Special to the Glebe Shul blog: Reflections on Jack Layton from Rabbi Aaron Levy

Rabbi Aaron Levy of Makom in Toronto writes this piece about his chavruta experience with Jack Layton:

Dear friends,

As a community, we join the rest of Canada in mourning the death of Jack Layton, Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, former Toronto city councillor, and our neighbour in downtown Toronto. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.

I had the privilege of meeting Jack last summer. Although not Jewish, he and his partner Olivia Chow had kept up the mezuzah that was already on the doorway of their home, where a rabbi lived in the early twentieth century.  Jack was curious as to the mezuzah’s contents and, connected through a friend in common, asked me to teach him about it.  I biked over with a Hebrew-English humash (Torah book) and we spoke at length about the meanings of the mezuzah, which we temporarily removed from the doorframe for closer inspection, along with the histories of his home and downtown Toronto, and our personal stories.  I came away with a deep respect for Jack and his spiritual sensitivity, inquisitiveness, down-to-earth friendliness, and ethics.

 Jack’s inspiring parting words summon us to repair our world:

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity…  My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

 May his memory be a blessing.

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