Being young and Jewish when they arrived in Barrie was an isolating experience for Marshall Green, a budding lawyer, and his wife, Susan.
In 1973, Marshall and his wife came to Barrie to embark on the beginning of his successful career as a lawyer and establish their home in a new community. Although excited about the prospect of bringing up a family in a smaller community, the young Jewish couple found they were isolated from their religious and cultural backgrounds. Barrie at that time was home for about 30 families with the same culture and religious roots.
Forty years later, Marshall Green is a partner in the law firm of HGR Graham Partners LLP and Susan is the Director of Newcomer Services at the Barrie YMCA. They have three adult children and are actively involved with several Barrie Community groups.
Back in the seventies, Marshall and Susan and the other Jewish families bonded as a community within the community to enable an active continuum of this history for their children. In 1979 they formed the Simcoe County Jewish Association (SCJA), a non-profit charitable organization with education as its main focus. Sunday school was set up at the Barrie YMCA for about 40-50 children. Religious services were held at different locations throughout the city as space was available, being conducted by retired Rabbis or Rabbinical scholars. For 13 years, ending in 2003, the community was very fortunate to have the spiritual guidance of Rabbi Bernard Baskin, a very eminent retired Rabbi from Hamilton, Ontario, who inspired the group to seek a permanent building for their organization.
In the late 1990s, the congregation received the donation of a “Torah scroll” from a Jewish Community in the Niagara region. This further inspired the group to begin looking for a home of their own. In 2001, Barrie developer Henry Bernick gifted a piece of land in the south end of Barrie as a potential home for the Synagogue building.
With the Torah and the land, the group was encouraged to mount a fundraising project for the building. A 1.25 million dollar building fund campaign began in earnest. The Simcoe County Jewish Association formally joined the Canadian Conference of Reform Congregations to become “Temple Am Shalom” (Nation of Peace). A kick-off celebration at the MacLaren Art Centre outlined the project not only to the local community, but also to the Jewish cottage community from the surrounding areas of Innisfil and Oro-Medonte. A significant portion of the building campaign (which successfully concluded 15 months later) was raised through the generosity of the Jewish cottage community who felt a commitment not only to the area where they spent their summers, but also to the spread of Judaism and Jewish culture to communities outside of the large cities. The building project itself began in April 2003. The building was opened in time for the Yom Kippur services of 2003, which was the last service officiated by Rabbi Baskin. Rabbi Baskin then retired as the community’s spiritual advisor.
Am Shalom has been blessed again by receiving the services of Rabbi Ilyse Glickman, who has helped to celebrate many “simchas” (happy occasions) with Am Shalom and looks forward to celebrating many more. And where does the fundraising and planned giving continue? It is the natural progression for placing the congregation on a solid financial footing, says Marshall Green. “We have to make sure that the building is secure not only today but that we have our Congregation well into the future. It is a way for the founding members and members from this time forth to be remembered.”
Am Shalom currently has divided its fundraising into two sections. One aspect is to complete the current capital needs of the Synagogue including the kitchen, additional needs for the Hebrew School, the landscaping, etcetera. This committee would also help to raise money for the day-to-day functions of the Synagogue and for its special works such as its Outreach Committee, which provides programmes for Jewish prisoners at the Penetang Super Jail, interfaith works and social action. The Congregation is encouraging endowments made through one’s estate, or in memory of special members of the Congregation. Naming opportunities for rooms, purchasing of prayer books and some beautiful stained glass windows in the Synagogue are also an invitation for people to donate or to bequest in memory as a way to support the Synagogue.
And where does Marshall Green see his personal involvement in terms of donating to this and other community charities? “I believe that as professionals, or as people who have made their living in this community, that we have a responsibility to give back and support the charities that make a difference for the people who live here. It is important for citizens to do something good for a community that has supported their families, their interests and their occupations.”