While sitting at the dinner table this past Monday night, my parents told me they were trying to invite some of our next door neighbours for this friday night shabbos meal. This gesture struck me as very surprising, since not only do we not talk to some of our neighbours that often, but most of them were also pretty far from being considered observant Jews.
Upon asking why we were doing this, I was presented with a pamphlet advertising a very intriguing initiative geared towards the observant Jewish community in Toronto.
“The Shabbos Inspire Experience Toronto & Thornhill” is the name of a dynamic one-time (or should I say “one-shabbos”) only initiative with the purpose of bringing observant and non-observant Jews of Toronto together in a shabbos atmosphere. Simply put, it’s a massive city-wide kiruv initiative to reach out to less affiliated Jews in Toronto and invite them for a shabbos meal in the homes of observant Jews.
Several shuls, synagogues, community groups and other organizations have already signed up to take part in this unprecedented (or I can’t remember the last time this was tried, if it was tried) initiative set for the shabbos of Friday April 30-May 1st (Parshas Emor).
I have to admit, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Yeah I was quick to criticize another multi-community initiative a few months ago, I really think this initiative has potential – and not just because the goal is kiruv.
If you’ve noticed, I’ve used the word “initiative” many times already because, honestly I can’t think of a better term to describe this program (and not because I lack a wider range of vocabulary). But calling it an initiative is what makes it so promising. This is a call to arms to all observant Jews in Toronto take a little initiative and open up to those who haven’t experienced the true awesomeness of shabbos.
And for those who may be hesitant and uncertain about taking such an initiative, the group spearheading the program – Project Inspire, has created an elaborate 8-page pamphlet, which clearly outlines not only the goal of the initiative but a step-by-step guideline of how to properly go ahead with opening up your home to others. The guidelines include a variety of tips and explanations from easy things like what’s the point of washing our hands, how to invite graciously people without coming off as condescending, to general tips of decorum one should keep in mind so as not to alienate or confuse your guests. One of my favourite tips of that nature includes the recommendation of:
“Explaining all Hebrew words used in conversation and keep in mind that only Yeshivish people understand Yeshivish.”
Yeah that second part is kind of humorous and probably obvious to many Jews regularly involved in kiruv, but nonetheless some people may not understand how little things like this that can unfortunately make a big impact on the experience. And no I didn’t pick this one just because I like picking on condescending FFB’s, but because it illustrates how dynamic this list is in regards to any sort of issues a hosting family may come up with in this situation.
Here’s a link to the 8-page pamphlet. Listed on the first page of the pamphlet as well as the on the image below are the names of shuls/groups involved if you wish to contact them as well to either get involved or make an inquiry about the program.