July 1, 2014
For as long as I can remember, I have been hearing amazing family stories from when my beloved grandfather was the chief rabbi of Ottawa. I grew up listening to the heartfelt tunes that he wrote during his 50 years in Canada and was told over and over again of the deep love and dedication that Canadians have for Israel. Even without actually visiting Canada, I had fond feelings for the country tucked deep within my heart.
Earlier this week, I had the blessing of visiting the beautiful country of Canada for the first time to attend a special event hosted by the Jerusalem Foundation. The foundation was honoring my father Rabbi Eckstein and The Fellowship for our partnership in building the Canada House, which stands proudly in central Jerusalem and serves as a beacon of hope for poor and lonely children and elderly of the Holy City. The Fellowship in Canada donated the space that is used for activities, classes, get-togethers, and more, because we saw that this center truly is a light of hope in the darkness for so many Israelis in need.
From the moment that I landed in Canada, I felt welcomed with love. Leaders of the Jewish community accompanied me to dinner and I was greeted by Christian friends who had flown in from across the country to see me. We all came from very different walks of life, but the deep bond that connected us was our love for Israel. As dozens of Jews and Christians sat together in Toronto, we shared stories about walking on the ancient stones of Jerusalem, swimming in the Dead Sea, and tasting the utterly delicious produce of Israel. We were one. For a few divine moments we dropped the labels that set us apart and held hands in unity, love, and respect.
I then attended the special event to honor my father with a group of people so diverse that there is no disputing that these are blessed days. As together we entered the hall – a Holocaust survivor, a Canadian Christian woman, an ultra-orthodox rabbi, a Canadian Christian former MK, a religious woman from Jerusalem, and many Jewish businessmen – no one turned to look. There were no awkward whispers, criticism, or cynicism; there were only smiles, handshakes, and love.
As I looked around the room at the crowd that surrounded me, I clearly felt everyone’s passion and love for the Holy Land. I watched people cry tears of longing as they thought about Jerusalem, and I felt God smiling down on us. It was as if King David himself was joyfully singing the holy words that he wrote thousands of years ago: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
I am so proud of my father Rabbi Eckstein, not only for the honor that he received this week, but for fighting for 30 years to make that diverse, godly, and glorious evening in Canada possible. Before my father started The Fellowship 30 years ago, there was no such thing as Jewish-Christian relations and it certainly was not acceptable to partake in interfaith dialogue or mingling. My father questioned the norm, prayed to God for direction, and then broke the barriers so that I can live in a better world.
We still have a way to go, but surely we are on the right path.
With blessings from the Holy Land,