As I write, residents of Ottawa and Dunrobin who were hit by tornadoes just before Sukkot are assessing the damage to their homes and are in the process of rebuilding. Many families were affected by this traumatic event, including a large number of families from the Jewish community. Although Congregation Beit Tikvah, thankfully, did not suffer from any damage to our facility, congregants and others who live within walking distance of the shul were not so fortunate. Scenes of fallen trees and damaged homes stand out in my mind, and in the minds of others.
But, there is a flip side to this event. The coming together of community, the acts of chesed that were so amazing and touching, were performed over and over again by all kinds of people: neighbours, strangers, friends and others. An important element is what is called Hakarat Hatov, acknowledgement of that which is good, which is necessary to cite.
First, and foremost, thank God there were few injuries in Ottawa, although the story was not the same in Dunrobin. The City of Ottawa did an outstanding job in cleaning up the debris, and bringing some sense of normality to its residents who suffered. In our community, a number of thank-yous must be expressed.
Rabbi Michael Whitman of Congregation Adath Israel in Hampstead, a Montreal suburb, with help of other rabbis and community leaders in Montreal, brought to the Craig Henry area large supplies of food and other commodities for residents of this area. The Orthodox Union was also instrumental in assisting Rabbi Whitman. The rabbi was a messenger of mercy and assistance for my community, and we are appreciative of his services. I have known Rabbi Whitman for over 20 years and he is a true Baal Chesed. May Hashem bless him and his family.
Congregation Beit Tikvah, even without power for close to five days, was able to provide hot meals for our congregants on the first two days of Sukkot. Close to 300 people benefitted from this overture. Many congregants and others took people into their homes until that which was destroyed or damaged could be replaced.
We must thank the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, under the leadership of Andrea Freedman, which provided an important and considerable amount of funding to the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank to enable it to continue its holy work feeding those who are needy in the community. May Hashem bless the efforts of Federation in continuing to serve our Jewish community and institutions.
I thank all of the volunteers who helped ease the pain of those who suffered. I apologize for not mentioning them by name, as I might miss a few. Hashem will indeed bless all of their efforts. I also thank the many members of the rabbinate in Ottawa who reached out to me, offering their help and services.
On the Shabbat immediately following the tornado, my congregation collectively recited the blessing of Hagomel, in which we thank God for escaping and averting traumatic events. We came together as a community in time of need. May our spirit of community continue to inspire our lives.