Friday, May 6, 2016

Benjamin Blum

An LB Alumnus, Spanish and Baseball come together


“It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do, but knowing what I was passionate about helped me stick with journalism.”


That is how Benjamin Blum became what he is today.


Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna
in TV doc From Sinaloa to The Show
on Sportsnet
Much like Blum, Roberto Osuna stuck to his guns and pursued his dream. Osuna, a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays from Sinaloa, Mexico, was the subject of a recent rags-to-riches style TV documentary by Sportsnet, with Blum getting the credit as the Spanish translator for Osuna and his family.


Blum does not take for granted the opportunity he has been given. “I feel proud for being able to do my part to help a wider audience hear the complete story.”


As a soon-to-be graduate of a Masters degree in Journalism from the University of King’s College in Halifax, he attributes his ability “to approach situations critically and to embrace challenges that come up” to his Leo Baeck days. He is a proud Leo Baeck grad (Class of 2006), where his mother, Jody Blum, is the Dean of Academic Development at LB North.


“My three years of what was Civilizations with [LB teacher] Desmond Bender influenced how I approach research and writing to this day,” admits Blum.


He attended TanenbaumCHAT, got his undergrad degree at  King’s College, and was Sports Editor for the Dalhousie Gazette. He also figured that Hebrew and French just were not enough for him, so he studied Spanish, having no idea at the time how that decision would lead to the dream gig of translating for the Osuna documentary.

He has definitely paid his dues. Rising through the ranks of regional broadcasting and commentating jobs, he has become senior writer for CBC Sports, with his first assignment covering the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

By Daniel Rosenberg




Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dawn McMaster

Dean of Academic Development and (International Baccalaureate) MYP Coordinator



Dawn McMaster rides her bike to our South Campus most mornings from her home across town.

But that's just the last leg of a global journey that brought her to Leo Baeck in the first place. 

In 1992 she was a founding teacher - and developer of the math/science curriculum - at the New International School of Thailand. She developed curriculum during a stint at the American International School of Johannesburg. She returned to Canada in 2009 to teach at Branksome Hall where she created an IB Middle Years Programme integrated unit of study on wind energy for that school's Toronto and South Korean campuses.

She has coached an equestrian team, a girls championship badminton team, and has co-led a hiking club that summited Mount Kilimanjaro.

"I love fun," she says, explaining what keeps her young, "doing anything outside. Doing what the kids are doing without fear."

Dawn is the proud mother of two children who both recognize the benefit of their IB education. 

"I love working to make the world a better place through young people," she says. And now she's come to Leo Baeck with the same goal.


As an equestrian, she'd just as soon ride to work on horseback. Until further notice however, she'll be settling for the saddle on her bicycle.

By David Bale


Marc Kates


Middle School teacher, Leo Baeck South

You could say that Marc Kates continues to bring his creativity and his passion for teaching every day to Leo Baeck. After eight years as an LB teacher, Marc continues to find joy and excitement in what he does. Marc teaches on both the Judaic and General sides of the curriculum.

His inspiration comes from both the “’click’ that happens when a student gets it” and in creating the next generation of strong and proud Jews, something that was instilled in him by his parents. As a Language and Literature teacher, Marc finds his own literary creative outlet by  continuing his mother’s (Bonnie Kates z"l) legacy through writing her monthly B’nai Brith lodge column which allows him to explore any topic of his choosing.

He teaches his students every day in English and Hebrew, but would be equally comfortable teaching in Yiddish, something that he has done in the past through the University of Toronto’s Department of Continuing Studies. Marc’s classroom is recognizable from the greenery that fills the space, creating a bright and inspirational environment for his students. It is consistent with all that he does in life; leading by example and striving for excellence.


Marc facts
  • Is a certified PADI scuba diver
  • Has become the GM of his six year old's hockey team
  • Last summer researched PEI ice cream culture daily
  • Is fluent in Yiddish and runs the LB Yiddish club
  • Has three adorable children

By Josefa Michaelson


Evan Pilz

From Class of ’92 to a life of Jewish commitment

He’s happiest in a canoe…or giving back to his community.  Evan Pilz credits his Leo Baeck education with his avid involvement in Jewish charities. “Leo Baeck provided me with a strong foundation in Jewish values,” he says, “and a deep love of Israel and my heritage.”

By day, he works as an associate at Q1 Capital Partners, but on his off time he gives back.  

Acknowledging the struggles his parents sometimes experienced to send him and his brother to school, Evan chooses to spend a lot of his time volunteering at UJA, which supports Jewish day school in many ways (including tuition subsidies and financial support).  He is the UJA Young Leaders Co-Chair.  He is heavily involved in CIJA (Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs). And he is a past UJA Young Business Co-Chair and Technion Canada Young Leaders Co-Chair. 

Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations at the Kenton Campus trigger special feelings, “I’m reminded of celebrating outside at the old campus while eating white cupcakes with little Israeli toothpick flags on top.  Even having celebrated the holiday in Israel several times, those will always be my fondest memories of marking Israel's birthday.”

Like his annual canoe trips with friends in Algonquin Park, Evan sees the forest for the trees when it comes to being active in his community. “Getting involved is well worth it,” he advises.  “You get more back in so many ways, building the next generation of support.”

By Josefa Michaelson


Ashleigh Rosenthal


SK Teacher, Leo Baeck South

Ashleigh Rosenthal would cartwheel to South Campus every day if she could.  Entering her fourteenth year as a Leo Baeck teacher, she says spending each day in kindergarten brings out the kid in her.

