It’s been about two years since I started filling this space with my musings on parenthood, framed through a Jewish lens.
In a letter to the editor (September 18), Alyce Baker wondered aloud whether some of the subjects I’ve raised have been addressed by the community leadership.
Thanks Alyce, for taking the time to write. Thanks to all of you, really, who’ve told me personally, or via likes or shares on Facebook, that you’ve enjoyed some of what I’ve been writing over this time.
It’s not just Alyce’s letter prompting this column but also the excellent sermon delivered by my rabbi, Eytan Kenter, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
If you haven’t read it, go, now, to the Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI) website, have a read and then come back. http://tinyurl.com/y8ujjjhv
While I was in shul on Rosh Hashanah, I didn’t hear Rabbi Kenter’s sermon. I was downstairs at KBI’s family service. For the second year in row, Rabbi Deborah Zuker put together a program that was meaningful for both adults and young children alike – equal parts prayer and play – and kol hakovod to her for doing it.
Rabbi Zuker was the first to respond publicly to one of my columns – the one where I talked about wanting to find a way to be with other Jewish families on Saturday mornings that was more Shabbat-like than a Monkey Rock class but less, shall we say, rigid, than a traditional Shabbat at shul.
She wrote a letter then outlining the ways KBI was hoping to fill that gap and in the months since, there have been dozens of wonderful family programs we’ve come to really enjoy. I know other shuls are equally trying to incorporate the needs of young families into their rituals and celebrations.
In the aftermath of the column, the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) also reached out to me and suggested they’d be willing to open the doors on Saturday morning for Jewish-themed programming. The take-away for me was that I’d have to be willing to run it, and in truth, life intervened and it was an idea that just never got off the ground.
But that the SJCC was open to some Saturday programming is in my view a good sign and brings me back to Rabbi Kenter’s sermon. You’ve read it by now, right? Good.
One of the crucial points he raises, in my view, is the extent to which inclusivity – a major buzzword in Federation circles these days – means as much as it could here in Ottawa. He cites a few examples where people are being (and I’ll use the word though he doesn’t) basically discriminated against based on which synagogue they do or don’t attend.
He cites examples like use of the community mikvah or the fact that he’s not allowed to supervise kashrut in the kitchen at his own shul.
If our community is truly dedicated to the notion of inclusivity, why was it when several Jewish institutions representing all walks of Jewish life were defaced last year with hateful graffiti, a community unity rally was held on a Saturday at a synagogue well beyond walking distance for so many others who are shomer Shabbat?
One of the reasons I think PJ Library programming grows in popularity is because its true aim is to reach Jewish people across the religious spectrum. For that reason, sometimes I think it’s unfortunate that those in attendance don’t often represent that spectrum.
We need to all stand together to build true community – and no matter our religious perspectives, in an era of rising anti-Semitism, the strength of that community must be paramount above all others. As we know all too well from not just the past – which shul you attend matters not at all to those who hate us.
I raised in a recent column the question of whether PJ Library ought to continue to be free, and whether it motivates people to go beyond passively attending events to also give of their time or money.
Turns out, the folks at PJ Library did ask participants that question in a survey and the answer is a general yes – I heard about it directly from them a few weeks ago.
So, yes, much has changed in the landscape of our community since I started writing, and many good things have begun to happen. But we need to keep working at it to make it better for all of us.