Religious Observances


High Holy Days 5779 – September 2018

The schedule for the 5779 High Holy Days can be found at the Calendar page:   click here….but before you go there please have a look below…some homework required…

By now, we have become used to the fact that our Cantor, Leon Litvack, is not only a spiritual leader, but also a teacher, and teachers give homework.  So, as in past years, Leon has prepared a Spiritual Reflection exercise for us to consider and this year’s theme is “Love”.  The responses to Leon will be the basis of discussion on the afternoon of Yom Kippur.
Leon has prepared some guidelines and background material to help you think about this important subject in human interaction.  Attached to this email, there are two copies of what he has prepared.  If you prefer to respond electronically, click Spiritual Reflection 2018 for an MSWord .doc that you can write in.  As you write, the lines of text will be underlined (don’t remove the underlining).  Just start at the place indicated on Page 3 and off you go.  For those that prefer to write by hand,  click Spiritual Reflection 2018 link for a .pdf document, also attached, that you can download.  Just print page 4 and write away.  If you are writing on paper, do put your name (even just first name and initial of surname) somewhere so Leon – and he alone – can know who the submission came from.
Either way, all are encouraged to participate by putting their thoughts and reflections to paper submitting something to Leon, either in person on paper or electronically by email.  All the information you need to do this is in the attachments.
Shana Tova to all.


High Holy Days 5778 – September 2017

Here are the details for the High Holy Days services and events at Beth Israel Synagogue.  Bookmark this web page and return often to see if any updates.

With best wishes to all for a Healthy Successful and Sweet Year.

Shana Tova u’metukah.

  • Erev Rosh Hashanah:

September 20 Wednesday – Services 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, followed by Kiddush, and sweet treats (apples, honey and honey cake) in the shul

  • Rosh Hashanah I – Shacharit / Torah / Musaf / Shofar blowing:

September 21 Thursday – Services 9:30 am to 1:00 pm (Kohanim – please make sure you are there by 10:30 am)

  • Rosh Hashanah I – Tashlich at Jackson Creek:

September 21 Thursday – after 1:00 pm – following end of services Meet where Jackson Creek crosses Bonaccord St. (10 min walk from the shul)

  • Rosh Hashanah I – Special Minchah Service:

September 21 Thursday – 4:00 pm onward ‘The Meaning of Blessings’, at the home of Larry Gillman and Jenn Reid home.  Please contact for directions.

Cantor Leon will lead us in a Minchah (afternoon) Service, focussing on the idea of blessings (the theme of this year’s High Holy Days). The service will be followed by a light supper, kindly hosted by Larry and Jenn. Please note: THIS IS NOT A POT LUCK. If you would, however, like to bring food please contact Jenn Reid through this email.

  • Rosh Hashanah II – Meditiative Shacharit:

September 22 Friday – 9:30 am to 10:30 am (Please note that you must be there on time: latecomers cannot be admitted until the service has ended).

  • Rosh Hashanah II – Torah / Musaf / Shofar blowing:

September 22 Friday – Services 10:30am to 1:00 pm (Kohanim – please make sure you are there by 10:30 am)

  • Erev Yom Kippur – Kol Nidrei:

September 29 Friday – Services 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

  • Yom Kippur – Shacharit / Torah / Musaf:

September 30 Saturday – Services 9:30 am to 1:00 pm (Yizkor about 11:30 am) (Kohanim – please make sure you are there by 10:30 am)

  • Yom Kippur – Spiritual Reflection Discussion:

September 30 Saturday – 4:30-6:00 pm

  • Yom Kippur – Ne’ilah Service / Havdalah:

September 30 Saturday – 6:00-7:40 pm

  • Break the Fast to follow Services — Potluck

An RSVP and contributions of food are requested for the break the fast.  Please contact to provide details about who you are bringing and your contribution to the potluck.


