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172nd AGM - President's message

11/27/2018 08:30:03 AM


Claire Berger Fagen

ברוכים הבאים, bienvenue, Welcome


Dear Rabbi, Clergy, honoured guests and friends,


As we gather this evening for the 172nd Annual General Meeting of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, I would like to start by thanking the Nominations Committee for their trust in nominating me for a third year and state that I am humbled and honoured to accept the position of President of our beloved Shaar Hashomayim for an additional year. It is indeed a great privilege to work with such an extraordinary team of professionals and lay leaders. Ceci est un grand honneur et je suis fière et confiante de pouvoir relever ce défi. Once again there have been many new initiatives this year as well as continued progress in the areas that make our shul so special.


We are proud to be recognized as a leading active and vibrant Congregation not only in our city but abroad as well. Our vision of outreach towards others of our community and communities beyond is exemplified by and demonstrated by our Rabbi Scheier who continues to lead by example and spreads the message of solidarity and acts of kindness both near and far from Montreal.


Indeed we are proud of the many diverse initiatives undertaken by our clergy team. Our Schools, Youth and Young Families and Young Professionals cohorts continue to expand their programming under the most able and steadfast leadership of Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold. Our services and music programs are second to none and continue to inspire week in and week out. This past year, the members of our music department have been invited to showcase their talents in multiple cities . As we prepare for our Spring concert “Tribute to Leonard Bernstein”, I would like to commend Cantor Gideon Zelermyer and musical director Roï Azoulay for their vision and passion for making the Shaar music program so prominent and respected by all. Our music department does our congregation proud, and on behalf of the Shaar family, we hope that they continue to go from strength to strength.


A special thank you to Yosi Even-Hen for his warmth and kinship making everyone feel at home in our services and religious day to day life here at the Shaar.


Membership continues to be priority and this year we were pleased to welcome 61 new member units. Il nous fait grand plaisir d’annoncer que nous avons accueilli 61 nouveaux membres cette année. Notre comité travaille tout au long de l’année pour s’assurer que les programmes sont d’une qualité exceptionnel. Je vous encourage à vous adresser à Robyn Bennett pour plus amples renseignements concernant les activités disponibles pour tous les intérêts et tous les âges.


Nous avons fait des progrès significatifs face aux nombreux défis que nous affrontons. Notre budget de fonctionnement annuel continue d’être problématique, puisque nous devons concilier les besoins de la Congrégation et notre responsabilité fiscale. Il est toutefois important de noter que, malgré la surveillance vigilante de nos coûts, nos activités quotidiennes sont touchées par les augmentations du coût de la vie et par les coûts de maintenance continue de notre édifice : il est beau, mais avance en âge.


The Shaar Family Campaign Committee, under the exceptional leadership of Honorary President Michael Cape and expert guidance of Marvin Corber, have worked tirelessly and with great passion to raise the funds that are so necessary for the long-term longevity of our congregation. They continue to work towards its goal of 12 million dollars necessary to sustain our physical structure for the urgent and necessary repairs to our nearly 100-year-old building and to transform key spaces and to enhance our programs for Jewish Life and Learning. I wish to express, on behalf of the entire congregation, with special mention to Rabbi Scheier and Mark Caplan and all members of the committee my sincerest gratitude and thanks. To date, we have $9.77 million pledged.


The outpouring of support has truly been amazing . It is now up to each one of us to join in and participate to the best of our ability in ensuring that we meet our goal. There is still time to take part and be recognized on the Donor wall. The plan is to conclude our Capital Campaign this coming spring, as we prepare to renovate the spaces on the upper level including the Chapel and Cote-St. Antoine Plaza. As we look to the future and examine the costs going forward in order to maintain our aging building, the Board, House Committee and Finance Committee will be evaluating the measures that will need to be put in place to create a solid financial base for our future. The entire membership will be expected to contribute through a “Building fund” which will be levied to those who have not donated to the Shaar Capital Campaign. It is our collective responsibility as a community to ensure at all times , that the Shaar continues to be fiscally responsible to its members, through vigilance over the current operating budget and continuing to raise funds to sustain the physical assets as well as the wonderful programming. I would like to thank our Treasurer Julius Suss and our very involved finance and investment committees for their invaluable help in ensuring that we move forward in meeting our fiscal objectives. L’équilibre de notre budget annuel demeure un défi puisque nous devons concilier les besoins de notre congrégation et la responsabilité financière.


