High Holiday Speakers

360° Six·Degrees·of·Inspiration

“The High Holidays are full of inspirational messages that are found within the traditional prayers. The intent of 360°Six·Degrees·of·Inspiration was to give public expression to our fears and hopes, wishes, desires, and aspirations in the New Year, by inviting speakers who have lived, struggled and triumphed.
Through the exceptional words shared by others, I found myself able to extend the limits of my own communication to the Congregation. Six·Degrees·of·Inspiration is a title that highlights the 360° reach of the words we hear as we sit in the Sanctuary, often closely connected to others, surrounding ourselves in a panorama of lives experienced in all its forms, pulsating with hopes and dreams.
The feelings conveyed by our speakers are magnified by their courageous will and brave extroversion of self.

They are all asked to talk about themselves, and they are all asked to share their own personal inspiration and journeys. Finally, they all leave us with a call to action.”

Rabbi Yossi

Dr. Risa Bordman

Palliative Care

Risa Bordman is a Family Physician with a special interest in Palliative Care. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto where she enjoys teaching and working on a variety of research projects.Read More

She is married to Joel Bordman and has 3 sons, Zachary, Daniel and Eli.

Risa’s Message (text)

Shimon Peres, the great Israeli statesman died this past week and while much has been said about his life’s work, I want to talk about his death. No, not who said what at his funeral, but what happened from September 13 on, after he suffered a massive stroke. According to media reports he was sedated and placed on a respirator. The details of the next 2 weeks are sparse but I think most of us can imagine what transpired. Family and friends gathered around his hospital bed, there were ups (he squeezed his son’s hand) but mostly downs, as he failed to regain power on his left side or breathe on his own. He son Chemi Peres, told reporters: “This is a difficult time. We will have to make certain decisions.”


It is about those decisions that I want talk with you today. How many of us have thought about how we want to die? Most of us have drawn up wills or at least contemplated writing one, some of us have pre-arranged funerals; but what about the whole dying process. How do we want to spend the weeks and often months, when we are no longer able to do basic activities without assistance?


Preparing for a time when you are unable to speak for yourself or are incapable of making health care decisions, is called Advance Care Planning. ACP is composed of 2 parts. The first step is to designate a person or persons called a Substitute Decision Maker, as the one to speak on your behalf. The ideal people to choose are the ones who will respect your wishes. The second, and often neglected part, is to start the conversation with them about what your wishes would be in an acute life threatening situation such as a stroke, or a more insidious one such as Alzheimer’s disease. You can download the appropriate document called a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, from the Attorney Generals’ website and appoint your Substitute Decision Maker (it does not require a lawyer, only 2 witnesses). You can add in specifics such as Do not use a defibrillator, do not insert a feeding tube or yes give IV antibiotics, but the real work is to start the ongoing conversations you need to have time and time again with your SDM and yourself.


What is important to you if you are nearing the end of your life? What are you most afraid of? What are you willing to trade off in the quantity versus quality dynamic? Will there be anyone around to help you in your time of need?


Some sobering facts. 10 % of Canadians will die suddenly, which means the rest of us will experience a more prolonged period of diminishing capacity. In one survey, 93% of seniors stated that they preferred to die in their home or current residence, yet the majority of Canadians die in a hospital.


And now the good news. Having an Advance Care Plan has been shown to decrease hospital admissions, length of stay and improve family’s and patient satisfaction with care at the end of life.


As a family doctor, Palliative Care has always been a part of my “cradle to grave” practice. In my younger years people would ask me, isn’t working with dying patients depressing? I can tell you that is the best part of my practice. Being able to care for someone in their own home, surrounded by loved ones is a rewarding and fulfilling opportunity and I feel privileged to be part of their circle of care. You become intimately involved in all that is going on, the good the bad and the ugly.


The good: such as children returning home to care for sick parents, learning things they never knew about family members and themselves. The bad: watching conflict arise amongst individuals who only want what’s best for their loved one, but are unable to put aside their personal differences. And The Ugly: such as the spouse who refuses to accept that their partner is dying and wastes precious time seeking alternate opinions and treatments.


We are a death defying society and those actively dying are suffering for it. I have been fortunate to live and work in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where their attitude to death and dying is completely different. Dying is a part of living. I recently made a house call to a terminal cancer patient, and while she had no family, local children played on the floor of her one room home to keep her company. Neighbours dropped by to offer us coffee as they knew the patient was too weak to make her own. She spent the whole visit thanking us for coming by and at the end blessed each of us.


