The Melody Series

ImageLately I’ve been putting a lot of energy into The Melody Series – a visual & tactile expression of music. Each piece is a composition of acrylic paint and translucent acrylic prints of music notes. This sort of layering establishes a unique sense of depth and a contemporary approach to acrylic painting. The Melody Series is decorative in character, but intricate in its multi-sensory display of patterns, textures, and crescendos. This mixed media series also incorporates gold & silver leaf, taking a contemporary approach to an age-old craft. While gold & silver leaf has traditionally been used as a gilding material for picture frames, this series expands the leaf beyond the frame to the picture itself. In each work, the majesty and tactility of the materials are used to communicate the content of the image.

Each piece is meant to echo the spirit of the musical composition incorporated within it. In my art studio, I keep a piano, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, and of course, a sterio, which allow for a constant dialogue between visual art and music. It is essentially this dialogue that I wish to communicate through my work. As I move forward with The Melody Series, I intend to experiment with a broader range of music, challenging myself to become more connected with the intricacies of each piece and to interpret them visually.

Those familiar with my work know that I love to work photorealistically, but The Melody Series offers me a different sort of creative outlet. Whenever I need to come out of a block, I turn to these pieces which allow me to let go of classical techniques and narratives and embrace instead the beauty of the canvas, the texture of the paint.

Works from the “Melody” series are colourful, cheerful, and affordable, ranging in size, from 36″ x 36″ to smaller gift-sizes. What better way to say “Happy Holidays” than with a unique work of art by a local artist.

Thanks very much for reading! Wishing you a fabulous New Year filled with health, happiness, and creativity.

– Erin Rothstein


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What’s So Funny? You voted Annie Hall!

Adam Nayman, film critic and guest speaker for the Toronto Jewish Film Society, talks about Annie Hall, our audience choice winner for Best Comedy! Don’t miss this timeless classic on the big screen of the Al Green Theatre Sunday December 2nd at 4:00 or 7:30pm.  Dress like Annie Hall and bring a friend FOR FREE!!

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November 29, 2012 · 3:00 pm

Got Shabbat?

“Daddy, are we at the Shabbat house?”
“Yes, buddy…Oh man, he’s been talking about coming back all week long, and no it’s not just a Shabbat Party, to him it’s a home.”

Every Friday morning children between the ages of 0 to 4 come together with their caregivers or family members to celebrate Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. They are taught the differences between the rest of the week- the hustle the bustle- and this special day. On Shabbat we wear our nicest clothes, we prepare and eat the best foods (like delicious challah that we pretend to bake in class) and sing songs that exemplify our unity as we sing and play instruments loudly together. The class begins with preparing the children for Shabbat with the song, ‘I’ve got a Shabbat Feeling’, where one verse will tell the children to feel Shabbat in their bellies for all the delicious food they will eat, feel Shabbat in their heads for all the nice thoughts we think, and in our fingers and toes because we’re thankful for our day of rest. Everyone gets really excited to dance and sing to this revamped version of ‘head and shoulders; knees and toes’.

The class usually ends with a peaceful song such as ‘heenay ma tov’ or ‘mah yafeh hayom’, where loved ones cuddle together and sway to this peaceful tune. They are also asked to think of joyful events that occurred throughout week to be reminded of the greatness in life. Shabbat is time for relaxing, rejoicing and recounting and that’s exactly the type of experience you’ll get at the MNjcc Shabbat Party!

Parent comment: I attended the Got Shabbat? program with my infant son and I was blown away by the energy of the instructors. Every child and parent was engaged by the interactive programming and energetic singing. The songs and activities were perfect! I can’t say enough about this program’s warmth, vibrancy, and the engagement of the children as well as the adults.
Kol hakavod – Good Work!


Concluding Shabbat Party Song:

Heebay ma tov uma nayim, shevat achim gam yacha x2
Heenay ma tov shevet achim gam yahad x2

Happy are we to be friends when we live in peace together x2
Let’s all live in peace and learn to be friends together x2

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Downtown Jewish Family Life is Blooming!

The downtown Toronto Jewish community is really experiencing a tremendous renaissance these days! One of the most exciting parts of my job involves coordinating the Downtown Jewish Community Council, a networking body of more than 40 Jewish schools, prayer communities and synagogues, social service agencies, cultural organizations, and more. The Council gives these organizations an opportunity to share resources and information, and strengthens the power of each organization through new partnerships and collaborations. In turn, this allows the leaders of all downtown Jewish organizations to better serve the needs of individuals and families who live downtown.
This year, for the first time, the Council is running a Downtown Jewish Family Info Fair, with the generous support of the UJA Federation’s Centre for Jewish Education. This Fair will showcase most of the organizations that serve young Jewish families in the downtown area, stretching east and west across the city. From formal schools (both day schools and supplementary schools) to camps to informal experiential programs like the MNjcc’s own Got Shabbat, the Downtown Jewish Family Info Fair is a going to be a great gateway to the breadth and diversity of programs for your young family.