As in years past, on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, Cantor Leon Litvack will have a discussion based on a theme that he has selected and using contributions from community members. This year’s spiritual reflection theme is “Blessing”. Cantor Litvack has prepared some background material to help those who wish to contribute to this discussion and that document is attached. Everyone is encouraged to print the Spiritual Reflection and to submit their contributions as indicated in the instructions. PLEASE PRINT A COPY FOR YOURSELF.

Cantor Litvack and the Beth Israel observances for the High Holy Days

Once again, we are happy to announce that Cantor Leon Litvack will be joining us in September to lead these services. Dates are shown in the table at the beginning of this newsletter and will begin with Erev Rosh Hashanah on Wednesday, September 20.  Yom Kippur will start with Kol Nidre on the evening of Friday, September 29 and continue on Saturday, September 30, a special Yom Kippur this year as it coincides with Shabbat. Leon has been with us for a number of years now and he has shared with us his enthusiasm for Judaism and Jewish community in observance, song and celebration. Simply put, his services are a pleasure to attend as anyone who has done so will readily attest. So do mark those dates on your calendars and join this community. Many of us only see Cantor Litvack at work for our community during his annual visits here, but you should know that behind the scenes, he is actively helping our executive to carry out tasks throughout the year, whether it be preparing liturgy for special observances that are held at Beth Israel, funeral services and more. We are both lucky and grateful to have such a resource available to our community.

Cantor Leon Litvack’s Message to the Community – 2017 / 5778

Dear friends, I hope you have had a good year, and that you are getting ready for this year’s High Holy Days, which begin on the evening of Wednesday 20 September. We have been very busy at Beth Israel getting ready for services and activities that will, I hope, be warm, friendly, satisfying, and even a bit challenging. For this year’s theme I have chosen to examine the meaning of blessings in our lives. The reason for this stretches back to an experience I had in a synagogue in India: a vibrant and fascinating developing country that I have visited three times in the last twelve months. I will tell you about this experience when we meet; but for the moment let me say that the effect of one particular Jewish encounter was rather profound – and I don’t generally say this about matters of the spirit! Beth Israel Synagogue, Peterborough – Newsletter August 6, 2017 4 We will have our participatory musical services, meditative service, and social events, as well as a special service that examines the meaning of blessings in our lives. I have also added this year a unique task that I would like you to perform, in the company of family and friends, and in connection with blessings. It involves the bestowing of blessings on others, and uttering a formula of words, which I hope you will find meaningful. This is all explained in the guidance for the Spiritual Exercise, which will be distributed together with this message. Our aim is to spend some meaningful time together, enjoying faith and friendship, and learning about some of the deep and abiding principles of our shared beliefs. We are a small but unique community, with a big heart and a welcoming attitude! I hope you will join us for what promises to be a fascinating spiritual journey. I look forward to seeing you all soon, and I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Leon Litvack


Friday, October 21 (2016) – 6:00 p.m. –

Kabbalat Shabbat and Simchat Torah Event for Kids

Thanks to the generosity and initiative of Karin Rose, there will be a special twist to this evening as we recognize Simchat Torah with the presentation of mini-torahs to all pre-bar/bat mitzvah-age children in the community.  Simchat Torah marks the end of the annual cycle of reading the torah portions and we will mark this important date in the Jewish calendar a few days early on this Friday evening.  So, you parents of small children, please note this date and make sure that you can join us for this unique celebration.

Don’t miss this special event and don’t forget to RSVP, (and please, not at the last minute) particularly important for the potluck dinner.  With your RSVP please indicate:

  • Family name
  • Who is coming…Number of adults and kids.
  • Can you help on Thursday Oct. 20 evening to set up.
  • Can you help on Friday after the potluck to clean-up.
  • What food item are you bringing for the potluck.  (Kashrut guidelines are available.  No meat please.)

Please RSVP with the information above or send any inquiries to

Volunteers will be needed to help with setup on Thursday evening, October 20 at 7 pm, and to help with cleanup after the event on Friday.  Please do your part.


High Holy Days (5777) Services

Please take a look at the schedule below.  Watch for updates as some changes may occur.  In preparation and as a focus of some discussion we have a Spiritual Reflections (2016) exercise posted below.  And yes there is more,  a quick Mahzor 101 lesson.