They say is takes a village to raise a child, but what does it take to lower one gently into the ground? Who will be around to care for you when we can no longer care for yourself? What do you need to do now to prepare for the long process of dying? Is there something you need to make right? By the way, if you think that in your final days longstanding conflicts will be resolved, and estranged family members will reunite, in my experience that is a rare occurrence


What do you want to say to those you leave behind? Fortunately, there’s an app for that called Record Me now http://www.recordmenow.org. It allows you to use an iphone or computer to record yourself for posterity.


How does one even begin thinking about completing an advance care plan? The government has an excellence program called Speak Up Canada. You can visit their website at www.advancecareplanning.ca or google the words Speak up Canada.


Did Shimon Peres have an Advance Care Plan? I don’t know. When his son spoke of the difficult decisions they had to make, did they know what their father wanted? I hope they did. As the older sister Evelyn in Woody Allen’s Café Society said: “Live every day like it’s your last, because one day you’ll be right.”


Lets hope that doesn’t apply to the Blue Jays.


Shanah Tova.

Marc Keilburger

Co-Founder, Me to We

Marc Kielburger is a social entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author and gifted orator.Read more

Along with his brother Craig Kielburger, Marc is the co-founder of Free The Children, an international charity and educational partner that empowers youth to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. He also co-founded Me to We, a pioneering social enterprise, and the youth empowerment event, We Day.


Free The Children delivers innovative programming to more than 2.3 million youth and 10,000 schools from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. As the world’s largest youth-driven charity, the organization works in eight developing countries and has built over 650 schools and school rooms, and provided permanent sources of clean water to more than one million beneficiaries. Free The Children has a proven track record of success, having formed successful partnerships with top school boards and leading corporations—including Oprah’s Angel Network, KPMG, RBC and Microsoft.


Every year, Marc and Craig organize a series of We Days, Free The Children’s signature event that engages 200,000 students from over 8000 schools in person. We Day also reaches nearly 6 million viewers through televised broadcasts and has more than 3.5 million followers on Facebook.


Marc is also the co-founder of Me to We, an innovative social enterprise. Me to We provides people with better choices for a better world by offering socially conscious, sweatshop-free and environmentally friendly products and experiences, including life-changing international volunteer trips, sustainably made clothing and accessories, leadership training programs and materials, an inspirational speakers’ bureau and books that address issues of positive change. Half of Me to We’s net profit is donated to Free The Children, while the other half is reinvested to grow the enterprise and its social mission.


Marc has shared the stage, and his voice, with Nobel Peace laureates, heads of state, celebrities, rock bands, actors and icons, including Malala Yousafzai, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson, among many more.


Marc is a New York Times bestselling author and has written 10 books. His latest, The Power of We Day: Moving the World From Me to We, which celebrates famous social activists, as well as the remarkable young people committed to making the world a better place. With Craig, Marc also writes Global Voices, a weekly column about the pressing issues of our time, syndicated in the Vancouver Sun, Halifax Chronicle Herald, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Winnipeg Free Press, The Huffington Post and Huffington Post Canada online. The Kielburgers also write a weekly advice column in the Globe & Mail called “Ask the Kielburgers.


Marc graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, completing a degree in International Relations. He was later awarded a coveted Rhodes Scholarship and went on to complete a law degree at Oxford University. Marc has also received 10 honorary doctorates and degrees for his work in the fields of education and human rights.


Marc is the recipient of many honours, including the Order of Canada, and was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of 250 Young Global Leaders. Along with his brother Craig, Marc was also inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame for their humanitarian efforts and their work to empower youth to change the world. His work has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, 60 Minutes, as well as in National Geographic, TIME, and The Economist.


Marc’s Message

Darryl Sitler

Hockey Legend

Born in Kitchener, Ontario on September 18, 1950, one of eight children in the Sittler family, Darryl became one of the star players of the Ontario Hockey Association’s London Knights. 

Few players in Toronto Maple Leafs history captured the imagination of hockey fans, and a place in their hearts, like number 27, Darryl Sittler. Selected as the Leafs’ first pick and eighth over-all in the 1970 Entry Draft, Sittler’s offensive exploits began to shine during his third-season in the league when he scored 77 points. At the age of 24, he became the second-youngest captain in team history.

In 1976, Sittler would achieve legendary status, not only in Toronto, but across Canada and the hockey world. It began at Maple Leaf Gardens on February 7, 1976 in a game against the Boston Bruins. While centering a line with Lanny McDonald and Errol Thompson,Sittler scored six goals and added four assists to set a NHL record – one that still stands today – for most points in a game with 10. That record-breaking moment helped Sittler become the first ever Maple Leaf to reach 100 points in a single season.

