More than 400 people were on hand, Saturday evening, October 24, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC), as members of Ottawa’s Jewish community representing all of Judaism’s denominational streams came together for the Unity Havdallah ceremony and celebration ending the city’s participation in this year’s Shabbat Project Shabbat.
Ottawa was one of 550 cities around the world participating in the Shabbat Project this year. The idea was born in 2013 when South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein asked his country’s Jewish communities to observe a special Shabbat together. The idea was a tremendous success in South Africa and it spread to 212 cities around the world, including Ottawa, in 2014.
Each of Ottawa’s congregations – as well as all other organizations that offer Shabbat programming – provided some sort of special Shabbat programming on Friday night and/or Saturday, October 23 and 24, before coming together as a community for the Unity Havdallah funded by an anonymous donor.
The Shabbat Project weekend in Ottawa actually began Thursday evening, October 22, at the SJCC with the Community Challah Bake for Women organized by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. Almost 200 women came together to prepare their challahs from scratch.
The Unity Havdallah was hosted by Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman, who used the opportunity to draw attention to the urgent search for a living liver donor for Federation colleague Leslie Kaufman, who is in hospital in Toronto awaiting a needed transplant (see Page 1).
Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak said Shabbat is a time that brings Jews together. Referring to the recent wave of terrorism in Israel, Barak said Israelis are resilient and the best response is to carry on with daily routines.
“Come visit us and sustain us in difficult days,” said the ambassador. “Our unity keeps us strong as a nation and Israel strong as a country.”
Other speakers included Noah Horovitz, a Grade 10 student at Sir Robert Borden High School, who said the weekly Shabbat services at Ottawa Torah Centre, “where I feel part of a large, warm family,” have become a passion; and Sarah Waisvisz, an Or Haneshamah congregant and Ottawa Jewish Bulletin columnist.
Waisvisz said she had “no recollection of ever being invited to another family’s Shabbat dinner” after her family immigrated to Ottawa from Europe in the late-1980s and challenged the community to be more welcoming.
Tehillim was recited by Rabbi Zischa Shaps, while the Havdallah service was led by Scott Goldstein and the Ottawa Simcha Band.