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April 2024/ Nisan 5784

 From our Executive Director

Rabbi Sean Gorman

Most of you know that I am retired military.  As you can imagine, that background affects how I see the world.  It affects my understanding of leadership.  That background draws parallels where others might not do so.

It is with that background in mind that I note my immediate reaction to one of the suggestions for our 5784 seder tables.  The hope is that Jewish homes will place an empty chair at the seder table for the Israeli hostages still in Gaza.

Where did my mind immediately go?  It went to the many birthday balls I attended during my time in service.  The birthday balls are formal events.  We wear our Mess Dress (tuxedo equivalent).  There is always a lone table set for the meal.  That table is for our MIAs, personnel missing in action.  No honourable military leaves someone in the field.  No honourable country abandons its citizens.

As we look back over the last six months, everything that has transpired since October 7 has been with that sense of national honour at its core.  Israel will not leave a soldier in the field.  Israel will spare no effort in retrieving and repatriating those ripped away from their families, homes, and country in the crimes against humanity perpetrated on that fateful day.  Israel will not forget.

I have been thinking about that table.  For whom do we set it?  The obvious and immediate answer is that we set it for the hostages.  I was in Israel in early February.  While there, our group met with the brother of one hostage and the father of two (two!!) other hostages.  I have a picture of the father.  It is two months later.  I doubt that the anguish seen so clearly in that picture has changed in the slightest.  That look is seared in my memory.

As much as we speak of the hostages, let us remember that their families are also hostages.  Every time the phone rings…every time there is a knock on the door…is that my child?  My cousin?  My friend?  I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for them to sit down for seder.  That table setting will have the families in mind.  It will be there for the father who jumps at every sound, rushing to check the door to see if a child has come home.  It will be for a child, wondering where Eema is, asking the question of the simple child: what is this?  Unlike the Haggadah, this question has no answer.

I fully support having that extra place at the table.  That table setting can be for the hostages.  It can also be for one hostage, or the family of a hostage, with a name, a picture, and a story.

Hopefully, we will be able to return to a normal Pesach next year.  For this year, we must keep in mind our own, condemned to this modern slavery, and we must do our best.

Rav Sean

 From our President

Our holiday of liberation, Pesach, begins on the evening April 22 this year. It’s also, without another miracle, going to be the 199th day of Israel at war and the 199th day of the captivity in Gaza of innocent Israeli citizens and others, held hostage by Hamas.

This is also the first time in Israel’s history that it will be at war during Pesach.

The vast majority of you and your families have participated in rallies, demonstrations, letter writing and protests to try and have our governments in Canada to understand the situation and to do whatever is possible to release the hostages and end the war.

While some of our politicians have visited Israel to offer support, our Prime Minister has yet to make an unequivocal statement condemning the atrocities that Hamas committed on October 7th, and, as of this writing, is one of two G-7 leaders not to have visited Israel to show support for a democracy under attack. Our government went so far as supporting a hostile motion, granted it was “not as bad as it could have been,” which contained a clause limiting sales of arms to Israel.

Did you know that over two months prior to the NDP motion, Canada stopped issuing export licenses to anything that could be used in a conflict to Israel? The government did that on their own on January 8th.

Nearly a month ago, we had a meeting with federal cabinet minister and when asked what they could do, we asked specifically for a statement condemning Hamas for the attack on October 7th and that the Prime Minister visit Israel to show Canada’s support.

Neither of these actions appear imminent.

MERCAZ-Canada is the political organization that represents Canadian Masorti Jews. We are not aligned with one political party or the other, and our mandate is to advocate for Canada’s Jewish population and for Israel. We need you to continue to contact your federal MP and tell them you are concerned that the only democracy in the Middle East needs Canada’s support at this time.

On that 199th day of the war with Hamas, we ask that you set an “extra” seat at your seder. Set a seat for a child or a woman or a man who has been held in intolerable conditions by Hamas for these 199 days.

Speak about that person in your seder when you talk about freedom, slavery and captivity, and with HaShem’s help, the hostages will be freed and the war will end.

Wishing the entire Jewish world a Chag Kosher Sameach and praying that the hostages will be returned whole and healthy and that this war will be over today.



Stan Greenspan

 From CFMJ

A British Jew is waiting in line to be Knighted by the King. He is to kneel in front of him and recite a sentence in Latin when he taps him on the shoulders with his sword. However, when his turn comes, he panics in the excitement of the moment and forgets the Latin. Then, thinking fast, he recites the only other sentence he knows in a foreign language, which he remembers from the Passover Seder: “Ma nishtana ha layla ha zeh mi kol ha laylot?” Puzzled, His Majesty turns to his adviser and whispers, “Why is this Knight different from all other Knights?” It’s an oldie but a goodie.

In every generation, each Jew should see himself as though he personally has been liberated from Egypt.

On Passover we celebrate the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery and, together with it, the liberation from, and negation of, the ancient Egyptian system and way of life, the “abominations of Egypt.” Thus, we celebrate our physical liberation together with our spiritual freedom. Indeed, there cannot be one without the other; there can be no real freedom without accepting the precepts of our Torah guiding our daily life; pure and holy life eventually leads to real freedom.

