On Monday evening March 22nd, over 400 people jammed the newly renovated synagogue hall of Chabad Markham to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the congregation. The Shul was which totally transformed into a magnificent elegant banquet hall had an ethereal, warm feeling about it that totally blew away all the guest who attended and set the stage for a most memorable event celebrating this important milestone.
Rabbi Avraham Plotkin, Rabbi and Executive Director told the crowd how thirty years ago, he and his wife Goldie arrived in Markham on a mission from The Lubavitcher Rebbe to reach out to unaffiliated Jews. “Little did we know then as youngsters that we would years later build a highly successful Orthodox Centre with 400 families as member and service thousands others! Little did we know that we would succeed in building an 18,000 square foot Centre that can host a dinner of this magnitude!”
The original program for the evening was produced by Rochi Stillman from Los Angeles and directed by musical director Avremi G and event coordinators Chips Klein and Kim Cohen. It was a Broadway style Oscar-like concept that featured a seamless production of music, speeches, light and sound. The crowd was just blown away by the unique multimedia experience they had. Many of the guests who had attended many other fundraising dinners over the years said that they had never experience something quite as moving as this.
The show featured the highly talented and versatile international Chasidic singer Benny Friedman who entertained the crowd with a whole range of songs from traditional Chasidic songs, Fiddler on the Roof to modern pop.
The theme of the evening was “a tribute to our parents,” and as Rebbetzin Goldie Plotkin explained, that the secret of the survival of the Jewish people lies in the power of continuing the same prayers and traditions albeit in different times. To bring this message home, an original heritage keepsake coffee table journal “in tribute to our parents” was printed with participation of the entire community and an original film by Igal Hecht that showed the black and white traditional pictures of the Shtetel interspersed with the color pictures of the present was presented.
A fireside chat with world famous professor and activist Irwin Cotler was moderated by Edward Prutschi, popular legal analyst for CFRB, lawyer and newspapers columnist.
Cotler discussed the theme of the evening by sharing the life altering lesson he gleaned from his own parents and grandparents. He spoke of his passion for justice and how we must feel the injustice of others. He also addressed the new form of anti-Semitism being masked under the guise of human rights that is being used by the BDS movement and others that needs to be exposed for what they really are. The real positive response to BDS he said is places like Chabad Markham where Yiddishkeit is alive and well and busy teaching about the pursuit of justice to the next generation!
The young leadership award was presented to Daron Odes, a young active member of the community for his selfless dedication to helping the bereaved families of the Chabad community in their time of need.
The heritage award was given to Avraham Feifel who survived five concentration camps during the time of the Holocaust and also fought in two Israeli wars. The award was presented by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Plotkin and Rabbi Meir and Rebbetzin Esther Gitlin, the youth band education directors of the synagogue, who lit a candle of hope at his table. The humanitarian award was then presented to Professor Cotler.
A very moving segment about the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s influence on the community featured a movie narrated by John Voigt followed by a moving testimony by David Wiener a former President of the Shul who had a face to face encounter with the Rebbe that shook him up to the very core. A surprise dance presentation by the former presidents of the shul was introduced by current President of the synagogue Paul Klein and brought smiles to everyone’s faces. Klein and his wife Chips thanked all the amazing volunteers who made the dinner the great success that it was!
The crowd then broke our into spontaneous dancing and Horas in an outburst of emotion, celebrating an evening that will never be forgotten for years to come!