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How a summer adventure inspires Selichot programming.

08/18/2022 12:48:56 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

While on vacation this summer we dedicated 48 hours to “let’s see where the road takes us.” We left my parents home on the shore of Lake Huron, stopped in London, ON (my birthplace) to pick up my mother-in-law and then ventured onward.

Jonathan found a new Craft Gin Trail that took us first to Stratford, home of the Stratford Festival, Ken’s Chip Wagon, and Justin Bieber. With our tummies full of delicious fresh-cut fries – smothered in malt vinegar of course – and a new bottle of gin, we left Stratford. It was remarkable to watch the scenery outside the car window change from mostly flat fields dotted with farmhouses, forested areas, and livestock to the rolling hills of Perth and Wellington counties.

Our second stop, at the Elora Distilling Company in the adorable town of Elora, took place just in time for us to be safely undercover as a supercell weather phenomenon passed directly over us. With no power in the business, we promised to call back the next day so we could pay our bill. As we left town we had a decision to make: head to Toronto or Hamilton? “Hamilton” screamed Rebekah from the back seat.

Hamilton, Ontario is where:

  • my mom was raised through her teen years
  • her brother was born
  • I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents (before they formally moved to the home near the lake my parents now live in)
  • Jonathan went to university

With my full-time job at the time being just a 40-minute drive away I also got to spend a lot of time there during Jonathan’s university years.

We loved living in Hamilton. I loved being back in the city as a young adult with so many sweet memories of time with my grandparents. I loved that we got winter but, being on the ‘right’ side of the lake, not a lot of snow or frigid temperatures (for a Canadian winter, of course). I loved just being an hour from Toronto and 45 minutes from Niagara-on-The-Lake.

As usual, our curiosities brought us back to the University bookstore for new merch. As we made our way from the parked car, we happened upon an outdoor art exhibit on the lawn in between the store and the McMaster Museum of Art. The installation is entitled: A MEDICINE PLANT HELD A CEREMONY FOR ALL THOSE WHO COULDN’T REMEMBER IF THEY WERE IN THIS WORLD OR MOVED ON

On a small plaque next to the garden, you read: “The last two years have disrupted our habits of assembly…The bearberry (tree) is holding a ceremony to teach about listening, observing, healing and putting the time in to learn how we might be able to help each other every day.” – Susan Blight and Michael Dellios

This past Tuesday Rabbi Levy and I got to meet for the first time in several weeks. As we began to brainstorm our annual Selichot program I found myself returning to this art installation as the words of the artists and the intention of the installation had been on repeat in my mind. It has been such a challenging two and a half years in so many ways. How do we, as a community and as individuals, “renew and reaffirm our sociality on multiple scales?”

Mark your calendars now for Saturday, September 17 @ 8:30 p.m. We will return to our tradition of sharing in a potluck dessert reception followed by programming that will lead all of us on a path of healing as we prepare to leave 5782 behind us and welcome in 5783.

Where else did our travels take us you might be wondering? From Hamilton we ventured to Niagara-on-The-Lake to acquire a new bottle of Whiskey from Gretzky’s Distillery, enjoy a picnic lunch in the park, purchase the world’s best fudge from the great-grandson of the man who began the business, and visit a favorite winery where we found a bottle of rose to share at an upcoming family gathering.

Fri, September 29 2023 14 Tishrei 5784