It is said: “In every generation each Jew should see himself as though he personally had been liberated from Egypt.” This is to say that the lesson of Passover has always a timely message for the individual Jew. The story of Passover is the story of the special Divine Providence which alone determines the fate of our people. What is happening in the outside world need not affect us; we might be singled out for suffering, G-d forbid, amid general prosperity, and likewise singled out for safety amid a general plague or catastrophe. The story of our enslavement and liberation, of which Passover tells us, give ample illustration of this. For the fate of our people is determined by its adherence to G-d and His Prophets.

This lesson is emphasized by the three principal symbols of the Seder, concerning which our Sages said that unless the Jew explains their significance he has not observed the Seder fittingly: Pesach [the Paschal Offering], Matzah and Maror [bitter herbs]. Using these symbols in their chronological order and in accordance with the Haggadah explanation, we may say: the Jew can avoid Maror (bitterness of life) only through Pesach (G-d’s special care ‘passing over’ and saving the Jewish homes even in the midst 4 of the greatest plague), and Matzah—then the very catastrophe and the enemies of the Jews will work for the benefit of the Jews, driving them in great haste out of “Mitzraim” [Egypt], the place of perversion and darkness, and placing them under the beam of light and holiness.

We at The Canadian Foundation of Masorti Judaism have a rich tradition of giving and supporting the Zionist movement in Israel. We regularly contribute to our Masorti Kehillot in Israel - - Ramot Tziyon – French Hill, Netzach Israel – Ashkelon, Yedid Nefesh – Modi’in, Ya’ar Ramot – Jerusalem, Hahaton Educational Center – Kibbutz Hanaton, Kotel, Ramah NOAM, Movement and we hope to continue to do so.

This is the hundred-ninety third day of the War in Gaza. This is the time to give, it is an urgent time. People are dying, your support in this crisis has never been more necessary.  Open your hearts and pockets to give generously to Masorti Canada so we can continue with our work and mission to keep Israel safe and strong.

Chag Pesaeh Sameach.

Yours in Masorti Canada,

Charles Wrock, B.Sc., MA., LLB.
Barrister & Solicitor
President Masorti Canada


Dear friends,

Pesach is full of customs, foods and symbols that encourage us to remember and commemorate the Exodus from Egypt for generations. This year, when we sit down by the Seder table and praise Hashem for releasing us from Egypt and redeeming us, as we pour another glass of wine and leave a place for Eliyahu the prophet, as our children innocently ask "what is different tonight from all other nights" - we will add another question. Where are our kidnapped brothers and sisters?

One hundred and thirty three abductees have been held captive by the worst of our enemies for over six months. Frightened and starving, trembling and cut off in the dark, underground tunnels, they sit with broken hearts, waiting to see their families, hear their children and sit around the seder table and experience real freedom.

This year, when all of us, Jews in Israel and communities in the Diaspora celebrate the Seder night, as we praise our freedom and enjoy it with our families, we will add one chair to the Seder table, an empty chair - a symbol of the incompleteness of this holiday, a sign that will remind us all that even on this night, one hundred and thirty three abductees are still being held captive.

I call on you, heads of the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, leaders, rabbis and families, to join the 'Empty Chair' initiative on the upcoming Seder night, to remember who we are still missing on this night and hope for the safe return home of the abductees.

Just as we were privileged to observe the mitzvot of the holiday, to remember and celebrate our exodus from Egypt and being a free people in our country, so to we will remember the kidnapped, we will pray for the complete recovery of the wounded and for the victory of our soldiers in the long war for our real and lasting freedom.

Click here for the video:

With blessings for a free and happy Chag Pesach to all,



Yaakov Hagoel


World Zionist Organization


 In Our Communities

Upcoming Programs

What Are the Options? Military Perspectives on Operations in Gaza.

Join us on Zoom on May 6, 2024 at 1:00 PM EDT for an interview with LGen Michel Maisonneuve (Ret'd) and Maj Barbara Maisonneuve (Ret'd) on options for prosecuting combat operations in Gaza with Swords of Iron. Hosted and moderated by Rabbi Sean Gorman, LCDR, CHC, USN (Retired).

Pre-registration is required. The program is free.

You must answer these questions:

  • How did you hear about the program?
  • Is this your first event with MERCAZ-Canada and CFMJ?

The link will be sent out shortly before the event.

Register at


Jewish Music Week

MERCAZ-Canada and CFMJ are thrilled to be sponsoring the kick-off gala concert for this year's Jewish Music Week in Toronto with The Afro-Semitic Experience.

Co-founded by African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd, and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan in 1998, The Afro-Semitic Experience is a band that combines an eclectic array of styles, sophisticated musicianship, good songwriting, deep grooves, and years of friendship with a simple message: Unity in the Community.

May 26, 2024, 8pm.

For more information:


Get Involved

You can read more of what MERCAZ and Masorti are doing at our website:

You can contribute to our efforts by joining MERCAZ-Canada and by donating to the Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism.

Membership is only $18 a year for adults, $9 for youth up to age 25. at the bottom of the page

Donations to CFMJ are eligible for a tax receipt.