Later that April, Sittler’s sensational scoring streak would continue in the Stanley Cup playoffs when he scored five goals in a single game against the Philadelphia Flyers, tying a playoff record.

Nearly five months later, on September 15, 1976 during the Canada Cup final at the famous Montreal Forum, Sittler cemented his standing in Canadian hockey lore. Taking a pass from teammate Marcel Dionne in overtime, he beat Czech goalie Vladimir Dzurilla on a partial breakaway, scoring the tournament winning goal for Canada and securing his place as a national hockey hero.

In 1989, Sittler was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame. In a touching tribute to an illustrious Maple Leaf career, he was honoured prior to a home game against the Montreal Canadiens on February 8th, 2003 at the Air Canada Centre, when the organization proudly raised a banner to the rafters with his number 27 and his name.

Today, Darryl spends time working with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Inc in areas of Corporate Partners and in community relations.

He’s an active Member of the Board of Directors of several publicly listed mining companies and is also very supportive of a number of charities. These charities include the Special Olympics Canada, Screen Colons Canada and Colon Cancer Canada in honor of his late wife Wendy who died from colon cancer in 2001.

To relax, Darryl enjoys fishing, bike riding, golf and spending time with family and friends.

Darryl’s Message

Madison Tevlin

Youtube Sensation

Madison’s Bio is coming soon!

Madison’s Message

Darren Slavens

Fighting for Your Life & Wife

Darren Slavens is married (12 Years) with 2 daughters (Sabrina & Sydney). 

He is a Partner, Vice-President, Managing Broker of Slavens & Associates Real Estate Inc.; Co-Chair of JNF Future; Vice-President of JNF Toronto; Sick Kids Innovator.

Darren’s Message

Drew Turk

Autism Awareness

Drew Turk was born and raised in Toronto. Drew is 19 years old and has recently started his second year of his College career at Seneca in Toronto in Radio Broadcasting. 

Just prior to his third birthday Drew was diagnosed as being challenged by ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, a developmental disorder that impacts an individual’s life to varying degrees.


Till High School, Drew attended the Merle L. Levine Academy in North Toronto, an Academy whose programme was designed for children with special needs. For High School, Drew attended classes at Tanenbaum CHAT, and graduated from the school in June of 2015 with an Academic Award having achieved an average of eighty percent or higher in his final year at CHAT. Drew, who has been a counsellor and assistant at Bayview Glen Day Camp, Camp Timberlane and Magnificent Minds Day Camp in Toronto, enjoys video gaming and reading in his spare time, along with movies, concerts, sports and spending quality time with his dog Dylan. He is a schooled break dancer, a surfer when in California or Hawaii, and a snowboarder at home in Ontario when he gets the chance.


Drew’s Message

Jonathan Wolch

Why THIS Shul?

Jonathan grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but has called Toronto home for more than 30 years. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Specialist degree in Political Philosophy and later received an LL.B from Osgoode Hall Law School.

In 2010, Jonathan drew on his experiences as a corporate lawyer, corporate executive and entrepreneur/business owner, to found 366 Ventures, a boutique consultancy focused on helping entrepreneurs realize their vision.


His passion for music, vintage motorcycles – which he lovingly restores – and gathering friends and family around a table to share great food, great wine and endless laughter is complemented by his efforts to advance the art and craft of photography as a Director of the Luminous Endowment for Photographers. He has been overheard saying “I may not know what I like, but I definitely know art”.


Jonathan’s Message

Sam Marr

Living Organ Donation

Sam Marr is a partner in the civil litigation firm LandyMarr Kats LLP, and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as a specialist in civil litigation. Sam is a Toronto Deputy Small Claims Court Judge and a Past President of the Toronto Lawyers Association. 

Sam is the 2015 recipient of the Catzman award for professionalism and civility in the legal profession.


Since his organ transplant, Sam has spoken frequently to promote organ and tissue donation, and is the Trillium Gift of Life Network 2014 award winner for championing organ donation in the legal community.


Sam was an active member of the Canadian Jewish Congress and is a former member of its Community Relations Committee.


Sam has been married to his lovely wife Susan for 23 years, and is the proud father of two fantastic sons Darren and Adam.


In celebration of Sam’s “Gift of Life”, Sam and Susan are actively involved in raising funds for liver transplant research at Toronto General Hospital. Your support can ensure that more people like Sam will in the future benefit from a life saving transplant. Please visit www.sammarrtribute.ca to make a donation. A charitable tax receipt will be issued.


