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 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. We are so proud to say that BOM evolved over the years into a unique, 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, with R’ Sherril Gilbert and Musician-in-Residence Fran Avni co-leading. We met at the JCC/YM-YWHA, a “neutral” space for a community that claimed no particular religious affiliation or denomination. The JCC 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 held community Passover seders at the JCC (always challenging since there is no kitchen there!).

We did not have membership “dues” but once a year we asked participants to support us through donations and other contributions, both monetary and in kind. The JCC was kind enough to provide tax receipts to donors.


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 we also believe that it is time to bring our little shtiebel into the larger Jewish community of Montreal. And so, with great conviction, we can’t imagine any better way to do this than to involve B’nai Or Montreal 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 to lead the alternative High Holiday services there, in full Renewal fashion.

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 brought on staff there as Rabbi Educator, and remains fully present for BOM members as we make the transition and beyond.

Fran Avni, as a decades-long member of Dorshei, is exploring new possibilities that will make use of her many talents and experience, and continues to co-lead Renewal services there as Musician-in-Residence.

We are continuing our regular Renewal-style first and third Friday night services – only they are now at Dorshei, not at the JCC. And we will be bringing forth more programming, consulting you on your hopes and desires for growing your own individual and collective spiritual lives.

All services, classes and events are now taking place at our new spiritual and cultural home, Dorshei Emet, 18 Cleve Road, Hampstead, QC H3X 1A6.

To keep updated about Dorshei Emet’s services, programs and activities – including JEwish Renewal programming – please sign up for the weekly bulletin on Dorshei Emet’s website: www.dorsheiemet.com. We will be discontinuing our bi-weekly email Up-With-Joy Update, but will continue posting, at least for a while, on the B’nai Or Montreal Facebook page.  

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