Whether your children (or grandchildren) are infants, toddlers, pre-school or school-aged, we know you’ll find valuable information at the Fair. It’s a chance for you to meet the people who work with families across the city, and to hear first-hand what they can offer yours. You’ll find creative and inclusive enrichment opportunities of all sorts, from Jewish Studies, holiday celebrations, Hebrew immersion, local Jewish history, Shabbat family services and community meals, and so much more.


And we’re so lucky that acclaimed children’s author (and very good friend of our community), Andrew Larsen, will be on-hand to share new ideas for engaging kids in family storytelling. Aimed at parents, but accessible to kids, Andy’s talk will focus on how parents and children can share stories new and old. If we’re “people of the book,” Andy says, then how can we use storytelling as a tool to foster our kids’ creativity and to define families and create communities? Drawing on examples from his own family and work – including his latest book, Bye Bye Butterflies!, which “grew up” with his son at the Miles Nadal JCC’s Nursery –  Andy will help you give your children’s stories a home.


For full details on the Downtown Jewish Family Info Fair and the participating organizations, click here. Hope to see you there!


-Sharoni Sibony, Manager, Jewish Life Department, MNjcc


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Sukkot is the Hebrew name for the “festival of booths.” This holiday is a reminder that the ancient Israelites lived in temporary homes for forty years as they wandered the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. Many families remember this holiday by eating all their meals and even sleeping in a temporary hut, called a sukkah, for seven days. This holiday is also known as the autumn harvest festival, celebrated at the time when the Jewish people gathered the crops from the fields and the fruits of the orchards. These harvests were always celebrated with great excitement. As a result, Sukkot is also called‘Chag HaAsif’ (‘The Festival of Gathering’) and ‘Zman Simchatenu’ (‘The Time of Our Happiness’).

Sukkot begins two weeks after Rosh Hashanah, on the eve of the 15th day of the month of Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar. (That usually falls in October.) The holiday lasts for seven days, or eight for Orthodox and Conservative Jews. The first two days of Sukkot and the last two days of Sukkot are days on which Jews refrain from work. The seventh day is called Shemini Atzeret, which is a day of “communal assembly,” and that is followed by a celebratory day called Simchat Torah.

Sukkot and Simchat Torah are joyous holidays and feature lots of outdoor parties, singing and dancing. Today, many Jews set up a sukkah (temporary hut) in their backyards and decorate it with colourful drapery, dried fruits and gourds, and artwork. Sukkot is a holiday frequently associated with hospitality. It is a mitzvah (good deed) to invite guests to dine together in the sukkah. According to Jewish mystical tradition, the spirits of various Biblical ancestors (ushpizin, or guests) visit each day, including Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Rachel. Today, some Jews also “invite” more modern Jewish ancestors, and draw inspiration from the stories of their lives.

In addition to the sukkah itself, Sukkot is celebrated by gathering together four species of plants, called arba minim. This ritual is based on a passage in the Torah: “On the first day you shall take the product of the beautiful (hadar) tree, branches of palm trees, thick branches of leafy trees, and willows of the brook and you shall rejoice before the Lord your Gd for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40). Many Jews recite a blessing over the lulav (bouquet of leaves) and the etrog (a yellow citron, like a lemon), shaking them in six directions, to thank Gd for the blessings of the earth.

We wish you a “moadim l’simcha” – a joyous holiday – and we invite you to visit us and share with us in the festivities of Sukkot!

-from the staff of the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre

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Reflections on a Season of Self-Reflection


Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, are existential holidays that give us an occasion for clarification and renewal, for changing our behaviours and trying to improve our relationship to ourselves, to others, and to G-d.

Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year, even though the Hebrew calendar technically begins in the spring with the month of Nisan (in which Passover falls). Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar, but it came to be known as the New Year because the Rabbis of the Middle Ages claimed it was the birthday of the world’s creation. (Rosh Hashanah is one of four Jewish new years, but it’s the most celebrated.)

Aryeh Ben-Gurion, a nephew of David Ben Gurion, and an avid re-interpreter of Jewish holiday lore, told the following story, “When my grandson reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, he asked me, ‘What kind of holiday is Rosh Hashanah?’ I replied,  ‘I will give you for this incoming year a diary with 365 pages and every morning you will try to write down all your hopes for that day and then before you go to sleep each night you will examine honestly and summarize how much of your expectations [of yourself] you realized. Know that whatever you wrote down in that book was the sum of your very own choices and decisions, the work of your own hands and the fingerprints you left on the world. No G-d and no superior force intervened to enforce its will on you. Your balance, your final accounting, is on the 365th page of your diary. That is Rosh Hashanah.’”

