seeing where and how my people were forced to live, it can give me a better glimpse as to what it must have felt like to be able to go to Israel, and be able to call it home. 

By the time the March of the Living is over, I want to know what it feels like to go home.  I want to know what the walls in Auschwitz feel like.  I want to know what it smells like in Treblinka.  I want to learn things I can’t learn, by watching a movie, or seeing a picture.  I want to feel things I can’t feel by hearing a story, or reading a poem.  I want to answer the questions I could not answer.  But most of all, I want to know what it feels like, to march proudly with thousands of other Jewish teenagers, and without saying a word, scream the message that they failed.  Scream the message that we lived and we’re marching on.  Scream the message that we’re the march of the living.



We have been holding our services (other than High Holiday services) at the German Mills Community Centre, a heritage one-room schoolhouse at 80 German Mills Road. Our services have been streamed on Zoom since March 2020.

Rabbi Howard Morrison of Beth Emeth is our Mara d’Atra. 

We study Talmud every Wednesday morning after services - leading to stimulating discussion over coffee.

We initially established ourselves as the German Mills Minyan. In January, 2017, we were incorporated as Kehillat Chaverim. In early November, 2017 our application for charitable status was approved by the Canada Revenue Agency.

We can provide burial rights to members in the Kehillat Chaverim section at Pardes Chaim Cemetery.

We are Kehillat Chaverim – our community of friends.



Weekday times below are streamed via Zoom

In-person Shabbat services  - see details below

No zoom services during Yom Tov

Email for zoom meeting link

                      Shacharit     Mincha/Maariv  
  Friday July 12                 8:30 AM     5:00 PM *
  Saturday July 13       +         8:45 AM       #
  Sunday July 14                 9:00 AM     7:00 PM  
  Monday July 15                 8:15 AM     7:00 PM  
  Tuesday July 16                 8:30 AM     7:00 PM  
  Wednesday July 17                 8:30 AM     7:00 PM  
  Thursday July 18                 8:15 AM     7:00 PM  
  Friday July 19                 8:30 AM   @ 5:00 PM **

*  candle lighting time 8:41 PM 

**  candle lighting time 8:36 PM


Havdalah 9:51 PM


+ Saturday In person service at Har Zion library 7360 Bayview


@ Friday Mincha/Kaballat Shabbat time for upcoming months











                   OUR POLICY RE THE COVID19  THREAT 

Reluctantly, we suspended our in-person services, in March 2020. Since then, we have been streaming weekday services via zoom. Last fall, we resumed in-person High Holiday services. We have also resumed Shabbat morning services in-person. We welcome you to attend. We will continue zoom services Sunday to Friday. Please email us and watch our Shabbat Bulletin for information on how you can connect and participate. We are also staying in touch by email, phone etc. Stay tuned and, most importantly, continue to take every precaution to avoid getting sick.

Contribute to our upkeep... We are now in the eighth year of our Kehilla and we thank members for their ongoing generous support.  Our annual membership contribution is $540 per household ($270 per single). Please click on the DONATE tab for instructions how to donate with either a single payment or with 2 cheques dated January 1 and July 1. Our goal is to operate prudently and fairly. We are all dependent on each other.

Talmud study ... soon it will be 8 1/2 years that we have been studying Talmud! We are studying daf 71 in Chapter 7 of Bava Kamma, via zoom. Join us to learn together after Tuesday morning services. At the speed we are going, we expect to complete the whole Talmud in about 325 years!...and then we will start over.

Do we have the Yahrzeit information for your loved ones? If you have not already done so, we invite you to provide us with the relevant information: the Hebrew calendar date, your name and your Hebrew name (including the patronymic), your relationship to the person whose yahrzeit it is, and the name and Hebrew name (including the patronymic) of that person. We will keep a record  and remind you not only about your upcoming yahrzeiten but also about the days, in advance, when you can have Kel Maleh recited at services to honour loved ones.

Publicity...we appreciate publicity to increase awareness of our activities, but we request that you notify the executive in advance at




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                            Unit 340

                            Toronto, ON M2H 1J8


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