IMPORTANT! Change is in the air at B’nai Or Montreal

Dear friends,
Four years ago, a few of us met together and talked about our dreams for a spiritual community that would address a range of needs that were not being met at the time. B’nai Or Montreal was born, with the intention of providing a welcoming and safe davvening (prayer) space for people in the west end of Montreal who, for a variety of reasons, did not feel comfortable in existing synagogue communities and who were seeking spiritual joy in their davvening experiences.
Eventually we started attracting others – people who were interested in the learning opportunities, or who appreciated the enhanced Shabbat experience provided by musical instruments and skilled musicians. Over the past four years, we are so proud to say that BOM has evolved into a caring and loving community, where individual differences are valued and diversity is welcome.
The core of BOM’s programming has remained its twice-monthly Friday night services, usually held on the first and third Fridays. We met at the YM-YWHA, a “neutral” space for a community that claimed no particular religious affiliation or denomination. The Y was supportive of us, providing us with a space to store our prayerbooks, supplies and equipment, along with maintenance personnel to bring them to Kellert Hall on Friday afternoons.
We also met for Jewish holidays, and have brought in numerous visiting clergy, teachers and scholars. We partnered with other communities, including the Ethiopian and Argentinian communities for Purim celebrations and Ne’ilah on Yom Kippur. We have held community Passover seders at the Y (which was always challenging since there is no kitchen there!).
R’ Sherril provided pro bono or low-cost services to B’nai Or members, including pastoral care, spiritual direction and officiation at birth rituals, weddings, b’nei mitzvah, weddings, funerals, shiva minyanim and unveilings. Fran has co-led our services and events with dedication, skill, and heart.
We did not have membership “dues” but once a year, before the Yamim Noraim, we asked participants to support us through donations and other contributions, both monetary and in kind. We were set up to receive monetary donations through the Y, which provided tax receipts to donors. One supporter in particular has funded entire events, for example, last year’s community seder.
When we started B’nai Or four years ago, we set out to create a place where people would be comfortable davvening with their whole being, body, heart, mind and soul. And we said we wanted to support the building of a community of caring individuals, people who could see beyond any special need, into the pintele tov of each person’s heart.
At this point we believe that we have accomplished this, and more. But we have been hidden away in a back room of the Y, with few people aware of who we are or what we have accomplished. We have asked for but, aside from two grants during our first two years, we receive no community support.
And so it is time to bring our little shtiebel into the larger Jewish community of Montreal, and with great conviction, we can’t imagine any better way to do this than to involve B’nai Or with Dorshei Emet Reconstructionist Congregation.
Several months ago, even before the arrival of Dorshei’s new rabbi, Boris Dolin and his family to Montreal, B’nai Or had been invited by the President and the Dorshei Board to lead the alternative High Holiday services there, in full Renewal fashion, with their blessing.
We were very touched by their enthusiasm for bringing our congregation into their space for this purpose, and wondered what other projects we could collaborate on. That’s when we started having discussions about inviting B’nai Or to become part of the Dorshei Emet community. It seemed like a good fit – Dorshei is a progressive, liberal congregation with enormous diversity in its membership.
And it is also a community in transition, having recently lost their rabbi emeritus, Ron Aigen z”l, and welcomed in Rabbi Boris as their new spiritual leader. As a congregation looking to grow and thrive, they told us that they admire our self-sufficiency and our volunteer culture that could serve as a model for them. They also hold in high esteem the ways that we care for and look out for one another. And they LOVE the spirit and joy we bring to our Judaism!
It has been challenging trying to grow B’nai Or with very little in the way of formal community support. We believe that bringing BOM into the Dorshei community is a good fit and a win-win situation for all.
Dorshei is a full-service synagogue, and we are blessed to be welcomed to participate in all areas of Dorshei programming and religious services. R’ Sherril has been offered a part-time position at Dorshei, still in negotiation, and will be present for BOM members as we make the transition and beyond.
Fran, as a decades-long member of Dorshei, will be discussing with the leadership there about possibilities for her role.
We will continue having our regular Renewal-style first and third Friday night services – only they will be at Dorshei, not at the Y. And we will be bringing forth more programming, consulting you on your hopes and desires for growing your own individual and collective spiritual lives.
There is no expectation that BOM members will “join” Dorshei, and we have been assured that there will be no pressure to do so. For those of you who have written cheques to BOM in recent weeks for your 2016-2017 membership, they have not been deposited at the Y. R’ Sherril still has the cheques, and would like to return them to you. She will be in contact with each of you in order to do that and to answer any questions you may have.
We encourage you to consider giving the new arrangement a try, and hope that we can bring our caring touch and inclusive culture to benefit the Dorshei community. If you like what you see and experience, if you are so moved, we are sure Dorshei would appreciate a thoughtful donation from you, as you are able. And once again, we do want to reiterate that we have been assured there is no pressure to join Dorshei or pay membership dues as we make this transition.
All services will now be taking place at Dorshei Emet, 18 Cleve Road, Hampstead, QC H3X 1A6.
Here is the service schedule for the next few months – please read carefully. There will likely be additional programming, and you can check Dorshei’s website where you can request to be added to the mailing list so you can receive updates. Visit . Saturday morning services generally begin at 10:00 am, followed by a kiddush and sometimes a potluck lunch.
  • NO Service on Friday, October 7
  • Saturday, October 8 – Saturday, October 8 (Shabbat Shuva): 10:00 am, upstairs
  • Tuesday, October 11 – Erev Yom Kippur: 6:00 pm SHARP downstairs
  • Wednesday, October 12 – Yom Kippur day: Morning service 10:00 am downstairs
  • Wednesday, October 12 – Yom Kippur day: 3:00 pm – guest speaker Anthony Housefather & discussion
  • Wednesday, October 12 – Yom Kippur day: 4:30 pm: Yizkor downstairs, followed by closing services upstairs; break-the-fast with honey cake (please bring some to share!)
  • Monday, October 17: Sukkot service followed by potluck kiddush in the sukkah (bring a veggie dish, cut-and-ready-to-serve for “10”)
  • Friday, October 21: Sukkot/Kabbalat Shabbat 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, October 22: Coffee House, featuring Urban Dvash (hip urban beekeeper) for a Havdalah candle-making workshop & honey-tasting. Suggested donation: $6.00. 50% of proceeds will be donated to Auberge Shalom Pour Femmes.
  • Monday, October 24: Simchat Torah: 6:00 pm. Dance with and unroll the entire Torah! Optional dinner: $36/person; RSVP by Oct
  • Friday, November 4: Kabbalat Shabbat 7:00 pm
  • Friday, November 18: Kabbalat Shabbat 7:00 pm

Also read more news about upcoming events and happenings at Dorshei Emet at

Reb Sherril will be in touch after the High Holidays with each of you who gave her a cheque for BOM membership. If you’d like to reach her sooner, please feel free to contact her at 514-386-8874 or  Fran can be reached at

We look forward to sharing this wonderful new adventure with you!

Wishing you a very good year, filled with blessings, renewed energy and good health.

R’ Sherril and Fran

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