For Jews, Rosh Hashanah is the (annual) “final tally” of our actions and their meaning. But it also implies that we have a daily opportunity for self-improvement. We are obliged, year-round, to evaluate and self-correct. We write our own books, and it is the act of writing and rewriting that gives meaning to our lives.

At Rosh Hashanah, Jews greet each other with the phrase: L’shana tovah, literally translated as “to a good year.” In Hebrew, the word shana (meaning “year”), shares its root (three core letters) with the word shinui, “change”. Rosh Hashanah is therefore an opportunity for difference: a renewal and rebirth. When we wish each other a good year, we are in fact wishing each other “a good change,” “a good difference.”

Change implies recognition of what’s past – not a letting go of our old selves but an acceptance of who we have been and what we have done. In Jewish tradition, hope for the next year hinges on three things: prayer, charity and repentance, and these come to a head on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a day often spent in penitential prayer. Teshuvah, repentance or return, requires us not to forget but to learn from our transgressions and improve upon our choices.

Repentance is a commitment to change throughout the next year: the next time you’re faced with a difficult decision and you run the risk of repeating a pattern of behavior you’ve performed before or causing an offense you’ve caused before, you’re encouraged to ask yourself, “How would I handle this decision if it were Yom Kippur?”

The Days of Awe aren’t just about starting over with a clean slate, as compelling as that metaphor may be: that would erase all the bad you’ve done, but also all the good. We can’t forget our past actions because self-knowledge, and the pain of remorse that accompanies the recognition of wrongdoing, is exactly what empowers us to do better the next time around. It’s an amazing thing about this season: Even though we race to meet the clock, to repent on a deadline, we also know that there will be a day after our Judgment Day. There’s Yom Kippur, and then we all go back to work the next day. And work it is, because we are all still works-in-progress.

Rather than pursue the “clean slate” metaphor, we might think of the poet Chaya Gafni’s analogy. Gafni proposes our bodies as texts and, she says, we are “All of us in need of a good editor.” We submit ourselves, unfinished, as merely rough drafts. We turn ourselves in to a master-editor as works-in-progress.

Delete, delete, delete – how many times do we tell ourselves to undo an action, unspeak a word? Jewish tradition teaches that throughout the year, the offenses we cause ourselves and others create little fissures that weigh us down. For Gafni, we come to Rosh Hashanah shaped like a “comma”, that marker of separation, elements of ourselves fractured and imperfect. Or shaped like an “end quotation/ Mark,” our last chance to speak before Judgment is decided. (Or, I would add, shaped perhaps like a question mark – a life still hanging in the balance, uncertain, indeterminate.) Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer us an opportunity to breathe deeply and radically shift our posture.

We may live life in stream of consciousness, in a constant flow of spontaneous, unedited speech and action. But teshuvah, repentance, requires us to pause in our spontaneity, to interrupt the narratives of our own lives and to pre-emptively rewrite ourselves. These days of “awetobiographic awe,” as Gafni calls them, should help us remember those moments, face the anxiety and regret that we feel in the recollecting, and inspire us to “verb replacements” – to act differently the next time.

L’shana tovah – may you have a good change, a fruitful difference, this new year!

Recommended Resources:

Noam Zion’s Seder Rosh Hashanah:

This Seder offers a variety of readings to inspire reflection and discussion.

Dov Peretz Elkins, Rosh Hashanah Readings: Inspiration, Information, Contemplation. (Available on Amazon.)

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur resources on – good coverage of the basics of the holidays.

High Holiday crafts and activities for families: some great ideas from Boston.

– Sharoni Sibony, Manager of the Jewish Life Department

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The Summer Institute for Creative Adults!

SICA has come and gone, but fear not, it will be back next year! Read the account below, by Adi Braun – one of our wonderful SICA leaders. Watch our website for info on SICA 2013!


July 20th, 2012 – something is terribly wrong this morning! What on earth could it be? Ah – I know – I am not at SICA today – that’s what’s wrong! It’s amazing how we are creatures of habit, and how showing up daily to be with the same group of fantastic people can become addictive J. And although I know that addictions are not good….the need for human expression and the seeking of community and communion is great! Such was my experience at SICA – the Summer Institute for Creative Adults at the JCC in Toronto.


In a wonderful interplay of courage and trust, of adventures and making new friends and exploring our hearts through music, our spirits were lifted higher and soared because when one human uplifts another we make our existence more meaningful and beautiful.


To everyone at SICA – from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU for this week of complete magic and transformation!






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The 2012 Member Barbeque!

The sun was sizzling and so were the burgers at our annual Member Barbeque Wednesday night! It was the best weather we’ve ever had – it was warm but not too hot and just enough of a breeze to keep us cool.