Please read the messages from our Cantor and President that follow the schedule below.

Erev Rosh Hashanah

October 2Sunday, Beth Israel Synagogue

Services: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm

Kiddush following services with sweet treats (apples, honey and honey cake)

Rosh Hashanah I Morning  I

October 3, Monday, Beth Israel Synagogue

Schacharit, Torah, Shofar and Musaf Services – 09:30 am to 1:00 pm

Torah Service begins at 10:30 amKohanim – please make sure you arrive by then.

Rosh Hashanah I Tashlich

October 3, Monday, Jackson Creek

Immediately after synagogue services at Jackson Creek where it crosses Bonnacord St.

(10 min walk from shul)

Rosh Hashanah I Mincha Event

October 3, Monday, home of Larry Gillman and Jenn Reid.   Please ask for directions to their home.

4:00 pm Onwards

Special Torah Rededication Service and Festival of Books Celebration

Cantor Leon will lead us in a special Rededication Service (not often performed) for our newly refurbished Sefer Torah. This will be followed by a book launch of the Cantor’s new book, On the “Grass When I Arrive” (copies will be on sale at the special pre-publication price of $25; all proceeds go to a children’s literacy charity). There will also be a brief discussion of the upcoming visit to Peterborough by Holocaust survivor Max Eisen, author of By Chance Alone. This ‘Festival of Books’ celebration will be followed by a light supper, kindly hosted by Larry and Jenn

Please note: THIS IS NOT A POT LUCK. If you would, however, like to bring food please contact Jenn Reid at Beth Israel (

Rosh Hashanah II Meditative Schacharit

October 4, Tuesday, Beth Israel Synagogue

9:30 am to 10:30 am

(Please note that you must be there on time: latecomers cannot be admitted until the service has ended).

Rosh Hashanah II Morning

October 4, Tuesday, Beth Israel Synagogue

Torah, Shofar and Musaf Services – 10:30 am to 1:00 pm

Torah Service begins at 10:30 amKohanim – please make sure you arrive by then.

Erev Yom Kippur – Kol Nidre

October 11, Tuesday, Beth Israel Synagogue

Services: 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Yom Kippur Morning

October 12, Wednesday, Beth Israel Synagogue

Schacharit, Torah, Shofar and Musaf Services – 09:30 am to 1:00 pm

Torah Service begins at 10:30 amKohanim – please make sure you arrive by then.

Yom Kippur Afternoon

October 12, Wednesday, Beth Israel Synagogue

Spiritual Reflection Discussion, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm

Yom Kippur Concluding Ne’ilah Service

October 12, Wednesday, Beth Israel Synagogue

6:00 pm to 7:40 pm

Havdalah Service following Ne’ilah

Cantor’s Message for the High Holy Day Services

Dear Friends,

As we turn our attention once again to the High Holy Days (which begin on Sunday 2 October), there is time to reflect upon the events of the past year. It’s been an extraordinary twelve months at Beth Israel, during which we have reached out to our fellow citizens in their time of need. The unfortunate attack on the mosque last November made headlines around the world, and we in Peterborough were among the first to respond, with an ‘open door’ invitation to our Abrahamic brothers and sisters to use our Sanctuary for Jumu’ah, the Friday prayers which are at the centre of Muslim weekly worship. I can recall that at the time that our President said, ‘As Canadians we have to stick together. It’s not about religion; it’s not about race. Canadians just do this’. The President of the mosque responded with these equally meaningful words: ‘Even though it came out of a tragedy, we are working together. We have more similarities than differences. We have so much in common — the details of worship and the ceremonies. Even the stories we hear are similar. At the end of the day, it’s another house of God’. There is much to admire in these seemingly simple acts of kindness – especially in the wake of world events that have, unfortunately widened the rifts between people and cultures.

