I am writing this article from Brooklyn, N.Y., where I, together with 4,000 Chabad activists from across the globe, have gathered for an annual conference. We spend time attending informative workshops, networking and celebrating the extraordinary achievements of the Chabad movement.
As such, I would like to dedicate this article to the Chabad perspective on Jewish outreach and its crucial contribution to the global Jewish fabric.
First, though, allow me to digress. Last month in Ottawa, our ordinarily very safe city experienced frightening acts of repulsive vandalism that put the entire community on edge. We are grateful to the Ottawa Police Services who very quickly and professionally apprehended the suspect, allowing us to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
But, this unfortunate experience did allow our city to come together in an inspiring and moving fashion. The outpouring of support and love that was expressed from every faith group and denomination was a demonstration of the spirit of tolerance and respect that permeates our city.
These sentiments were captured at a recent rally that was organized in solidarity with the Jewish community. In the presence of more than 600 people at Congregation Machzikei Hadas, including Mayor Jim Watson and Police Chief Charles Bordeleau, Rabbi Reuven Bulka opened his remarks by saying, “Welcome to the real Ottawa.”
The ugly acts of bigotry and anti-Semitism were not reflective of the “real Ottawa,” rather this gathering of unity is what defines our proud city.
When this issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin is published, we will be two weeks away from the festival of Chanukah. Chanukah celebrates a stunning ancient defeat of a morally corrupt and dangerous superpower at the hand of a poorly trained band of courageous and God-fearing Maccabees. It was the classic victory of right over might.
It is certainly heartwarming to recognize that the display of justice in the city of Ottawa is also in the majority. The good people of Ottawa, of all races and religions, who voiced their opposition to bigotry and hatred, are the modern day Maccabees. In our city, we do not need a miracle for good to prevail because the “real Ottawa” is a beacon of positive energy and light.
In a nutshell, this is really the Chabad perspective on Jewish outreach. The objective ought not to be to impose religion on those we engage with. We are not charged with an obligation to transform people into something they are not. Rather, we have a mandate to encourage people to tune into the needs and desires of their own psyche, to make them aware of the character of their soul, of their “real” identity.
We all crave meaning and depth despite our petty temptations. These cravings emanate because of who we really are. It is the imperative of outreach activists to demonstrate how these cravings could be filled; to educate about the lasting and meaningful impact each mitzvah generates.
This is the magic of effective outreach leadership, the ability to discover one’s “real” essence, a potent power for good.