In the coming year , we look forward to the launch of Planned giving and legacy gift program. Stay tuned , details to follow in the new year.


Last year I noted that we had engaged the services of both Manon Asselin of TAG for our interior renovations and Sophie Robitaille of Robitaille Curtis for the exterior universal access and landscaping portion. At present , work has begun on the universal access ramp at the 450 Kensington entrance. We await a set of approvals from the City of Westmount before we can continue with the design phase of the interior on the upper level. Also, renovations were completed on the 426 Metcalfe property .


It is most important to note, that our security committee lead by Joshua Ostregra had been extremely active in reviewing our security measures throughout the synagogue and working closely with Akiva to review the overall safety of our complex. These steps had been started prior to the Tree of Life of Pittsburg tragedy, but are being revisited and will ensure: that we engage a counsel of experts, and  that we upgrade all procedures with a concentration on ongoing and continuous training .

Il me fait grand plaisir de souligner que cette année a été spéciale pour notre communauté francophone. Non seulement nous avons participé pour la première fois à une mimouna ici au Shaar, qui a vu  plus de 500 participants de notre communauté de Montréal mais nous avons vécu la création du comité francophone qui a ajouté plusieurs programmes culturels et communautaires à notre calendrier du Shaar. Kol hakavod et bonne continuation à Isabelle Danino , France Bratt et leur comité.


Our By Laws and Governance Committee has nearly completed it revisions and will be notifying you of said changes in the 2019 year.


La Sisterhood du Shaar dirigée par Enid Backman et Oro Librowicz continue d'infuser  la synagogue de projets culturels et chesed.  Notre programme Tuesday Night Learning sous la direction de Mark Caplan et Lewis Dobrin continue de se surpasser chaque saison et fait venir des intervenants du plus haut calibre pour l'édification de toute la communauté montréalaise. Nous attendons avec impatience un programme élargi d'éducation des adultes dans l'année à venir sous la direction de Marie Hélène Laramée.


Un grand merci à nos programmes Meals on Wheels.  Pour les volontaires qui consacrent tant de temps à notre programme de popote roulante, ainsi qu’aux nombreux hommes et femmes participant au programme Bikkur Cholim - la mitsva de rendre visite aux malades - ces programmes sont inégalés et illustrent véritablement le dévouement de notre communauté et la culture de s'entraider.


We are grateful to Naomi Kassie who ensures that the Open Gate and Leisure Institute provides important programming to our seniors and shut-ins. Our long standing programs and committees are a tremendous a source of pride and remain at the core of who we are.


I marvel at how very fortunate we are to have such a talented, energetic Board who are keen to see positive change happen so that we remain both fiscally responsible and continuously relevant to our congregants and community at large. Our dedicated Officers and Board of Trustees spend countless hours and work tirelessly to govern this great institution with exceptional leadership and unwavering commitment. A special thank you to those leaving the Board & Officers at this time: Isabelle Danino, Marian Levy and Bruce Vineberg who have all been invaluable to me and our Congregation. They have all promised to stay involved in their areas of expertise and I am very thankful. To David Abrams who steps down as Parnass after 8 years , we thank you once again for your devotion to our shul which has touched us all.


Our chair “people” and their committees are integral to seeing that the core values of our community are upheld in all our programming and planning. I wholeheartedly thank them for their immense contributions.


Comme nous pouvons tous l’imaginer, plusieurs personnes, qu’elles soient laïques, professionnelles ou employées, déploient de grands efforts pour préserver et bonifier l’expérience Shaar pour chacun des membres de notre congrégation.


As anyone can attest, our offices and building are in perpetual motion and it is due in no small part to the teamwork of the incredible staff who work diligently to make it seem so effortless. Our profound thanks go to Executive Director Penni Kolb, the entire office staff, Jose, Tania and the entire kitchen and maintenance staff. We welcome Eric Amar  who has recently joined the Shaar family as CFO of the organization.


In closing, I would also like to add a personal thank you to my family.  My husband Alvin and my children Erica, Danielle and Ben for their unwavering support and encouragement.

To all those whom I may had not mentioned by name - please accept my thanks for your commitment and devotion to our beloved shul.


As I stated last year - it is my sincerest hope that all of us together as a congregation will continue to honour the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to a bright future for our Shaar Hashomayim.


Thank you, merci, תודה רבה.


Thursday, January 21, 2021 8 Shevat 5781