I am writing this column just 48 hours after Ottawa’s first ever participation in the Shabbat Project, an innovative program with the goal of getting individuals and organizations to experience Shabbat in some meaningful manner.
Did you know it is estimated that more than one million individuals around the world took part in the Shabbat Project?
In Ottawa, our numbers exceeded all expectations! More than 1,000 people participated in a variety of Shabbat activities – from Challah baking, to Shabbat dinners and Shabbat lunches and special lectures. More than 475 people gathered at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre to participate in a unity Havdalah Service and concert. Additionally, many people invited guests to their homes for intimate Shabbat dinners.
Shabbat rocked in Ottawa!
It is clear to me that we are a community of committed individuals, synagogues and organizations and, collectively, we roll up our sleeves and take actions that strengthen our community.
The motivation to make this materialize started when one individual’s passion to participate in the Shabbat Project was shared with community rabbis and the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. From that point, three weeks before the scheduled event, we witnessed harmony, co-operation and unity, powered by Federation serving as the convener and chief marketer.
It is truly amazing how we come together as one when we have a common need or goal.
Over the summer, we had similar experiences, when the Federation, in conjunction with CIJA and synagogues, gathered our community to show support for our brothers and sisters in Israel when they needed us most. Our community has a proud tradition of coming together during difficult times, and, as many observed at the unity Havdallah, it felt good to do so in the positive celebration of Shabbat. It just felt right!
How many of us make the extra effort and drop everything to attend a funeral or shiva, but think twice about travelling for a simcha? In Jewish communal life, we need to support Israel in times of crisis and we need to be vigilant against the scourge of anti-Semitism. However, equally important to living a full Jewish life, we have to celebrate Shabbat, enjoy the sweet taste of honey on Rosh Hashanah, and participate in fun, engaging and spiritually uplifting events. It is the balance that makes Federation programs such as the March of the Living so effective – from the depths of despair and suffering to the wonders of modern day Israel.
The Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s mission “to advance and promote an exceptional quality of Jewish life” spans the entire spectrum of community-building activity from the PJ Library program, providing free Jewish-themed books for young families, to Israel solidarity rallies and everything in between. And, on Saturday night, October 25, I am proud that Federation brought hundreds of Ottawans together, joining a global movement, to experience the joy and power of Shabbat.
Am Yisroel Chai, B’Shalom.