Four Decades of Serving Toronto’s Jewish Community, Rabbi David Cooper Reflects on The Future of B’nai Mitzvahs and Weddings

rabbi cooper with shofar

It was quite a period to be in Israel, especially the Jerusalem capital region and vicinity. While the Halocaust was only one generation removed, the neighbours were far from hospitable to say the least. It was a time of reflection, but first, preparation for the uncertain “externalities” that permeated the 1970’s Judean lanscape. This had an immense impact on his inner constitution, committing himself to bring the Torah to anyone who desired access.

Unlocking the Torah Through Language Study (and a bit of patience and good humour).

The eighties saw his transition to Toronto, serving synagogues that catered to specific stetl or rite. This took an immense degree of adaptability, changing in tandem with his congregants. While his services have remained the same, they have taken place in some of the most interesting venues in the world. After leaving the pulpit at a traditional shul, he developed an empty cinema into a synagogue. This was not to say that there was a deficit of synagogues in Toronto–there is not–but instead that unaffiliated Jews needed a place to belong.

Like today, the early nineties saw a highly polarized Jewish Community, with one portion attending services regularly while the second attending only for celebration. This framework caused many Jews to feel marginalized, especially if their Hebrew proficiency was poor. His approach was (and is) effective, causing students to ask questions prior to the material being covered. Like all Jewish teachers (of a simular ilk), his goal is to foster curiosity, taking the student from a place of “legitimate ignorance” to becoming an active member of the community.

Rabbi Cooper is ready to take on the future, as he was during his formative years as a young clergyman. While some people have delayed their functions, many have taken to creativity, finding unique ways to funfil their duties within the framework of the Pandemic. Instead of studying in person, students can study together online, developing meaningful relationships (while developing their Jewish Identity). For student’s with Anxiety Issues (or have a placement on the ASP) there exists the possibility of one-on-one Bar Mitzvah / Bat Mitzvah Lessons. The approach is calm and assuring, snapping off key phrases for memorization and repetition. No student is disqualified as the only criteria is one’s love for the Torah (and the message that it represents).

torah with kids

If you have been planning your wedding–and have been waiting for things to open up–there is some hope. Rabbi Cooper is offering Jewish Weddings during the lockdown, provided that they meet the Provincial Health Guidelines. In the spirit of care, the guidelines are referenced the day of, ensuring that occupancy limits are respected (for the specific venue). Furthermore, one can get married at his intimate chapel, home to the Ark and the Treasure found within. Like B’nai Mitzvah candidates, the bride and groom are given the chance to read from the Torah, even if they are not proficient in the Holy Tongue. The solution is to offer a transliteration, the “translation” of the sounds using English letters. This is a fantastic approach to integrate more people without putting a linguistic barrier.

If you are not Jewish, you have still come to the right place. Rabbi Cooper believes heavily in interfaith networking, coming together for the benefit of Humanity. If you are looking to get married in Toronto, he works with a Toronto wedding officiant that serves all nations. The service is prefaced on the same foundation as Rabbi Cooper, but is designed to address multicultural communities.

The Torah serves as the cornerstone for Monotheism, that is the belief in One United Creator. From the steps of Mount Sinai, this scroll has revolutionized our concept of morality, especially our place in the University.

The Torah is an end to itself, providing infinite value to anyone who holds it dear.

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