The jazzy sounds of The Elevation Band filled the air while kids danced, members mingled and staff relaxed. There was also a very special appearance by the students of the Summer Institute for Creative Adults, who sang us a “glee”-ful rendition of “I Second That Emotion”! Here they are getting ready:

Some adorable kids showing us how it’s done:

The food was by Zuchter Berk, and it was delicious as usual. Juicy burgers, crisp coleslaw, creamy potato salad and of course, Israeli couscous salad comprised a kosher feast of epic proportions. Thankfully, we were up to the challenge!

Ellen made some lovely speeches, and lots of door prizes found great homes!

We love putting on this event because it’s a chance to thank you for being part of our community. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

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Group Power and Me

When I first started working at the MNJCC, as the Administration and Production Coordinator for the Al Green Theatre, I was most excited for my free gym membership.  I had been a member at the MNJCC in the past, but had slowly stopped going to the gym, and then stopped paying for the gym- but I was ready to start again.

I have always been keen on getting into “the zone” when I work out- with a background in dance, my attitude toward physical activity is that you go in to work, learn, concentrate and improve.  It’s not a place to socialize or be silly or laugh.  I have also always been keen on taking classes.  Again, coming from a dance background, I like the group environment- it allows you to learn from others, watch them and see how and where you can improve.  It allows you to go through an exercise, or series of exercises with a qualified instructor who can guide you through the proper technique and placement.  I have not always been so keen on weight lifting.  My mother, also a dancer and overall fitness nut, would always say to me, when I would tell her about my dance classes: “but what are you doing for strength training?” And I would reply with “I do 10 push ups in dance class!  On my knees… and I usually only do five… and by five I mean three or four…” So I got the hint- I needed to do more strength training.  And this is how I found Group Power.  A class-setting, with music and counts, but instead of grapevine-ing across the room with a clap at the end, you were lifting weights.  For an hour.  A freaking hour.

The first class I went to was INTENSE.  I used a very small amount of weight for all exercises, and still felt sore for about a week after.  But I was excited to go back.  I have now been attending Group Power classes quite regularly for a while.  All the benefits that I expected are there- I’ve definitely gotten stronger, I’ve learned proper technique and form, I have learned from others.  Oh and my mom has gotten off my back (a little bit…)  But there are also the benefits that I wasn’t expecting, and these are what make this class so special to me.

There’s the fact that the room is full of inspiration for me.  The classes are predominantly women, and a lot of the women are older than me.  A lot of them talk about their grandchildren as we wait for class to begin.  And then class starts, and they’re lifting more weight than I am, and they’re making it look easy!  Heck, they’re making it look FUN!  I was always intimidated to lift weights, assuming that anyone who lifted weights was a macho-guy, drinking a protein shake and grunting loudly in the free weights area of the gym.  But I’m not intimidated now, now I feel empowered, confident and eager to get stronger.  I see that anyone can do it, not just the macho guy in the free weights area.

And then there are the instructors who, as with most group classes, really make or break the experience.  All of these instructors definitely MAKE the experience.  Singing along to the songs, cracking jokes, complimenting participants, helping out any new participants- group exercise classes with them are different than anything I have ever experienced.  I no longer feel the need to get in “the zone,” to tune out what is going on around me, to take it all so seriously.  And I’ve realized that laughing and smiling while you work out makes it that much more fun!

My gym membership has offered me so much more than I thought it could.  And I have learned a lot more than I thought I would.  And I can now lift only marginally less weights than the majority of grandparents that work out here.  And I am okay with that!

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Colin’s Corner – Weeks 11 and 12!

Hello and welcome back (to me!) I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from my blog while spending time travelling to various worksites, including the amazing Schwartz Reisman Centre in Vaughan, the nearly completed Bridgepoint Hospital, and the major urban development known as “The Blocks” atSpadina Ave.and Bremner Rd.

While I’ve missed several weeks in between, I’m happy to report that my 12 week transformation has been a success! If you recall, I started off the process back in late January after the holiday season, weighing in at 224lbs and carrying 24.5% body fat.

After starting back with a yoga practice, renewing my commitment to cardio and weights, and eating lots of salads and lean forms of protein, I’m happy to report that I currently stand at 218lbs., with 18.5% body fat!

Here are the main points I want to leave you with from this blogging experience:

1)      Anyone can make a positive change in their life by getting active. Start small, but get started.

2)      Anyone can reap the rewards of healthy eating habits. Renew your commitment to eating well.

3)      Drinking water is VERY important. 8 cups a day is not hard to achieve.

4)      Framing your lifestyle commitments in 12 week cycles is very helpful.

5)      Avoid fried foods as much as possible. They add A LOT of extra calories and fat.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog over the past several months. If there is anything I can do to help you, whether it be a fitness assessment or a program checkup, please feel free to reach me through the MNJCC Fitness Centre.

Very Sincerely,

Colin Blayney


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