Rabbi Anthony Knopf of St. Laurent’s Beth Ora Synagogue is launching later this month the Rise Together Project, an extensive program promoting self-improvement and character development.
The themes are kindness, gratitude, honour, patience, being organized, enthusiasm, responsibility, truth and peace.
The program will involve six schools, 16 synagogues and other community organizations. Mayor Alan DeSousa and councillors Jacques Cohen and Francesco Miele, and MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos are expected to appear.
“We believe this is extremely important in an age of toxic political divisions and an increasing sense of entitlement among young people,” Rabbi Knopf says. “We also believe that religious groups need to be part of the solution to the problems of society and this is a way in which the Jewish community is taking a step in that direction.”
The Rabbi told The Suburban he was prompted to start the project from the perspective of “not so much as I see things being terrible, as much as I realize things could be so much better.
“There are things in this world which are terrible, a clear decline in the last few years partly influenced by broader political currents — the standard of discourse has devolved in the amount of respect we show to one another,” he explained. “We have another development in terms of social media... just being addicted to these gadgets. That has an impact on how we treat other people. These are clearly very big challenges and the question is — what are we going to do about that?”
Rabbi Knopf said two resources can help — “the Jewish community has our traditions and ideas, and I think we need to put more out there how Judaism can help us to frame these challenges of how to continue to show respect for people, even if we don’t agree with them, and not be absorbed in our gadgets and understand there’s a human being standing before you.
“The second resource is the capacity of community,” he added. “We know from sociology, particularly Robert Putnam, that communities have a tremendous capacity to motivate people to do good.... When you bring schools and synagogues together, and you have a united message... and we’re on the same page working together, that’s the kind of energy we need in the community to strengthen our positive direction.”
The sessions in local Jewish schools will be taking place May 21 to 24, the sermons will be taking place Saturday May 25 and the community activities will take place May 26
The participating schools include Bialik, Hebrew Foundation School, Herzliah, Hebrew Academy, Chabad Hebrew School, Hebrew Academy High School, Yeshiva Yavne and École Maimonide.
The participating synagogues are The Adath in Hampstead, Beth Israel Beth Aaron in Côte St. Luc, Beth Zion in Côte St. Luc, Centre Chabad on Van Horne; Chabads of Chomedey, Côte St. Luc, Bois Franc, Dollard des Ormeaux, NDG, and Westmount; the Chevra Kadisha, Chevra Chaas, Beth Ora in St. Laurent, the Montreal Torah Centre in Hampstead, Or Shalom in Dollard des Ormeaux, Shomrim Laboker, Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem and the Chai Centre.
The programs on Sunday May 26 include:
• At The Adath in Hampstead — “Learning about gratitude and kindness, followed by activities for all ages themed around these character traits.”
• At Beth Ora in St. Laurent, “learning about gratitude and kindness, followed by activities for all ages themed around these character traits” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• At Or Shalom in Dollard des Ormeaux, for children only from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., “story time and learning session for children followed by kindness and gratitude activity stations.”
• At MADA in Cote des Neiges, “learning about gratitude and volunteering for all ages” from 10 a.m to 1 p.m.
For more information about the project, call 514-714-6559 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.