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Rabbi Kaplan’s dynamic and modern style appeals to many at different levels of observance and commitment

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A view of the sanctuary at the Chabad at Flamingo synagogue in Thornhill, Ontario | Photo: Andre Setton

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Which “young” shul in the Toronto area can boast visits from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a talk from a Nazi-hunter, and welcomed a speech by the now-reformed son of a Hamas leader, all in the last 10 years? That would be Chabad at Flamingo, only two-decades-old, still growing, and still proud of its bold profile in its community, and beyond.

With over 1,500 people attending High Holiday services, and a Rabbi whose daily Facebook podcasts (numbering in the hundreds) are viewed around the world, Chabad At Flamingo seems to have found the “secret sauce” in attracting and retaining members at different levels of observance, and at different stages in their own life.

In 1998, Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, a then 27-year old shaliach (envoy) rabbi of the Lubavicher Rebbe, moved from Jerusalem to Thornhill (via Detroit) to start building a community synagogue in Vaughan, on a piece of land promised by Ernest Manson, a philanthropist.

With the help of Richard and Yvonne Goldberg (among others) who donated the land to honour their father’s wish, Rabbi Kaplan started canvassing the local Jewish community, and convinced David Fluss, a businessman, and his wife Betty Fluss to donate the first Sefer Torah, to get the new shul off the ground. 

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The first “stone” in the explosive growth of the Ernest Manson Lubavitch Centre was laid. Thanks to the vision and generosity of Ernest Manson’s family and the support of many others, the synagogue was built, in what eventually became Chabad At Flamingo.

The original building campaign, design, development and construction of The Ernest Manson Lubavitch Centre was all carried out by Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, principal of Chabad Lubavitch of Ontario.

Beginning in the summer of 1998 (and until the High Holidays of that year), while the construction of the initial shul went on, Rabbi Kaplan and his wife Faygie held services in their basement. As well, a nursery school and programming for all ages began. 

Rabbi Kaplan delivering one of his many classes, which are broadcasted on Facebook Live and published online | Photo: YouTube

Chabad At Flamingo, now 22 years old, is an Orthodox shul in the typical warm and welcoming Chabad style. Rabbi Kaplan’s dynamic, modern and “with it” style appeals to many at all different levels of Jewish observance and commitment.

The shul quickly grew to the point where the first incarnation of Chabad At Flamingo started bursting at the seams. As Thornhill continued to attract many more Jewish families, and Rabbi Kaplan’s charisma and dynamic outreach became more widely known, Chabad At Flamingo developed into a community centre for major events, such as the now-famous theme-based Purim parties, extravagant Simchat Torah dances, city-wide Sukkah-hops and numerous Chanukah menorah lightings (in particular, in each York Region Police precincts for which Rabbi Kaplan is the chaplain).

In 2008, Rabbi Kaplan started a fundraising campaign for a major expansion of the shul. With the help of existing members and generous philanthropists in and out of the community, the second incarnation of Chabad At Flamingo was completed in 2010. This year, the tenth anniversary, they can delight in knowing so much activity has taken place in such comparatively little time.

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the inauguration of the Chabad At Flamingo expansion in 2009 | Photo: Chabad Lubavitch

During a fortuitous meeting in Ottawa attended by Rabbi Kaplan and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper among others, the Rabbi asked the prime minister whether he would be willing to do the community the honour of inaugurating the expanded shul upon completion. Harper accepted and, true to his word, was present for the grand opening and inauguration of the “new” Chabad At Flamingo.

True to form, Chabad At Flamingo continues to expand, and pretty soon you’ll be hearing more about what Rabbi Kaplan has in store, for the next big steps.

Andre Setton is a Toronto area Management Consultant. When Andre is not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife, kids, grandkids and shul friends. 

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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