Day of Jewish Unity at the Western Wall, 2016.
(photo credit: DAY OF JEWISH UNITY/DIRSHU)
Some 10,000 people are slated to attend a gathering at the Western Wall on Friday to pray for global peace and unity.
The initiative, named Day of Jewish Unity, is led by Dirshu, an international Torah organization.
The group’s outreach arm, Acheinu, launched the annual event three years ago, to commemorate the yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of Israel Meir Kagan, known as Chofetz Chaim, an influential rabbi of the Musar movement.
The initiative’s website notes that the Chofetz Chaim “taught the severity of the sin of leshon hara – speaking gossip or ill of another.”
“Considering today’s polarizing environment and dangerously high level of hostility wreaking havoc across the world, Acheinu is spearheading an initiative to join thousands of people around the world for a Day of Jewish Unity,” it continues.
Since this year’s event falls on a Friday, the logistics of the event, usually held at the Chofetz Chaim’s grave in Radun, Poland, became more complicated due to Shabbat, and therefore the main event will be held at the Kotel this year, with buses coming from all over Israel.
It is expected to be a primarily Orthodox Jewish affair – with participants from various sectors of that denomination – but several non-Jews have publicly thrown their weight behind the event, including Evangelical Christian multimillionaire Foster Stephen Friess, Clinton supporter and political commentator Danielle McLaughlin, and Donald Trump supporter and commentator Harlan a joint article calling for unity.
“The Jewish world is an apt metaphor in many ways for our country: There are various groups and subgroups who have different beliefs and agendas and who often are at odds with one another.
And yet, these groups are able to put aside their disagreements to come together in peace and prayer. We knew we could, too,” they wrote in an opinion piece published on Foxnews.com on Tuesday.
According to Acheinu, 1 million people around the globe joined in the initiative last year, which calls on participants to recite Psalms, chapters 20 and 130, on Friday, September 15, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. This year Acheinu expects at least as many participants.
“Three years ago, part of the rallying cry was the Iran deal,” Yitzchok Saftlas, associate director of marketing and communications for Dirshu, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“Last year there were issues over the divisiveness of the US presidential election, and today, a big drive for this day is the threat posed by North Korea that is a worldwide threat, as well as global antisemitism,” he said, specifically referring to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last month, as well as recent and ongoing natural disasters, as focal points for prayer.
“Jews have historically turned to prayer to bring positive changes to the world,” a statement released by Dirshu said ahead of the event. “This Day of Jewish Unity is a call to action to pray for peace and stability in light of the dangerous circumstances we are facing in the world both domestically and internationally.
“There was a time when people could agree to disagree,” it continued. “There was a time when we could disagree with each other without insulting one another. Can we go back to a time when we treat each other with respect and without violence?”