Canadian Synagogue Stands Up for the Milennium Development Goals
At the close of Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar, Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl called for Congregation Beth Tzedec, the largest synagogue community in Canada, to stand up and make noise on behalf of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Ne'ilah, the concluding worship service of the 25 hour fast, takes its name from the tradition of the locking of the gates of the ancient Jerusalem Temple at sunset. This day of introspection, takes on a heightened sense of urgency because of the closing of the day of penitence and prayer.
At the start of the ninety minutes of worship, the Rabbi reminded people of the challenge of the prophet Isaiah, read earlier that day: "This is the fast I desire...unlock the fetters of evil and untie the cords of the oppressed....Share your bread with the hungry and take the poor into your home, clothe the naked and do not ignore your flesh. Then shall your light burst through like the dawn" (Isaiah 58).
During the service, the Ark, which holds the sacred scrolls of the Torah, remains open and it is customary for people to stand throughout the prayers. Rabbi Frydman-Kohl called upon the congregation of Conservative Jews to use the tradition of standing to reflect on their personal spiritual issues and to use the opportunity to stand up for the MDGs, a set of broadly supported, comprehensive and measurable development goals for the globe, including targets for poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, shelter, gender inequality, environmental degradation and the formation of a global partnership for development.
Over 2500 people heard the Rabbi urge them to imagine themselves as if they were the prophet Elijah, the harbinger of the messianic era, and to assume a mantle of courage, justice and compassion for others.
Encouraged to address the issue by Danny Richmond, a Tony Blair Fellow, the rabbi reminded those in synagogue that "while we fast and engage in self-affliction for one day, others live with the challenges of poverty, illness, and lack of shelter throughout the year".
At the conclusion of the service, led musically by Cantor Simon Spiro, a shofar (ram's horn) is sounded in a long, loud blast and the community shouts out "Next year in Jerusalem", a statement of the classic Jewish hope for a redeemed world. This year, at Beth Tzedec, the noise of the ram's horn also served to remind world leaders of the urgency of the need to act to attain the MDGs and realize the ancient and contemporary dream of a global community where "everyone shall sit under the vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid".
Rav Baruch Frydman-Kohl
Anne and Max Tanenbaum Rabbinic Chair
Beth Tzedec Congregation