Blog  Rabbi Rick Jacobs Visits Toronto

Rabbi Rick Jacobs Visits Toronto

Dear Camp George,

There are times when we are our own insular Camp George community.  And often, there are times when we remember we are part of the wider community of Jews.  On November 1st, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the new President for the Union of Reform Judaism, came to Toronto and reminded us all that we are part of this such wider community.   Please read on to hear about how Rabbi Jacob’s visit affected a member of our Steering Committee, Paul Leszner, and one of our campers, Jared Gershon.

Proud to be part of both communities,

Jane H.K.


Hi Camp George,

Paul Leszner at camp, Summer 2012.Hi Camp George,

My name is Paul Leszner, and I have been involved with Camp George for many years. All four of my children, Tamara, Steven, Ryan and Joseph have attended Camp George either as campers or staff.  I have been active in fund development for Camp George for the past five years and am a member of the National Association for Camping (NAC), which is the governing body of all our URJ camps. My current positions include: Member of the Board of Trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central District Vice-Chair for Canadian Congregations, President of the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism and Steering Committee Chair of URJ Canada.  In addition to Camp George, I am also a member of the Boards of ARZA Canada, Leo Baeck Day School, Canadian Friends of World Union and Temple Emanu-el. My wife Robin and I have been members of Temple Emanu-el in Toronto for 31 years.

From November 1-4 the Canadian Reform Movement was privileged to host Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. In spite of the personal upheaval he and his family endured from Hurricane Sandy, Rabbi Jacobs made sure he honoured his promise to visit. He drove across New York State and in to Toronto so that he could both share his vision of the Reform Movement with us and witness for himself the strength of the Canadian Reform community and experience the unique way in which Jews in the GTA practise Reform Judaism.

 Rabbi Jacobs had a jam-packed schedule. He met with:

  • The Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto and their colleagues across the country by conference call.
  • UJA Federation head Ted Sokolsky and UJA staff to engage in discussions about youth education and engagement, and, Israel.
  • Boards of directors and lay leadership from our local Reform congregations and those others across the country (via conference call) and our affiliate boards from Camp George, Leo Baeck Day School, Reform Mohelim, Reform Mikvah Committee, Men and Women of Reform Judaism, ARZA Canada and the Canadian Friends of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
  • The Canadian members of the North American Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees for dinner.
  • The Board of Directors of the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism.
  • the NFTY-NEL kids at a special Shabbat afternoon dialogue

He also:

  • Visited both campuses of the Leo Baeck Day School
  • And attending Shabbat morning services at Temple Anshe Shalom in Hamilton the oldest Reform Congregation in Canada.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs

During his visit Rabbi Jacobs talked about the strength of the Reform Movement. He encouraged us to be proud and to speak about our strengths and how we differ from the other movements of Judaism. We need to boast about our active positions on gender equality, our commitment to Israel and tikkun olam (repairing the world) and our innovative and appealing religious services.

Rabbi Jacobs warned us that although we are the largest affiliated movement of Jews we are not as large as the group that has no affiliation, the much too large group of Jews whom Rabbi Jacobs calls “the uninspired.” He challenged us to be like Abraham and Sarah—to open the flaps of our tents to all who thirst for Jewish life but are not sure how to find their home. We need to welcome and inspire these people such as the LGBT, the young people called Gen X and Gen Y, and interfaith couples to become part of our congregations and community. Our future depends on it.


Paul Leszner

President, Canadian Council for Reform Judaism


Comments From Camp George Campers Who Attended the Visit
Jared Gershon (Barak camper): “I am a song leader for NFTY – NEL. For Fall Kallah, Rabbi Rick Jacobs came as a guest speaker and to see how unbelievable NEL is. That Friday night my fellow song leader’s and I had to lead a service for all of NEL and the people that came to show their appreciation for Rabbi Jacobs. It was an amazing experience and a great and successful service. I am glad Rabbi Jacobs had the opportunity to see NEL in action– learning and sharing Judaism.”


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