December 21, 2014 · 29 Kislev

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Out of the Cold

Holy Blossom Temple

1950 Bathurst Street
Toronto, Ontario M5P 3K9
e-mail Temple Sinai

The Holy Blossom project has as its immediate purpose the provision of shelter for the homeless and needy one night a week during the long winter months. Its spin-off effect has been to tap a deep desire by Holy Blossom congregants and other members of the Jewish community to become directly involved in the problems of hunger and homelessness, as well as challenging the congregation to become more involved with neighborhood concerns.

Holy Blossom is the first synagogue in Toronto to provide meals and overnight accommodation as part of the city's Out of the Cold coalition. Forty people are provided overnight accommodation, and 90 are provided a full-course dinner. (Those sleeping over are also provided a hot breakfast and, on their departure in the evening or the morning, each guest is provided a bag lunch.)

Volunteers cook the food in the Temple kitchen, set the tables, serve the meals, do the basic clean-up, provide security within the Temple and the surrounding neighborhood, monitor health and hygiene issues, socialize with the guests, and offer a variety of services and entertainment. Others bake at home, help with the shopping, prepare sandwiches, or perform other services. The Temple also maintains an extensive clothing bank for its guests.

The program grew out of the inspiration of one congregant and began with members of the congregation volunteering in church programs in return for mentoring on how to establish their own program. Initially, there were strong concerns on both safety and ideological grounds. Early objections were amply discussed, and the program, now in its third year, is enthusiastically accepted, as evidenced, among other ways, by the fact that without any direct appeal, more than $130,000 has been contributed to the program.

The weekly program involves some 135 volunteers, chosen from a pool of 500. Over half are from the Temple; many of these have not been active in any other aspect of Temple life. Holy Blossom has, in turn, mentored another synagogue that has begun its own program, and two additional synagogues have become partners with churches that have existing Out of the Cold programs. The Religious School, the Family Programming Committee, Brotherhood, Sisterhood, and the Temple youth group are all involved with the program in one way or another.

The Fain Award is presented to Holy Blossom Temple in recognition of the direct service it provides the hungry and the homeless and in admiration of the skill and the consideration it employed in dealing with those of its members who were initially reluctant to reach out in this important way.

Click here to return to the 1999 Fain Award winners

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