Published October 14, 2023

'The solidarity we feel in the community is so important to us all,' says rabbi, at emotional service at Barrie synagogue

Several hundred people packed the Am Shalom Synagogue in Barrie on Saturday morning for prayers, songs, a hope for peace, and a unified message against the terror unleashed by Hamas in Israel one week ago.

Church leaders from various denominations, as well as local municipal, provincial and federal politicians, school board representatives, the Barrie Police Service and others joined to support the Jewish community.

The service was attended by representatives from the Barrie Police Service including Chief Rich Johnston (right)

"I am here to support the Jewish-Israeli community in the wake of devastating atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel," said Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall. "We want the local Jewish community to know this is their home, this is their community and we are standing against the terrorism and evil acts that occurred against Israel's citizens last week."

Prior to the service, Rabbi Audrey Kauffman told Barrie 360 that it was important to be there for the community.

"I think the prayers give a lot of people support, inspiration and hope, as you will hear today."

Kauffman was personally touched by the terror when she learned that a daughter of a former childhood friend was among those killed by Hamas.

Barrie-Innisfil MP John Brassard said his office has been fielding many calls from the Jewish community.

"There is a lot of anxiety in the community," he said. "There is some fear and lots of concern about the pro-Palestinian demonstrations that have been going on.

Brassard said he was on the phone last Sunday with Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly because he was receiving emails from people that were in Israel including a Barrie-Innisfil family that was in a bomb shelter as the situation was developing.

"I was trying to get as much information as I could about how we could get them out of Israel."

Choir performing at community service - Am Shalom Synagogue

The service was capped off by an emotional talk from Nir Maman, a former commander with the Israeli Defence Force counter-terrorism unit.

Maman is a long-time resident of Canada with a wife and five children. Living north of Toronto, he has friends in the Barrie and Innisfil area, and has policing experience in Canada and the United States.

Several times during his talk, he stopped to regain his composure.

Maman said his phone started going off in the wee hours of last Saturday, and initially, talk of war was not surprising, then he started to learn about everything that was happening on the ground and the atrocities.

"I am still trying to process that now," he added.

Nir Maman, former commander - Israeli Defence Force - counter-terrorism unit

Maman told the congregation that he had made the decision to go back to Israel and fight, and that he was leaving next week.

"It's the most difficult position I have ever been in my life," he acknowledged.

Maman said he was going back because he doesn't have a choice.

"We have 18 and 19-year-olds who are fighting, we have reservists in their 50s who are fighting, Israeli men who have walked out of their families to go and fight, and tens of thousands of Israeli woman and abroad whose husbands went back for the calling."

Maman was asked what he would be doing when he got to Israel.

"I will be in a uniform and full combat gear, doing whatever I need to do to protect our people and our nation."

He said Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are hostages of Hamas because they use buildings where civilians live to launch missiles from that they know the Israeli army is going to have to target.

"Israel uses its missiles to defend its people, and Hamas is using its people to defend its missiles"

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