Welcome to

A community in harmony

Home of the Toronto Festival Singers

Follow the magic—be part of the most dynamic and unique musical prayer experience in North America! Come explore endless possibilities in Jewish life through our innovative and ground-breaking musical approach to all things Jewish. Join us and see what everyone’s talking about!

Welcome!

FAQ

Where is The Song Shul located?
The Song Shul does not yet have a permanent home. Our Chagim and once-a-month Shabbat services are at the Bialik Hebrew Day School on Bathurst Street. Our events are at various venues in Toronto and sometimes at people’s homes. Check the website for updated locations of each program.

Who’s the rabbi?
The Song Shul has no rabbi. There is no halacha (Jewish law) requiring a rabbi for services or for life-cycle events. The Song Shul’s spiritual leader is Cantor Simon Spiro, who brings with him 40+ years of experience as an esteemed member of the clergy.

What can I expect at services?
If you are used to a mainstream Conservative, Reform or Orthodox service, then one of the first things that you will notice about our service is the energy and pace. Our music keeps it moving! Pages will be announced at regular intervals to keep us together, and a 5-8 minute “Staccato Sermonette” will take the place of a long sermon. The second thing you’ll notice is that there is a lot of singing. We do not use musical instruments on Shabbat or holidays, but the a cappella Toronto Festival Singers provide all the accompaniment needed for us to sing along with the Cantor. Even if you are new in our community, you will find yourself drawn in through the music. We sit in the round to bring ourselves, and our voices, closer together. Read more about our services.

I know that Cantor Simon and Aliza Spiro work together at The Song Shul. Who does what?
Cantor Simon and Aliza Spiro have been working together since they met in 2003. They share responsibilities at The Song Shul, each one supporting the other, in a well-balanced system that they have developed through working together on many projects in the past. If it’s not clear who does what, that’s because they constantly overlap in duties – on the bimah, teaching classes, creating programming, even in choir rehearsals (Aliza serves as rehearsal pianist). The one hard and fast exception to this rule is in counseling and pastoral work. This is handled solely by Cantor Simon and is kept entirely confidential. Read more about Simon & Aliza.

Where can I have a formal luncheon for my guests following my morning simcha?
For special simcha luncheons, our members use the beautiful, newly renovated banquet hall at the Viewmount Shul, directly next door to the Bialik School.

Are the members of the choir Jewish?
In The Toronto Festival Singers there are some singers who are Jewish and some singers who are not.
The Cantor is the shaliach tzibur – the person who leads the congregation in prayer, and there can be only one shaliach tzibur. It is his responsibility to say every word of the prayers, which he does. The choir merely provides harmonic accompaniment to support and enhance the music sung by Cantor and congregation. As such, there is no halachic requirement for choir members to be Jewish in any synagogue choir. (Sometimes a synagogue will make a policy requiring a choir to be Jewish, but that is merely a policy of that particular institution.) Read more about The Toronto Festival Singers

How can I get involved serving on a committee?
The Song Shul tries to keep things simple. Our “committees” are smaller than what you would find elsewhere. Just a few people work together on each component that makes The Song Shul run smoothly. On your membership form, there is a place for you to indicate your area of expertise. If you are interested in sharing that, we will be thrilled to involve you and someone from The Song Shul will contact you. If you have an idea for a program that The Song Shul doesn’t yet offer, please let us know and we will try to get you the help that you need to make it happen.

I’m new and a bit shy. How will I meet people?
The Song Shul is led by two extremely friendly individuals, well-known for bringing people together, and the members of The Song Shul follow their lead. We believe that part of what it means to be a spiritual community, as well as a Community in Harmony, is to reach out to newcomers and we take that mitzvah very seriously. Introduce yourself to Cantor Simon or Aliza, and they’ll make sure that you are immediately “adopted” by the rest of us. The Song Shul also offers numerous exciting programs to build friendships. Pop in for one and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you form bonds with our members!

What do I do if I need a rabbi for a funeral or wedding?
There is no halacha (Jewish law) requiring a rabbi at these, or any, life-cycle events. As the spiritual leader of The Song Shul, Cantor Simon Spiro is trained, experienced and skilled in officiating at these events. Should you wish to involve an additional member of the clergy at a life-cycle event, this can be arranged with Cantor Spiro.

Are there burial plots?
Yes! The Song Shul offers its members the opportunity to purchase burial plots here in Toronto. Should you need to speak with someone about this, please contact the Cemetery Committee.

I can’t read Hebrew. Will I be able to follow along?
Our members are all at different levels of proficiency in Hebrew. Some are fluent and some are beginners. If you are a beginner, don’t feel that you are expected to follow every word. Just follow what you can and take advantage of the spiritual atmosphere to focus on your personal thoughts and prayers. Or sing along without the words. As you pick up more Hebrew, you will be able to follow more. You may find, too, that Cantor Simon’s compositions and musical arrangements paint a picture of the message of the prayer. That’s part of the beauty of The Song Shul. If you have never learned to read any Hebrew at all, we invite you to take the Alef Bet Challenge! It’s taught by Aliza and was inspired by people like you — they love the music of the prayers but can’t yet read the siddur.

What if I don’t like choirs? I prefer to sing and don’t want my davening to be a “concert.”
While some people do prefer to simply listen to a choir, at The Song Shul we encourage everyone to sing along. The Toronto Festival Singers provide exquisite musical accompaniment that enhances the beauty of our prayers, but the prayers are sung by Cantor and congregation. There will be some moments when the Cantor sings some authentic “Chazzanut” but for the most part we all sing with the choir!

Is there a religious school?
The Song Shul is still young so there is not yet a full-scale religious school established. However, we believe that children learn best in a living Jewish context so we emphasize family learning. The programming at The Song Shul is family-oriented and inclusive, so young people will already find a wide selection of activities in which to participate throughout the year. These activities are planned with the goal of informally educating participants in the many areas of Jewish life.
For something more formal, The Song Shul offers a comprehensive Bar/Bat-Mitzvah program which immerses 11- and 12-year olds in creative study while finding ways for them to connect with Jewish culture and religion. As the Song Shul grows, we hope to expand this program and offer a broader instruction base to children and teens.

Are you Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or Orthodox?
We believe that denominational labels separate us as Jews instead of bringing us together. And none of those labels fit The Song Shul very well, which is why we choose to remain independent. Cantor Simon Spiro has an Orthodox (Hasidic) upbringing, but our members come from a wide range of backgrounds. Rather than try to force ourselves into a category, we invite you to check us out and come up with your own definition.

Isn’t there more opportunity at a bigger, more established and older synagogue?
It’s true that we are just starting out, and although we have a lot of fabulous programs, maybe this isn’t what you are looking for. As this is our first year, though, you are in the unique position to help us shape The Song Shul. What do you like about a shul experience? What do you wish to avoid? We value your input, and you can make a difference in the future of The Song Shul. Please feel free to share your ideas, get involved, and make this YOUR shul.

I’m single in my 30s. Do you have members other than families?
Of course we do, and it is specifically for people like you that we are launching our Millennials & Young Professionals programs. Millennials and Young Professionals get together on a regular basis for a variety of events. Check the website as we grow and take advantage of these extremely cool gatherings.

I have a terrible voice and I’m embarrassed to sing. Shouldn’t I go elsewhere?
The Song Shul is not at all about how well someone sings! We celebrate the music of our People, and we use music, especially in prayer, to add meaning to our lives. Just join us!