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Tema Smith

Rhymes with Emma | Diversity Advocate | Writer | Jewish Community Builder

My Words & Work

About Me

Tema is dedicated to building a meaningful and inclusive Jewish community through research, training, writing and relational engagement work.

She is currently the Director of Community Engagement at Holy Blossom Temple, and a freelance writer.

Today
MNjcc Tikkun Leil Shavuot Jewish Learning Festival

MNjcc Tikkun Leil Shavuot Jewish Learning Festival

Co-chair, 2019; Presenter: “JoCs from A to Z: A Guide to Being Inclusive and Building Community”

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AJC Global Forum

AJC Global Forum

Washington DC, June 2019

Panelist, “The ‘I’ Word: Intersectionality and the Jewish Community”

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Relational Engagement Think Tank

Relational Engagement Think Tank

Songleader Bootcamp, St. Louis, MO, February 2019

With colleagues on-site at the Staenberg Family Campus of the St. Louis JCC.

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PEP-RJ and the URJ Biennial

PEP-RJ and the URJ Biennial

Program and Engagement Professionals of Reform Judaism, and the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial, Boston, December 2018

At a working lunch with the Membership Directors of large congregations, URJ Biennial, Boston, 2017.

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Interfaith Families Jewish Engagement Fellow

Interfaith Families Jewish Engagement Fellow

Hebrew College, 2016-2018

The first cohort of IFJE Crown Family Foundation Fellows with program director Dr. Keren McGinity at the summer residential seminar on campus in Newton, MA, July 2017.

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Holy Blossom Temple

Holy Blossom Temple

Director of Community Engagement, 2016-present

With the Senior Staff team, summer, 2016.

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Big Tent Judaism Professional Affiliate

Big Tent Judaism Professional Affiliate

2014-2016

On-site at Public Space Judaism program, Passover in the Matzah Aisle, April 2014.

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Be’chol Lashon

Be’chol Lashon

Toronto Program Coordinator, Speakers Bureau Member, 2012-present

With Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Rabbi Juan Mejia, and Rabbi Gerhsom Sizomu at the Be’chol Lashon International Thinktank, San Francisco, 2013.

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Congregation Darchei Noam

Congregation Darchei Noam

Manager of Membership & Communications, 2012-2016

At Hands-On Hanukkah with our community partner, The Mad Bean Café, on Eglinton. 

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New Israel Fund of Canada

New Israel Fund of Canada

Programming Committee, 2012-present

At the 2018 Shira Herzog Symposium, featuring Noa.

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National Task Force For Holocaust Education, Remembrance & Research

National Task Force For Holocaust Education, Remembrance & Research

Project Coordinator, 2009-2012

National conference, The St. Louis Era: Looking Back, Moving Forward, with staff from the Multiculturalism branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Sutton Place Hotel, Toronto, June 1-2, 2009. 

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Massey Hall

Massey Hall

Front of House Usher & Floor Captain, 2000-2002; 2008-2018

My heart will always belong to Massey Hall. More than a job – a family.

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Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Visiting Graduate Student, 2007-2008

Emphasis: Hebrew Language, Jewish Civilization, Religious Studies

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McMaster University Department of Religious Studies

McMaster University Department of Religious Studies

M.A. Candidate, TEACHING ASSISTANT, RESEARCH ASSISTANT, LEVINAS RESEARCH SEMINAR COORDINATOR, CONFERENCE COORDINATOR FOR "JEWISH PHILOSOPHY: PAST APPROACHES, NEW DIRECTIONS" 2006-2009

Major Area: Religion & Politics, Minor Area: Early Judaism

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Trent University

Trent University

B.A. (Honours) in Cultural Studies & Philosophy, 2006. Dean's List, President's List, Philosophy Department Gadfly Prize.

Receiving my degree from Chancellor Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut.

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Words & Works

What I Do & How I Do It

Community Building

Using the power of relational engagement, I work to facilitate the development of micro-communities to strengthen the fabric of membership-driven Jewish organizations.

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Jews, Race & Diversity

I work with Jewish organizations to explore barriers to participation for racially and ethnically diverse Jews and work to make our institutions represent the full diversity of the Jewish people.

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Interfaith Families

I work with interfaith couples and families to explore how to bring meaningful Jewish life into their relationships and homes in ways that recognize and honour their unique dynamics.

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Want to learn more?

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Support My Work

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They’re Saying

A crucial beacon of light

Headshot of Batya Ungar-Sargon

Tema Smith is a crucial beacon of light in a dark world. Courage, brilliance, and kindness make up this absolutely stunning human being. A brilliant, incisive mind coupled with a compassionate heart whose every beat seeks justice, Tema’s presence in the Jewish community is indispensable.

At a time when cowardice reigns supreme, public shaming and other forms of cruelty are on the rise, and people clamor to achieve popularity by rushing to judge and condemn, Tema never allows anyone to think for her. She is a radical free thinker who insists on making up her own mind. Fiercely independent and a brilliant critical thinker, Tema is also brimming over with kindness. It’s an absolutely unique combination, one as rare as it is necessary for navigating 21st century life. As a Jew and as a human, I find myself wanting to be on the same side as Tema, no matter what side that is.

Batya Ungar-Sargon
Opinion Editor

A brave and strong voice

Headshot of Liv Mendelsohn

Tema Smith is a light in our Toronto Jewish Community and beyond. She is a connector, bringing people together across difference and with an intersectional lens. Her commitment to inclusion as a mindset and an action is manifest in everything she does.

Tema is a brave and strong voice, committed to a vision of equity and justice in her Judaism and her activism. It is a joy to stand beside her in this work.

Liv Mendelsohn
Director, Accessibility and Inclusion

An indispensable voice

Headshot of David Schraub

I’ve had the distinct honor of collaborating with Tema on one of her many projects exploring Jewish identity and social positioning. She is a uniquely adroit writer and thinker, comfortable with both high academic theory and in-the-trenches activism. Her work on matters of equity and inclusion in Jewish spaces — including, but not limited to, matters of race and disability — is characterized both by an uncompromising intellectual focus and a deep and abiding kindness and care for the entirety of the Jewish communal world. Hers is a voice that is indispensable in the present moment and I suspect will become only more influential in the coming years.

As the Jewish community starts to take intra-communal egalitarianism more seriously, they will need thoughtful, provocative, and engaged thinkers like Tema in on the front lines.

David Schraub
Lecturer in Law

A visionary new leader

Headshot of Carly Pildis

Tema Smith is a visionary new leader in the Jewish community. Her unique perspective and intersecting identities make her a natural bridge builder, bringing together racially diverse Jews, interfaith families, people with disabilities and Jews throughout a variety of cultural and political divides.

Tema is the voice our community needs as we face new challenges to Jewish continuity and security. Her ability to break down barriers to building community and foster understanding and partnership is unparalleled. She is engaging, kind, and deeply knowledgeable about Jewish life. She is one to watch.

Carly Pildis
Contributing Editor

Look out world!

Headshot of Rivka Campbell

Tema Smith is a rising star at a time when we need real leadership. She uplifts, building bridges within our diverse Jewish community. Always approachable, she is not afraid to challenge and to be challenged. Weaving her identity and her passions into everything that she does, she is an engaging teacher and writer, who always encourages her audience to reflect and to act.

Tema is dynamic and she is smart. I see big things in her future and look forward to benefiting from her work in the Jewish community.

Rivka Campbell
Founder

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