Sam can be reached at smarr@lmklawyers.com and can be followed on Twitter at @SSM2121

Sam’s Message

Dr. Rachael Turkienicz

Torah Educator, Rachael’s Centre

Dr. Rachael Turkienicz earned her Ph.D. in Talmudic and Midrashic Studies from Brandeis University and is an affiliate professor at York University.

She was the host and co-producer of a weekly television series called ‘Uncommon Ground’, writes a column for the Canadian Jewish News, and is a published author both in her field of academia as well as in children’s literature.


Rachael currently holds a seat with the Christian Jewish Dialogue of Toronto. She co-founded a faith-based private school in Toronto and consults with several other schools. Rachael is actively involved with teacher training and professional development.


Rachael was the first recipient of the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University Person of Distinction Award in 2005 and was featured on CBC’s Tapestry Programme.


Rachael is a Governor of the Canadian International Peace Project. She was the founder and director of an institute for Jewish studies, The Learning Centre, an unaffiliated educational facility. The Learning Centre was transformed, in April 2008, to Rachael’s Centre for Torah, Mussar & Ethics.


Rachael lives in Canada with her husband and five children.


Rachel’s Message

Husam Wafaei

Human Rights Advocate

Husam Wafaei a Syrian Canadian. He is a graduate of the University of Manitoba and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces, with whom he served on a number of international campaigns that included Somalia, Bosnia, the Gulf War, the Sinai, Congo, and Rwanda.

He was also involved in various other UN and NATO operations. During the course of his military career, Husam has travelled around the globe. Although these engagements at times were perilous, Husam is a true student of human nature, and he welcomed these opportunities to observe the cultures and daily lives of people in lands near and far.


Husam spent his childhood in a country which was destabilized by various factors: the collapse of colonialism, regional politics, the Cold War, the turmoil of Middle East war, or the tension of its ever-present threat. His travel experiences have exposed him to human dilemmas in different world venues. Through his personal and professional experiences, he has seen human sufferings at different world stages, and has witnessed the profound strength of individuals to overcome seemingly impossible odds for freedom.


Husam is the founder and president of the Syrian Canadian Foundation for Humanity.


Husam’s Message

Ethan Kleiman

Intergenerational Engagement

Ethan Kleiman is 16 years old and lives in North Toronto. He has been attending Beth Torah Synagogue since he was 18 months old as a sleeping baby, growing to become a member of the children’s choir, to celebrate his bar mitzvah, and to regularly volunteer at Beth Torah events and holidays.

He is finishing grade 12 at Lawrence Park in 2017 with an interest in Law and Forensic Science.


Ethan has a keen interest in beginnings: of people, laws, health issues, wars, companies; everything about the orgin of a process, idea or evolution. He is humorous, sensitive and has an amazing imagination. He loves being with people, and since he was small Ethan has been engaged with everyone around him, young and old.


Ethan’s Message

Rachel Meyerowitz

Global Volunteerism

Rachel is 13 years old. Born in New York City, she has lived in Toronto since she can remember. A grade eight student at Bialik Hebrew Day School, Rachel is an excellent student. She plays competitive soccer with the North Toronto Nitros and ski races at Alpine Ski Club.

She is a fantastic older sister to Matthew, Andi and Jordan. Rachel is caring and generous, with an infectious laugh and an incredible sense of purpose. Although Rachel has reported being afraid of everything, nothing ever seems to stop her. She amazes us every day and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for this very special young lady.

Rachel’s Message (text)

Thank you Rabbi for inviting us to speak.


My name is Rachel Meyerowitz, and in the summer of 2014, I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah in Israel and here at Beth Torah.


Following that, as some of you may remember, I had the honor of speaking on Rosh Hashana about my Bat Mitzvah project. I spoke about attending WE DAY and deciding that I could use my Bat Mitzvah to help others. Instead of gifts, I asked for donations to FREE THE CHILDREN. After some fundraising and the incredible generosity of my friends and family, I had raised over $30,000.


I will let my Dad tell you more about FREE THE CHILDREN and WE DAY in a moment. First, I want to share with you the final chapter of my Bat Mitzvah journey.


This past summer, my family travelled to the Masai Mara region of Kenya, on one of FREE THE CHILDREN’S ME TO WE volunteer trips. Our days were long and filled with lasting memories. Alongside an amazing collection of families from across North America, we helped to build the surgical wing of a medical center; we carried water on our backs with Masai Mamas; and we visited communities helped by FREE THE CHILDREN’S 5 pillar sustainable model for change. I learned many important lessons that I can now share as the founder and President of the FREE THE CHILDREN club at Bialik.