Our Holy Days are about bringing people together – for prayer, song, friendship, learning, love, and condolence. We will share all these things, and more! This year in particular I wish to concentrate on what we can learn from books, through acts of reading, and thinking about what we have learned through the precious, quiet time spent reflecting on texts. We are extraordinarily privileged to be able to rededicate a Sefer Torah: this holy scroll has been lovingly repaired and restored to full function, and its reintroduction into our midst is marked by a special Rededication Service, which we will hold on Monday 3 October. We will read from this Torah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and we will reflect on what we can learn spiritually from all acts of reading, in whatever language. I hope that this will encourage you to pause and think about how important literacy and learning are to Jewish faith and thought. The Talmud says that ‘Torah can be acquired only through friendship’. There is much to think about in that seemingly simple statement.

I look forward to seeing all of you in the coming weeks. May God bless you and keep you in this joyous season, and always.

Cantor Leon Litvack

Spiritual Reflection Exercise – 2016

Once again this year, Cantor Leon Litvack has prepared a Spiritual Reflection exercise that we are all invited to participate in.  This year’s theme is BOOKS, in particular, the sifrei Torah, but more generally as well.  After all, we are the “people of the book” and books, reading and study continue to play a central role in our cultural and religious thinking and observances, as they always have.

Are you a reader?  Are you a reader of religious texts?  How are they important to you?  What role does literacy play in our society?  Your thoughts and ideas will help contribute to a lively and stimulating discussion on this pivotal theme in Jewish life.

Download the Spiritual Exercise Text.  Leon will be reminding you to make a contribution to the exercise either by writing something on paper or by email (details in the attachment).  These will form the basis of a discussion that will take place on Wednesday, Yom Kippur afternoon at 4:30 pm at the synagogue.

Mahzor 101

We have been using our new transliterated Mahzor for a few years now and it has made the services more accessible to all, Hebrew readers or not.  There are a number of cues in the Mahzor regarding things like what we say, where the cantor starts after silent prayer and so on.  I’ve attached a file that was circulated a few years ago to help you “read the signs”.  Have a look at a Mahzor example.

President’s Message for the High Holy Day Services

Dear Friends.

The High Holy Days are fast approaching, with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur falling in the first two weeks of October.  I personally look forward to spending time with each and every one of you over the holidays.  I feel blessed by the love and kind actions that this community continues to demonstrate over these many, many years. (The Beth Israel High Holy Day schedule of services is published in this newsletter.)

Regarding High Holidays, we are once again blessed to welcome our loving Cantor Leon Litvack all the way from Belfast Ireland!  Leon is a very wise, knowledgeable and overall wonderful man.  Each year Leon leads a warm and meaningful High Holiday service.  His beautiful and extraordinary voice is an added bonus for all!  Many of us may not be aware that Leon has been there on a daily basis to support the community actively recently in times of need.  We thank you Leon for all that you do both on your visits here and behind the scenes throughout the year, and look forward to spending time with you these High Holy Days.

The Board would like to update the Community on an extremely important community matter regarding our four Holy Torahs that reside in the ark of Beth Israel Synagogue.  In preparation for High Holy Days observances we asked Rabbi Aaron Zacks, of Toronto, a Torah specialist, to evaluate the status of our four Torahs. The assessment was that two of the Torahs were beyond repair but that the other two could be made useable at a reasonable cost to the community.  We gave the repairable torahs to Rabbi Zacks who arranged for the needed repairs in time for our Holy Days.

In the middle of August we were shocked to find that our remaining 2 torahs were not in the ark!  We immediately reported them to the police as missing and began to make inquiries through our network of friends regarding the missing torahs and other articles taken.  We are blessed that Rabbi Zacks, the person looking after repairing our two salvageable torahs, was able to track down our missing torahs.  They were in the possession of an individual who was not authorized to remove them from Beth Israel Synagogue sanctuary.  The Board immediately took action to secure the torahs and assess the situation.  All the articles removed from the ark have now been returned to the Beth Israel Community.

