From the Pulpit: First impressions, north of the border

By Rabbi Gavriel Rudin, Young Israel of Ottawa

Born and raised in the United States, I did not know what to expect upon moving to Canada. Americans tend to think of Canada as a cold distant suburb of the U.S., but somehow I get the impression that Canadians had a different view on the matter, eh?

The first thing I must say is that Canadians definitely have a lot of pride in their country. I think I saw more red maple leafs in the first week I was here than in an entire maple tree forest. The light and sound show on Parliament Hill this past summer was an amazing display of all that Canadians have to be proud of.

Canadian politeness is definitely a welcome change, having grown up a stone’s throw away from New York City (New Yorkers are not necessarily rude, they just have their own special way of displaying affection and compassion). But in all honesty, my welcome to Canada and the Ottawa Jewish community has been truly amazing.

I often say that living in a Jewish community of our size, we are just too small not to get along. I have said that in the past, regarding other Jewish communities of similar sizes, but here I feel like I am preaching to the choir. The warm welcome I received from Jews across the Jewish spectrum, both from leadership and laypeople, has made my family and me feel valued and right at home. I feel privileged to have joined a diverse, yet united, team of Jews, dedicated to community growth and advancement. I strongly believe that this is how all Jewish communities were meant to be. While we may be different and may have different views and opinions, we share common goals and work together to achieve them, each adding our own unique piece to the greater puzzle.

Evidence of the need for community unity can be found when analyzing the very first “Jewish community” in all of history. When the Jews left the land of Egypt and spent 40 years wandering in the desert, the Torah details the formation in which they camped. The Tabernacle was in the middle, surrounded by the 12 tribes, each with its own special place. The commentaries compare this encampment to the shape of an old fashioned spoked wagon wheel. Can you picture it? There is a centre point and there are 12 spokes spreading out from the centre in different directions. Each tribe was different and lived their lives in different ways. Each had different strengths and weaknesses, and each had something different to contribute to the greater good. Despite their differences, they were all anchored to the same point in the middle, their service to God, represented by the Tabernacle.

The same is true with our communities. We are all different, and have our own strengths and weaknesses. However, as long as we can remain connected to the core values that keep us coming together toward a common goal, our differences will be the key to our success, not our undoing.

My first impression of this community is one of unity and direction. I believe that we are well on our way to continued growth and success, within the Jewish community and out. I am proud and excited to be a part of the Jewish Ottawa community!