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About Rabbi Joseph Kelman
Our Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Joseph Kelman
Joseph Kelman, is the founding Rabbi of Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue in Bathurst Manor, Toronto's third largest Conservative congregation. Coming from a rabbinic family reaching back eight generations, Rabbi Kelman has devoted his life and career equally to scholarship and to the mentally handicapped. His two sons, Jay and Maury are now ninth generation rabbis.
Born in Vienna, his family came to Toronto when he was three. He was ordained in New York and returned to Toronto in 1959 to become spiritual leader of Beth Emeth, a new congregation of 100 families in burgeoning North York. In the beginning, services were held in a member's home. Today the Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue on Elder Street has a congregation of nearly 1,500 families.
Rabbi Kelman early on recognized his role in the rabbinate as an opportunity to serve all segments of the community. As chaplain of a psychiatric centre in 1960 he became convinced that the disabled were entitled to programmes tailored to their disability. In 1961, he established the Kadima School for these special children and teenagers. Here they were taught Torah, Jewish laws, customs and traditions. Then, in 1971 he established the Kadima Centre, a recreational, social and cultural program for special needs adults. Two years later he became the founding President of the Reena Foundation which has since earned a world wide reputation for teaching the mentally handicapped to live an independent lifestyle under supervision and/or in their own apartments. He also founded, with the help of Rabbi Irwin Witty, the Dr. Abraham Shore Academy for children with learning disabilities. Shearim has helped these children mainstream back to CHAT and other hebrew high schools. He was also instrumental in founding a group home for young adults with psychiatric problems.
In 1984 Rabbi Kelman was honoured by Ryerson Polytechnic University with an Honourary Fellowship and in 1991 he received an Honourary Doctorate of Philosophy from Tel Aviv University. The University established The Kelman Research Centre which has hosted several international conferences and published many books dealing with Jewish Education, Language and Identity. In addition to his many posts of community leadership, he has served as chairman of the Toronto Board of Rabbis.
Rabbi Kelman was married to the late Ruth Friedman for over 45 years. They had 3 children. Tova, a lawyer, is married to Allan Gutenberg and they have 4 children, Pnina, Daniel, Joshua and Zahava. Rabbi Jay Kelman is both a Rabbi at the neighbouring Beth Jacob Synagogue, and also a chartered accountant. Jay and his wife Elana have 3 children, Ariel, Elisha and Atara. Rabbi Maury Kelman is a lawyer and also holds the post of International Chairman of KEDMA, an organization which does outreach work in Toronto, Montreal, London & Paris; he is the official Rabbi for their synagogue in Jerusalem. Rabbi Joseph Kelman is remarried to Sara.
In tribute to his 38 years of service to the congregation, Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue honoured him with a year of special events, the inscription of a Torah scroll, a dinner and tribute evening, and the establishment of the Joseph Kelman Endowment Fund for Jewish Continuity.
Although officially retired in 1997, Rabbi Kelman still takes an active role in shul and community life and now holds the title of Rabbi Emeritus.