The Board has since met face-to-face with the individual to learn what transpired with the removal of the torahs.  At the meeting the individual claimed to have removed the torahs in order to have them repaired, and was remorseful for removing them without permission and without notifying the Beth Israel executive.  The Board decided that no further action would be taken regarding the individual, and the matter is now closed.  The executive is also taking action to put in place enhanced security measures to protect the synagogue’s valuable items before the holidays.

There is a silver lining to this story however.  Shar Shalom Synagogue in Toronto is closing their doors, and they have generously donated one of their sacred Torahs to Beth Israel Synagogue. This is a Torah that is in outstanding shape and is very valuable. We are in the process of sending a letter of thanks to Shar Shalom, and are indeed very blessed to receive this gift.  This Torah will also be the subject of a special dedication ceremony that will take on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

I look forward to seeing everyone over the holidays.


(Larry Gillman, President, Beth Israel Congregation)


Saturday March 26 – Purim Megillah Reading and Potluck Dinner

Service – reading of the Megillah – at 5:15 pm

Havdallah will follow the Megillah reading at 6:45 pm

Potluck Dinner will follow Havdallah.

Alvin Gallay and Dan Houpt will be leading the reading of the Book of Esther, the Megillah, which tells the story of Esther and how she saved the Jewish people from impending doom. Noisemakers will be provided, but if you have a favourite one, bring it. As is the custom, kids and adults are encouraged to dress up in costume for this event. Mark your calendars for this joyous community celebration and commemoration of a great event in Jewish history.

RSVP to email address Beth Israel ( to let the organizers know if you are:

  1. going to participate – we sure hope so, but tell us how many adults and children in your party;
  2. bringing some food – what you are bringing;
  3. helping to set up – please volunteer, or
  4. helping to clean up – please volunteer.

As you know, the kitchen and basement areas of the Beth Israel synagogue are now kosher-style with respect to food. When deciding what to bring for the potluck, please contact Beth Israel for the ​​policy statement and with any questions you might have.


Saturday April 23 – Community Seder – Second Night

Seder Beings – 6:00 pm

Again this year, Beth Israel is holding a community seder for the second night of Pesach. This has proved to be a very popular event when it has taken place in the past. And as Moses led the Jews out of slavery and bondage in Egypt, so will Larry Gillman, and Dan Houpt and Alvin Gallay lead us all through a joyful and meaningful community retelling of that “great escape”. So, mark you calendar now and watch upcoming newsletters for additional details.


Join the Beth Israel Congregants for the observance of the High Holy Days.

Everyone is welcome.  You don’t need to be a member of our congregation.
Once again, we are pleased to welcome Cantor Dr. Leon Litvack to lead the services.  You can be assured of an inclusive, spiritual and musical observance.

If you are not a member of the synagogue and do participate in the services, a contribution would be appreciated.  Envelopes with information on how to contribute will be available in the synagogue.

Don’t forget to practice the melodies for the various songs where the congregation participates.  Cantor Litvack has recorded these so that you can listen,  download and practice (in the shower, why not).  Proceed to the High Holy Days schedule of services and the High Holy Days accompanying tunes.


Rosh Hashanah Greeting Cards from CHW

Looking for Rosh Hashanah greeting cards?  Canadian Hadassah WIZO is selling them and the money goes towards the good causes they support.

Each of the cards (three designs available) are blank on the inside, and are a finished size of 5” wide × 7“ tall. Envelopes are supplied.  Cards are 8 for $25 or $10 each if you would like the card mailed on your behalf.

For more information or to order cards send an email to


Regular Services

The congregation of Beth Israel Synagogue hosts annual High Holiday services and occasional Kabbalat Shabbat services.  The Cheder (Hebrew School) hosts regular activities, especially around holidays including Purim, Sukkot, and Chanukah.  The Shul also hosts celebrations of family and community simchas on an ongoing basis.

More information on upcoming services, can be found in the Services and Holidays page on this website.

For more on Jewish Holidays, see Judaism 101.