Her inspiration comes from her students, “their strengths and weaknesses and especially those who are outside the box.”  She feels that all children deserve a Jewish education and that she is here to help them reach their full potential.  “I love seeing their ‘aha’ moments.”

Last year a former Leo Baeck mom sought out Ashleigh to tell her that her son had just graduated from CHAT (high school).  “She didn’t cry at the CHAT graduation, but she did cry when she came to see me, because she said that her child had started his journey with me.”

Ashleigh Facts:
  • Grew up in Toronto but spent many school years in Florida
  • As a gymnast and cheerleader in high school her dance group opened for the Florida Marlins
  • Loves camping and the outdoors
  • Married with two kids and a dog, Piper (named after the Phish song)

By Josefa Michaelson


Bonnie Gremont

Primary Coordinator & Kindergarten Teacher, North Campus


Bonnie Gremont’s teaching career started when she was a child, in her basement. 

That is where she and her siblings grew up pretending to teach.  “There was a big chalkboard and old fashioned all in one school desks and chairs. We'd line them up in a row all facing the chalkboard and play school.”

Bonnie’s mother fostered creativity in her children through painting, papier mache and building candy castles.  This exposure to creative expression at a young age has led to strong beliefs in Bonnie’s 20 years of REAL teaching and her approach with her students.  “I really believe children should be allowed to express who they are and in their own way.” 

It is this dedication to her student’s development and a love for teaching that marked one of the most rewarding experiences in her career last year.  Kali Singer, one of her former kindergarten students returned to Leo Baeck as a student teacher in Bonnie’s classroom.  “Being able to mentor and support Kali brought such immense pleasure and pride as I watched her grow into a gifted educator. We truly had come full circle.”  

And for Kali, now an LB teaching assistant, the feeling was mutual, “The love and care I felt from Bonnie at five years old was so impactful to my life that I knew I wanted to change lives in the same way she changed mine.  I went into teaching in hopes of being the kind of teacher she was for me.”

What’s the deal with Mickey Mouse, you ask?  She says it keeps her in touch with her youth and her kindergarten students love it. No, she doesn’t have a Mickey Mouse watch, but check out the shape of her engagement ring. Not kidding.

By Janice Prazoff


Monday, February 22, 2016

Jenna Sobel


Teacher at Leo Baeck South


Jenna Sobel is a passionate person in all that she does.  When it comes to teaching, she’ll tell you that even from her early years growing up at Willowbrook Public School, she always loved working with kids.  After spending a year at the Holy Blossom campus as a teaching assistant in Ashleigh Rosenthal’s class she decided to go into teaching. Nine years on, “I’m constantly finding new ways to teach my students.”

Another passion of hers: camp. For 13 years Jenna was first a camper, then a staff member at Camp Timberlane. Along with dancing, it was her favourite thing to do as a kid. “Camp people just get it,” she says, and it’s a tradition she hopes will continue with her own children.

What if she wasn’t a teacher? “I’d be a chef.” Her passion extends to cooking and baking everything, though she admits having a soft spot for a good Loblaws cake.

So what do you get when a teacher at LB has so much passion?  
You get someone who loves what she does and brings it with her every day when she enters the school and impresses it in young minds.

Jenna Facts:
  • Loves sour candy
  • Loves children
  • Grew up in Markham – attended Thornlea Secondary
  • Gives her parents leftovers to take home from her family meals
  • She’s most proud of starting her own family



By Josefa Michaelson



Octavia Oosterhuis



Parent at Leo Baeck North

Family. It is something Octavia Oosterhuis values more than anything. Born and raised in the Little Portugal neighbourhood of Toronto by parents who came from the Azores, family was always at the centre of her upbringing. As were languages.

Her mother tongue is Portuguese and soon followed by English in school. Her ear and fascination for languages and their histories quickly developed, leading her to become fluent in French and Italian and pretty comfortable in Spanish (to name a few) with an eventual degree in linguistics. It is very fitting that she married a fairly fluent Hebrew speaker.


Why Leo Baeck? She always knew her children would attend Hebrew day school and recalls her first visit, “it was a warm feeling.” Giving credit to her children’s teachers and the extra steps they take to care for them, she sees how her children are changing and growing every day. Getting involved was never a question and she started volunteering as a Grade Captain, which has slowly turned into more involvement. So what language does her family speak at home? Mainly English...with a smattering of Hebrew, Portuguese and French. But it doesn’t matter, because she’s with family.



Octavia Facts:
  • Her parents come from Sao Miguel Island, the largest one in the Azores
  • Started in product development in the automotive & architectural industries
  • She is an independent consultant for Rodan + Fields
  • Is touched by the extra steps her children’s teachers have taken
  • She is the CEO of her household

By Josefa Michaelson




Saturday, February 20, 2016

Aviva Sinuk



Preschool and elementary teacher at Leo Baeck North

From learning banjo and harmonica just last summer to a lifelong passion for modern dance and painting, Aviva Sinuk is forever in pursuit of ways to express her creativity. She finds enjoyment in sharing the arts with others, both her peers and her students.

Since her years living on kibbutzim throughout Israel, and working in the Beit Yeladim and Gan (continually with children), she has always felt that her natural place was to work with young children.

Fast forward to the present, she has the same passion and energy. "Each new school year is a brand new beginning," says Aviva. "Every September it's exciting to greet a new group of smiling faces."

She is drawn to Jewish storytelling and the paths people take in their lives, be they personal, spiritual, or artistic. Working with children is a natural fit. 

“Children are like flowers. With love and nurturing, they flourish and grow." 


By Josefa Michaelson