One very cold, very dark evening in the middle of a particularly brutal Canadian winter, four cars were parked outside a home on a deserted side street of our Thornhill neighborhood.
Inside the home, five women were huddled around the dining room table, animatedly discussing and planning. Over herbal tea and low-fat cranberry cookies, the five women, representing different synagogues and outreach centers in our area, shared their dream and vision.
The last few months had been particularly difficult for all of us. As part of the Jewish nation, we collectively shared our pain, suffering, worries and prayers. The Mumbai tragedy had hit us all hard, and before recovering, we once again found ourselves gathered tensely in prayers as our valiant soldiers entered Gaza to defend our people and Land, while misguided and hate-filled protesters the world-over furiously objected against our right to self-defense, and, in some cases, called for our destruction.
And so, gathered around that table, we shared our thoughts. We had a vision; and over the next couple of hours it became more tangible, as we planned, shared, organized and planned some more.
If in difficult, tragic times we were able to gather in unity and prayers, could we do so without any impetus of danger?
We would make an evening of unity for all the women of our area – an evening when we would gather together, disregarding all our differences but focusing solely on our similarities. For that night (and hopefully more to follow) we would look beyond the disparities in our philosophies, customs or value systems. It wouldn’t matter what our level of observance was or wasn’t, how or whether we opted to cover our hair, what choices we made in educating our children, or the level of kashrut that we did or didn’t keep in our homes.
For the terrorists of Mumbai and Gaza, these differences were clearly insignificant in their keen desire to destroy us all. And now, we too, would make a gathering of unity where these distinctions would not separate us.
It took work and planning, several email exchanges and a bunch of phone calls. But for the first time in Toronto’s history, a flyer advertising our women’s evening of unity proudly bore the logos of three synagogues and outreach centers that hitherto had never worked together.
In our special evening, each community would be represented, whether through the main inspirational speakers or in the preliminary words of greetings, whether in coordinating the “ice breaker” activity or in being the venue to host the event.
As the advertisements began to be distributed, more and more synagogues – even those whose original reaction was lukewarm or whose adult education schedule was already too full – asked to join and be a part of this evening.
The result? This week, those initial five women are meeting once again. This time we’re meeting to discuss an even bigger follow-up event, because the most-repeated feedback from the overflowing crowds that attended was, “This is great! When’s the next unity evening being planned?
Because the Jewish People is tired of suffering, we are ready to join together – in unison – as G-d’s chosen people. We are coming to a collective, intuitive realization that we share too much to be divided over the petty differences that break us apart.
And so, as we plan for hopefully bigger and better programs in our Thornhill community, I now have a new dream.
Now I am dreaming that these “unity evenings” will spread to more and more communities, male and female, all across our city, all across Canada, North America and the world over.
I dream that we will become big enough people to see beyond our small differences.
And I dream that despite our differences, we will be able to appreciate the good in each other and work with one another to accomplish our joint goal of bringing more goodness to our world.
Do you, too, share my dream?
Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute video cast on www..chabad.org/intouch for your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers -Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at [email protected].