A few weeks ago, my wife Shelli and I travelled to South Africa with a group of friends.
We were in Cape Town for Purim and attended Megillah readings at two different shuls. While attending services and listening to the Megillah reading, I had an “aha moment” that I would like to share.
Over the past few years, I have been privileged to attend synagogue services in many different countries and cities. What I find so interesting is that, for Jews, the spectrum of services and customs may differ, and the siddur used in the various congregations may vary, but there are always certain common prayers and tunes that remain constant.
For example, reciting Kaddish in any shul is virtually the same, although I have found that the speed level varies and can sometimes be challenging! Another staple is the singing of Aleynu near the completion of each service.
This is where the “aha moment” comes in.
In Ottawa, we are blessed to have a Jewish community that offers programming reaching out to all factions of our diverse population. This concept applies to our synagogues, our educational systems, and more. What is critical is that we respect the opinions and traditions of one another without judgment.
Our community has often demonstrated passionate responses to issues we face, and I hope this energy can be used to make us stronger, not divide us. We may not always agree, but we should disagree respectfully, offering constructive criticism rather than by complaining and maligning. It is easy to point out the negative, but then it is necessary to step up and help find solutions.
At the Passover table, we are reminded that, in adverse conditions, Moshe could not rely solely on his passion to free the Israelites from slavery, he needed the co-operation and commitment of one and all.
The parallel to my Cape Town Purim experience, and to our community in Ottawa, is that, although we may have different customs and traditions, we need to sing in harmony.
My family and I wish you all a Chag Kasher V’Sameach.
Am Yisroel Chai – b’shalom.