(lubavitch.com) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sported a blue kippah Thursday night as he helped cut the ribbon at a new Lubavitch synagogue in Toronto, which has been more than 20 years in the making.
The start of the Jewish year of 5748 (1988) was a monumental period for the Diaspora. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of blessed memory, declared that it would be “the year of building," and called on his followers to construct new structures to strengthen the social and religious fabric of the Jewish people.
His words resonated with Lubavitch representative in Ontario, Rabbi Zalman A. Grossbaum and developer Ernest Manson. Shortly before the start of Yom Kippur in 1987, they forged a plan for what would become Chabad@ Flamingo in Thornhill, a Northern suburb of the city. Their vision continues to be realized with Thursday night's opening of a stately, 600 seat sanctuary to accommodate Rabbi Mendel Kaplan’s growing congregation.
“The Ernest Manson Lubavitch Centre will serve as spiritual, social, and educational hub for this community,” Harper said to a full-house at Bathurst Street and Flamingo Road. “Thanks to the vision and leadership of the late Rabbi Schneerson, thousands of Chabad and Lubavitch centers like this have opened their doors around the world.
"Through education and outreach programs these centers are strengthening the bonds of the faith within the Jewish community everywhere. In so doing, they signify the enduring spirit of the Jewish people.” The unapologetically pro-Israel Prime Minister received an Obama-esque rock star reception.
Also at the event was Conservative MP Peter Kent, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and a veteran journalist.
“Following the Holocaust and the devastation of the world’s Jewish Community, Chabad emerged as one of the most dynamic religious, educational, and social forces in the world, small at first, but ever growing,” Kent said. “This new synagogue is a testament to this community.”
Both politicians reaffirmed their government’s support of Israel and to continue its fight against anti-Semitism, which Harper referred to as a “malignant evil.”
Canada was a global leader in its denouncement of Durban II and its refusal to recognize Hamas, Kent added.
Harper and Kaplan solidified Israel and Canada’s alliance with an embrace on the podium.
Rabbi Kaplan paid tribute to everyone who made the Flamingo renovations possible, including the late Ernest Manson.
“A Holocaust survivor who refused to be brought down by the horrors he experienced and came here with a vision and optimism,” said Kaplan. “And really it is due to his family – who did not let his dream die – that we are here today.”
Chairman of Lubavitch Headquarters, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, invoked the blessings offered by King Solomon when he completed the construction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. "This new House of Prayer is a veritable miniature holy temple. So we beseech G-d Almighty to fulfill in this beautiful edifice the prayer of King Solomon, that this holy temple serve every man and woman, young and old, whosoever shall enter its portals, regardless of station and background."
Photos copyright by Daniel Rinzler for Lubavitch.com.