But the highlight of this incredible adventure happened one afternoon when my family travelled separately from the group with Craig Kielberger, the founder of FREE THE CHILDREN, to a community called KIPSONGOL.


It was this community that my Bat Mitzvah donations had been used to build new schoolhouses for children that would otherwise not receive an education.


As I stepped out of the jeep and was met by hundreds of singing children, I COULD NOT CONTAIN MY EMOTIONS.








Good evening. Rachel is a tough act to follow, but I would like TO TAKE A FEW minutes to share with you OUR family’s experience with FREE THE CHILDREN.


As parents, we strive to provide our children with opportunities and experiences that will enrich their lives:

-A strong Jewish IDENTITY

-A good education

-And lasting health and happiness.


Ultimately, we hope for our children to feel Confident and Capable as they enter the world; Our wish is that our children are Compassionate and Charitable.


However, as Rabbi Yossi said this morning, we cannot dictate our children’s DESTINATION. But we can be an example to our children and provide the tools needed for them to choose their own path.


To lead by example I have been actively involved with the UJA as well as other charities. This was working but the challenge for me was that these CHARITABLE acts were not integrated into my family life.


Everything changed when our family was invited to WE DAY and discovered FREE THE CHILDREN, an international charity started 20 years ago by a 12-year old boy from Thornhill.


In 1995, Craig Kielberger was inspired to quite LITERALLY “FREE CHILDREN” from child labour. Over the years, Craig and his brother Marc’s incredible perseverance and dedication to the cause has freed hundreds of thousands of children from the cycle of poverty by providing education and sustainable systems for change.


FREE THE CHILDREN’s model will continue to support children and families in the most at-risk areas of the developing world. As well, FREE THE CHILDREN has developed effective campaigns to address problems such as homelessness, hunger and bullying in Canada, the U.S. and the UK.


What is most important to me, as a parent, is that all of FREE THE CHILDREN’S programming is driven by youth. Although I have been welcomed as a champion of the organization, it is the young people that are provided the tools and the inspiration to TAKE SOCIAL ACTION, EMPOWER OTHERS AND TRANSFORM LIVES – INCLUDING THEIR OWN.


In OUR experience, FREE THE CHILDREN has taken on a whole new meaning as we watch Rachel and her siblings UNDERSTAND AND UNLEASH their POWER AND POTENTIAL in the world, FREE TO EMBARK ON THEIR OWN JOURNEY.


Each year, the thousands of children across Canada, the U.S. and the UK who are volunteering with FREE THE CHILDREN programs are celebrated for making a difference in their local and global communities.


The celebration is called WE DAY and it combines the energy of a live concert with the inspiration of incredible stories of leadership and change. Next week, the Air Canada Centre will be filled with 18,000 teenagers – louder than you have ever heard it for a Leafs or Raptors game – who have earned their ticket to be inspired by musicians, celebrities AND THEIR peers… all to celebrate THE POWER OF SERVICE.


Rachel has set the bar HIGH and has Matthew, Andi and Jordan ready to follow in her footsteps, and Robyn and I cannot wait to see where our children lead us next. Thank you and Shana Tovah.

Troy Lebane

Student of the Arts

Troy’s Performance

Guy Gavriel Kay

Award-Winning Author

Guy Gavriel Kay is the international bestselling author of twelve previous novels and a book of poetry.

He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in literature of the fantastic and won the World Fantasy Award for Ysabel in 2008.


In 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages.

Guy’s Message

Sara Diamond

Singer Songwriter

Sara Diamond is an astonishing and accomplished multi-talented actor, singer, songwriter, and dancer.

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1995, she has been singing since she could talk and has been dancing since she could walk.


Sara began her illustrious career singing children’s songs for Montreal based KIDZUP Records. She has since sold over 1 million albums and charted Billboard, outselling even Disney products. It quickly became evident that Sara was meant to do so much more.


Sara has sung at the Windsor Hotel to welcome home the Canadian troops and in New York at the UN Ambassador of Israel’s home at an event for The March to Jerusalem.


In 2013, Sara started singing for the Montreal Canadiens, performing the American and Canadian National Anthems during the 2013 season, then going on to sing the American National Anthem during the 2014 and 2015 NHL Playoffs alongside Ginette Reno.


Sara’s Performances

Children’s Choir

Adult Choir