High Holy Days – Schedule of Services: Year 5776 (2015)

Everyone is invited to join the community for the observance of the High Holy days in a few weeks time. Once again this year, we are very pleased to have Cantor Dr. Leon Litvack join us to lead the congregation in these observances. Here is the schedule of services that will be held at the synagogue.

Please note the starting times of the services. In order that they end in a timely fashion, please make an effort to be there at the indicated starting times.

September 13 Sunday – Services 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Erev Rosh Hashanah I – Evening Services
at Beth Israel Synagogue

September 14 Monday – Services 9:30 am to 1:00 pm
Rosh Hashanah, Day I – Schacharit (morning) services with Torah service, followed by Musaf service.
at Beth Israel Synagogue
Tashlich at Jackson Creek immediately following services

September 14 Monday – Children’s Service 3:45
September 14 Monday – Services 4:00 pm to about 5:00 pm
Mincha (afternoon) service.
at Beth Israel Synagogue

September 15 Tuesday – 9:30 am to 10:30 am
Rosh Hashanah II – Meditative Shacharit
at Beth Israel Synagogue
(Please note that you must be there on time: latecomers cannot be admitted until the service has been completed).
(Kohanim – please make sure you are there by 10:30 am)
September 15 Tuesday– Services 10:30 am to 1:00 pm
Rosh Hashanah II – Torah / Musaf / Shofar blowing
at Beth Israel Synagogue

NOTE: Tuesday (September 15) Afternoon Pot Luck at Houpt Farm. Please RSVP to Kelli and Dan by sending an email to to let us know who is coming and what you would like to bring for the meal.

September 22 Tuesday– Services 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Kol Nidre Service
at Beth Israel Synagogue

September 23 Wednesday– Services 9:30 am to 1:00 pm (Yizkor about 11:30 am)
Yom Kippur, – Schacharit (morning) services with Torah Service and Yizkor followed by Musaf Service
at Beth Israel Synagogue

September 23 Wednesday– Services 9:30 am to 1:00 pm (Yizkor about 11:30 am)
Yom Kippur – Shacharit/Torah/Musaf
at Beth Israel Synagogue

September 23 Wednesday–4:30 pm 6:00 pm
Yom Kippur – Spiritual Reflection Discussion
at Beth Israel Synagogue

September 23 Wednesday–6:00-7:40 pm
Yom Kippur – Ne’ilah Service/Havdalah
at Beth Israel Synagogue

September 23 Wednesday–8:00 pm
Communal breaking of the fast
Please RSVP by sending an email to to let us know who is coming.
at Beth Israel Synagogue

High Holy Days with Cantor Litvack: Year 5776 (2015)
Music, Music, Music

The High Holy Days are always special for the Peterborough Jewish community. It is a time to welcome new people and visitors as well.

Over the years there have been some changes, but these changes are effected to serve the needs of the congregation. This year we have a new Machzor and Cantor Leon Litvack leading the services. Read more about Cantor Litvack here.

A treat from the good Cantor and Dan Houpt is a set of 44 songs selected for the High Holy Days services. Select the song name from the lists below and listen to the MP3 music file. Download and listen at your own leisure. Learn the tune and you’ll enjoy the service more by being able to participate.

OR – do you have your own favourite melody for a particular part of the service. Cantor Litvack is open to suggestions. Send your suggestions to

Title and Song File
Title and Song File


Kabbalat Shabbats and thanks to Dr. Dan


Another “Dr. Dan” Shabbat services takes place on selected Friday evenings. Check the Events Calendar.

Dr. Dan is our own Dr. Dan Houpt – often accompanied by family, and always by his guitar! We enjoy his melange of the traditional and somewhat modern approach. We appreciate the melodies he chooses for some of the liturgy and even learn to sing some in harmony or rounds. It’s interactive with participation by those whom Dan chooses to read. Much is in English, with some Hebrew too. There is always a delicious potluck dinner afterwards. This informal setting gives us a chance to see one another, chat and get better acquainted with newer people. Smiles are counted instead of calories.

Thank you, Dan! We really appreciate your efforts…