TORONTO — In an unprecedented display of unity, the Orthodox Jewish community in the Clanton Park-Downsview area came together for an evening of memorial, study and prayer at Clanton Park Synagogue July 29.
The event was attended by several hundred participants and co-sponsored by 14 Orthodox synagogues in the Bathurst-Wilson and Bathurst-Sheppard area whose denominations included chassidic, “yeshivish,” Sephardi and modern Orthodox, plus two kolels.
“A Night of Unity Through Torah,” as it was called, aimed to bind the community in commemoration of the three Israeli teenagers killed in mid-June and in prayer for the Israeli Defence Forces soldiers currently embroiled in fighting
“We started planning it for the shloshim – the 30 days since the boys were killed – as a memorial, but, with the war happening, it also became a night of prayer for the war,” explained Clanton Park spiritual leader Rabbi Yehoshua Weber, who conceived of the idea.
“We figured, what better way than bringing all the shuls together and having every rabbi give a class?”
He said he believes it’s the first time all of the neighbourhood’s Orthodox congregations have officially collaborated to sponsor an event.
In response to why they chose this moment to unify, Rabbi Weber said that “people [in the community] were touched by the shloshim, then the war added urgency, and there’s a sincere belief among us that prayer helps and coming together as a community helps.”
The evening featured 23 classes led by different rabbis and held concurrently in the synagogue’s social hall.
They included, for men, a session on civilian casualties in time of war and one on asymmetrical warfare in Halachah, and, for women, a class on the Torah perspective on pain and suffering and one on messages from the forefathers and foremothers on marriage, child-rearing and relationships.
After learning, the group as a whole moved to the shul’s main sanctuary, where Rabbi Weber spoke for several minutes, and then each rabbi read one portion of Tehillim, the book of Psalms that’s traditionally read during times of trouble.
Ultimately, Rabbi Weber said the event was a “huge success.”
“The Orthodox world is very big and multi-faceted, and each of these shuls has a different approach. There’s a lot of passion, and everyone channels that in different directions.”
Participating shuls included Beth Jacob V’Anshei Drildz, Beth Joseph Lubavitch (Edinburgh), Clanton Park, Congregation Emek Tefillah Hornosteipel, Kollel Yismach Moshe, Magen David Congregation, Mishkan Avraham at Ulpana, Mizrachi Bayit, Or Chaim Minyan, Petah Tikvah, Tiferes Yaakov, Torah VaAvodah, Uptown Chabad Lubavitch, Yeshiva University Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash.