As the only synagogue on the North shore, Congregation Har El strives to meet the varying needs of all the members of their congregation. Har El’s membership is rich in diversity, with members represented from over 25 countries around the world, varying ages and family structures, interfaith relationships and Jews by choice.
Although Har El is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue, it is also the North Shore Jewish Community Centre and so it plays a dual role in the Jewish community as a spiritual home and gathering place for the community. Rabbi Shmuel Birnham at Har El has the exciting challenge of finding a balance between the congregants who are more traditional and those looking for new spiritual adventures.
Like many other congregations, Har El needs to draw in more young families, which are essential to sustaining the synagogue over the long term. Managing Director, Joy Hayden, has heard the desires for programming relevant to younger families which has included community oriented services that take advantage of the natural environment of the North Shore. The Education and Youth Director, Raanan Mallek, also sees the need for a paradigm shift towards more informal education and emphasis on nature, community and youth leadership. Joy sees the synagogue “in a period of transition.” With the planned renovations to enclose what is currently a courtyard into a community hall, Har El is taking seriously the North Shore’s need for a Jewish community space. Trying to move towards a more community, socially oriented feel and focus for the wide variety of Har El members.