Eulogy for Richard Da Costa

Oct. 14, 1953 - Dec. 18, 2015 Elder of Kehillat Eytz Chaim/ Tree of Life Congregation, Toronto Former President, Messianic Jewish Alliance of Canada
Given by Ben Volman, December 23, 2015

In the many years that Richard and I worked on the High Holy Day services, we never found the right time or moment to include a beautiful little prayer called Ahavat Olam, but I’m going to say a bit of it now, because it says in ancient words the way that Richard often made me feel about the faith we shared:
You have loved Israel, your people, with everlasting love. You have taught us Torah and precepts….Therefore, Lord our God, when we lie down and when we rise up, we will meditate on Your truth for all time and take joy in the Scriptures because they are our life and the length of our days. …Baruch ata Adonai oh-hehv ah-moh Yisrael.Blessed are you, O Lord, who loves Israel your people.
With all his heart and all his passion for God, Richard loved Israel and the God of Israel who sent the Messiah wh…

Writing that book...Part 2

After an extensive period of interviews with Elaine Markovic in the spring and summer of 2008, she became severely ill--her battle with cancer had resumed. In the fall, I had briefly shown her a selection of the manuscript, which she found unsatisfactory, but we looked forward to more meetings. It never happened. We only spoke once more on the phone;  she passed away just a few days after her birthday in early May of 2009.

In the aftermath, speaking with her daughters, we began to talk about another book emerging from our initial vision. In the closing months of 2009, I began to realize the scale of my new task—an extensive book on the full story of the Zeidman family. I studied one of my favourite authors, Pierre Berton, a master of the history genre—he gives useful insight about his transition from a popular journalist into a highly regarded author.Following his advice, I could see there was much more work to be done—researching, interviews, many more leads to follow.

My plan was t…

How Did I Come To Write The Story Of The Scott Mission? Part 1

Back in the spring of 1980, while I was a theology student at Knox College, I took a history course in the Social Gospel of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was an eye-opener—introducing me to Christians who wanted to see genuine Biblical principles applied in society. They went after wealthy church-going landlords whose tenants couldn’t get indoor plumbing and employers who had children working in mines and textile mills. Leaders of the social gospel insisted that the character of Christianity should match the priorities of Messiah.
Those were great stories, yet someone else had drawn my attention. In the centre of our library was a display case with a Torah scroll. It was donated by a Knox graduate, Rev. Morris Zeidman, founder of the Scott Mission on his return from Europe—a trip that had taken place after WWII to his native Poland.
That small Torah scroll with its polished brass breastplate and silver yad (the pointer for use on the scroll) was a touching artifact, remindi…

He Brought Light to the City: A Tribute to Morris Zeidman

This fall, The Scott Mission will publish More Than Miracles, my new book on the story of this beloved downtown ministry:  "The Miracle on Spadina."  The book provides some very special insights from the late Elaine Zeidman Markovic, the daughter of its founders, Morris and Annie Zeidman.  But the first section focuses on the accomplishments of Elaine's remarkable father, Morris.

Morris Zeidman (1894-1964) was one of the most revered and visionary Hebrew Christians of the 20th century. In the spring of 1912, he arrived in Toronto from Poland, wandering through its teeming, poverty-stricken Jewish district, a penniless immigrant. No one could have foretold that he would rise from obscurity in one of the most WASP cities in North America to be acclaimed by his city and his country as “Canadian Citizen of the Year” half a century later.

How did Zeidman earn such respect? It's surprising that his primary identity was "your missionary to the Jewish people"—yes,…

Why the Holocaust Matters: A Presentation at Tyndale University and Seminary Nov. 10, 2014

I want to begin by talking about the audacity of evil.  In the spring of 1931, Adolf Hitler was interviewed by Richard Breiting, editor-in-chief of a right-wing Leipzig newspaper (Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten). The notes of those interviews were later reprinted in a book, Unmasked, published around 1968.  The book reveals not only that the Fuehrer’s plans for the destruction of the Jewish people were not only fully formed by this time, but that he didn’t fear the interference of any of Germany’s considerable scholarly, political or religious leaders, nor did he fear much outside interference either.  He boldly stated that he’d carry out his program and none of the nation’s moral or intellectual leaders would interfere –and if they tried, they wouldn’t stop him. He was right. The audacity of evil continues to surprise us. Germany considered itself the heart and intellectual leader of Christian civilization—how did the enormity of hate so completely consume its people that the shame s…