As Jews, we can easily imagine what it was like for our relatives (and some of us) to come to Canada as new immigrants without a firm grasp of the language, culture or local customs. Then think back to what our first Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur services would have been like in Canada — our new home? While seeming familiar, also how new everything would seem in this unfamiliar geographic and cultural context.
Fast forward to July 2016 and the experience of thousands of Syrian newcomers and their families experiencing their first Ramadan fast and Eid celebration in Canada… this is why the Danforth Multifaith Community group, of which the Danforth Jewish Circle is one of the founding members, decided to create delicious Eid gift baskets to be distributed to Syrian newcomer families in the east end.
The idea came from committee member Mrs. Tasleem Riaz, of the Pakistani Community Centre, who thought that inviting these newcomer families to big gatherings or parties when they were still so new to the country (and had been through so much to get here) would be a bit overwhelming. She suggested an alternative — Eid gift baskets that we would deliver in small groups (Jew, Muslim, Christian, unitarian & atheist from our small planning committee) of two or three people.
And on July 4th and 5th we did just that. Showed up with our Eid gift baskets at eight different homes:
Pictured above are: DJC members, Karen Robbins & Eve-Lynn Stein; and Mrs. Tasleem Riaz & her daughter Syeda, from the Pakistani Community Centre & representing the Madinah Masjid.
Each Eid gift basket was “halal” & chock full of goodies. Including: a 10-pound bag of basmati rice; two kinds of dates; biscotti; halavah; baklava sweets; chocolate Loony coins; sprigs of fresh mint for tea from Ann Temple’s (of Glen Rhodes United Church) garden; nuts assortment; variety of Canadian chocolate bars and candy; a house plant; and individual gifts (toys and crafts) specially chosen for each of the family’s children.
The experience was quite wonderful… here is what some of our committee members had to say about it:
Eve-Lynn Stein (Danforth Jewish Circle)
”As members of the Multi-faith group, we are always looking for opportunities to work together as a group and all felt that it would be a wonderful experience for all of us to welcome these families to Canada. We knew that it was doubtful that they would have had many experiences of Jews, Christians, Muslims and Unitarian Universalists coming together and certainly not coming to their homes, bearing gifts. We were greeted with huge smiles and an enormous amount of gratitude at each family’s door, which of course made all the planning we had done over the last few months. so worth every moment.”
Sue McNay (Eastminster United Church)
“What a privilege it was to finally visit the families we had prepared Eid baskets for last week. I can only pray that the warmth and hospitality with which we were received marks the experiences they have had in Canada to date. I will never forget their open welcome, their smiling faces and their beautiful expressions of gratitude. We were blessed that day – may it have been a day of blessing for them as well.”
Reverend Rod Solano-Quesnel (Neighbourhood Unitarian & Universalist Congregation)
“It was very encouraging to see some of the faces of the people who are seeking – and finding – a welcoming home in Canada… and it was very gratifying to be able to offer that “Welcome!” face-to-face! In putting together baskets for refugees’ first Ramadan and Eid in Canada, it was important for us to be deeply aware of cultural and dietary needs, which was also a great opportunity for us to get to know our neighbours of different faiths a bit better! It’s one thing to know about the practice of Ramadan “academically”, but there is a fuller and richer reality in seeing members of our Mulitfaith Community honour that tradition, just as people around the world and newcomers to Canada also honour this practice of spiritual deepening.”