Solel Congregation of Mississauga is planning several events to honour Rabbi Lawrence Englander and his wife Cheryl, for their 41 years of dedication. The recognition began in September and will culminate with a gala tribute in May 2014. The event many have been anticipating with excitement will happen on November 22-23, when Solel will host a Shabbaton, with special guest clergy and musicians leading services and conducting workshops.
Included in the celebrations will be Neshama Carlebach – daughter of renowned Rabbi and musician, Shlomo Carlebach, and Josh Nelson, one of the most popular performers and producers in modern Jewish music. A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, musical director of the URJ Biennial Convention, and faculty at the Hava Nashira Music Institute, Josh’s music is celebrated and integrated into the repertoire of congregations, camps and communities around the world.
The concert, being held November 23 in the Orion Ballroom of the International Centre in Mississauga, will feature not only Nelson and Carlebach, but also Aviva Chernick of the Juno-nominated Jaffa Road, and faith groups including The Mississauga Ram Mandir Saraswati Kirtan Mandli (Hindu), the Fo Guang Choir (Buddhist), The Mississauga Festival Youth Choir, Praise Cathedral Sanctuary Choir (Gospel), up-and-coming Jewish musician Rabbi Noam Katz and cantorial soloist Sahara Haylestrom, an alumna of Solel.
Aside from Carlebach, who has a huge following in Toronto and has, according to Nelson, “tremendous insight and experience in the actual act of bringing the faith communities together,” Nelson has never met any of the other performers. After viewing online footage, each was chosen for their presence in the community, their spirituality and their musical appeal.
“Aviva is committed to the spiritual message behind the music, the Hindu band is extraordinary… the Cathedral gospel choir has so much energy and is great fun. We are not just parading these acts though,” he says. “We are trying to create a sense of interplay between them. Learning about Rabbi Englander is an eye-opener. He is an intense, incredible human being doing awesome work. We thought about this event, and what would truly create a feeling of community. We wanted to make sure it represented what Rabbi Englander is about at his core. The answer: diversity, music, joy, friendship, faith. This concert will represent what he has visualized for and acted upon in the community for the past 40 years; the belief that it is not enough to just tolerate each other and live in harmony, but to truly celebrate and support each other and to send love to one another without an agenda.”
Inspiring and mentoring clergy and students alike, Englander works with his community to build bridges between the many faith groups in the 905 area and provide assistance for the less privileged through social justice. He has worked with Credit Valley Hospital, Foodpath (the Mississauga foodbank) and the 905 Interfaith Coalition. He is most proud of their work in establishing Pathways in 1990, a non-profit housing organization. With two buildings boasting over 200 units, the project offers subsidized housing and rent geared to income.
“The number one best answer to getting people out of the cycle of poverty is to provide affordable housing,” says Englander who was awarded the Order of Canada for his lifelong work.
Englander is looking forward to reconnecting with Carlebach, a former student of his. He is also thrilled that so many faith groups are participating. He and other faith leaders have attended each other’s services numerous times over the years. It’s been a learning and friendship experience for them all. The dialogue created through the Council has helped alleviate stereotypes and prejudices. “That doesn’t mean we always agree on things, but it means we can listen to each other and work out our differences, says the Rabbi.
“Our music will be presented with integrity, meaning and sincerity,” says Nelson. “Let’s get people feeling good about being together and sharing an experience. Let’s help everyone think about the concept of community differently when they leave at the end of the evening, than when they came through the doors at the beginning.”