The situation in Israel continued to inform our school programming – with a number of events, held in early-October, turning out to be eerily prescient.

Just days before the Israel-Hamas war broke out, Israeli activist and actor Noa Tishby visited TanenbaumCHAT to share some poignant and inspiring words on the subjects of being proudly Jewish and combating antisemitism. She was introduced by Stand With Us Canada’s Executive Director, and former TanenbaumCHAT staff member, Jesse Primerano ’11, and the conversation was moderated by teacher Andrea Mansfield ’00. Thanks to a generous donation from current parents Nicole Shuckett and Avi Pollock ’89, Grade 12 students each received a copy of Noa’s book Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth. Also in early October, Dan Illouz, a Canadian- born Member of Knesset, spoke to Grade 12 classes about the unfolding situation. We welcomed internationally renowned gay, Jewish educator, and author of Jewish Pride and Reclaiming Our Story, Ben Freeman, who discussed the importance of being proud of your Jewish identity and heritage, and of standing with Israel.

Important and timely school security measures were top of mind for many in our community. Parents had the opportunity to hear from Toronto Chief of Police Myron Demkiw, TanenbaumCHAT security consultant Akiva Sandler, City Councillor James Pasternak, UJA Chief Program Officer Dan Held ’00, and members of the school administration at a special information session. In November, The Jewish Agency’s Yaron Dekel delivered the keynote address to staff during a Professional Development day.

A delegation of students and staff went to the Antisemitism: Face it Fight it conference in Ottawa as the only high-school delegation in this nationwide gathering. In attendance were activists, political experts and representatives from Parliament Hill, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MP Melissa Lantsman. Alumni Shai DeLuca ’95, Sheryl Saperia ’98 and Alexandra Lulka Rotman ’08 were all conference presenters.

A teacher from St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School reached out to Vice Principal Rabbi Eli Mandel to share a letter her World Religions class wrote in support of our school and the Jewish community. Students from our Interfaith Group met with peers from St. Joseph’s – who arrived with a handmade paper bouquet – to discuss and share perspectives.

Students and staff all had a chance to gather in the Hennick Family Atrium to unite in song. Staff came together for a spirited rendition of Al Kol Eleh (click to watch); and 300 students raised their voices in hopes for peace in a moving rendition of Matisyahu’s One Day (click to watch). In January, a FUNDfair raised money for the people of Israel by selling pizza, blue-and-white donuts, jewellery and crocheted creations in support of the UJA Israel Relief fund.

Taking good care

The school’s Mental Health Awareness Week included a presentation from clinical psychologist Jason Isaacs ’11 (click here for more on Jason); a visit from the St. John’s Ambulance therapy dogs; and a display in Sonshine Square. Grade 9 students attended an assembly with noted speaker and bestselling author, Sam Demma (pictured above), who talked about the importance of kindness, inclusivity and sensitivity.

Celebrating Chagim

Our Grade 9 New Stream Rabbinics classes taught by Danya Koplowitz ‘08 and Daniel Goldberg welcomed the new year with a visit to G. Ross Lord Reservoir for Tashlich. It was, for many, an introduction to this lovely ancient ritual of symbolically casting away sins and improving upon oneself for the coming year. 

Our Singer and Zagdanski Families Learning Resource Centre was transformed into a state-of-the-art Sukkot distribution centre allowing students, staff and parents to enjoy the experience of selecting their lulav and etrog just in time for the holiday. 

Our annual Hannukah assembly drew parallels between the experience of the ancient Maccabees to the Israel-Hamas war, highlighting many ordinary citizens who had done extraordinary things during the conflict. On the last night, our entire community was invited to “Kahootaka” in the Hennick Family Atrium where guests enjoyed the latkes, sufganiyot, candle-lighting and a Hannukah-themed Kahoot game!

In celebration of Tu BiShvat, dried fruit was handed out in the Hennick Family Atrium, and “planet Earth”-themed donuts were sold to replant trees in Israel.

Honouring days of significance

We acknowledged Truth and Reconciliation Day by pausing classes to listen to remarks written by Grade 11 students Dari Zlochower and Lielle Botbol, honouring the victims of the Residential Schools. 

Holocaust Education Week was commemorated with a combination of in- class activities and guest speakers, including a poster exhibition from Yad Vashem; a visit from former TanenbaumCHAT teacher, Carol Lipszyc, recounting her mother, Rose Lipszyc’s, testimony; and 95 year-old Elly Gotz telling his incredible story of survival.

Our community came together to commemorate Remembrance Day with guest speakers Lieutenant Lily Dong and Lieutenant Col. Theo Weber, who shared their experiences in the Canadian military.

Go Tigers!

Our junior flag football teams took gold in their respective tournaments, earning us our first ever girls flag football championship. The senior boys and girls basketball teams travelled to Baltimore to compete in the annual Weiner Basketball Tournament. The varsity boys curling team and varsity boys hockey team both won gold in their championships; and our girls basketball team won the 2024 Becker Tournament. (click here for more.)

Arts & Culture

In the fall, students experienced Toronto’s vibrant arts and culture scene firsthand. Grade 11 and 12 drama students visited the Stratford Festival to see Rent. Our TanenbumCHAT Singers enjoyed a performance by Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award- winner Audra McDonald at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and had a meet and greet with the evening’s concertmaster. Grade 11 visual art students spent a day downtown printing their own silk screen designs.

Israeli actor Niv Petel, who wrote and performed the Edinburgh Fringe Festival award-winning one-man play Knock Knock led a movement workshop for senior drama students.

The annual TanenbaumCHAT’s Got Talent show featured singing, dancing, and plenty of laughs; Arts Café celebrated our students’ artistic accomplishments in a range of disciplines; and in January there was a sold-out, four-night run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the City Playhouse.

Out of town

Ten students travelled to Montreal for the Jewish Canadian Youth Model United Nations conference, where Allie Burns (Grade 11) won an outstanding delegate award. Under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity, 23 students helped build a house, and volunteered at a thrift store in rural West Virginia.

On staff

“Don’t cancel The Great Gatsby,” an article by English teacher Jodi Nathanson, was published in the 2023 fall issue of Canadian Teacher Magazine. 

Dr. Alexandria Fanjoy Silver’s blog post, “Back to school with a timely and unique perspective on teaching Jewish history” was published by M2, the Institute for Experiential Jewish Educators.

Jewish Studies teacher Revital Israelski worked with her producer/director husband, Ronen Israelski, to create the film Three days in October – a panoramic view of the unfolding events in southern Israel during the October 7 attack.