A Conversation With Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, Founder of Dirshu and President of Davpart
“We are witnessing throughout the world and in America as well, the absence of decency and dignity in human conduct. We hope this day will mark and be a starting point for discussion.”
I had the pleasure to interview Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter. Rabbi Hofstedter is the founder and leader of Dirshu, a global education initiative. Dirshu was designed to bring a high level of Torah study and accountability to Jews around the world, using tests and stipends. The program has engaged more than 150,000 participants in high level independent study since its inception two decades ago.
Rabbi Hofstedter is also the author of the Dorash Dovid series of books that analyzes every section, event and commandment in the Torah and the Jewish festivals and focus on the inner depth of the Torah’s message.
Rabbi Hofstedter is also the president of the Toronto real estate and property management firm, Davpart.
In 2015 Rabbi Hofstedter spearheaded an annual Day of Jewish Unity. Every year this event, spearheaded by , has thousands of people participating across the globe and in the United States. It will be observed this year on September 7th. Because this event focuses on praying for peace and stability in the world and treating each other in a civil manner, many non-Jews from both sides of the political aisle from conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Anthony Scaramucci to liberals like commentator and attorney Danielle McLaughlin have endorsed this day in which we all commit to treating each other with civility.
Thank you so much for joining us. Why did you come up with the concept of a Day of Jewish Unity?
Discord and divisiveness is tearing apart the civilized world more than any time in recent history. No group is immune from the repercussions, including the Jewish community. There was a great need to attempt to do something to unify. The time was compelling.
How do you think this might make a long-term impact beyond a single day?
We are actively promoting awareness and encouraging groups to continue to reach out and have positive dialogue.
How do you think this might make an impact on the broader world?
Movements frequently start in small and unexpected ways. Hopefully, the awareness of the issues of discord/divisiveness will act as a catalyst for others to spring into action.
What are Jews supposed to do on this day to show their solidarity to one another?
Pray and make a commitment to be civil to one another and to make a commitment not gossip or slander others.
What are the people praying for?
A world of peace, stability and civility.
Do you ask that they recite any particular prayers? Why those?
During the hours of 7 am-2 pm they are supposed to say two particular prayers. They are two passages of psalms, chapters 20 and 130. We chose those prayers because they ask for God’s protection and salvation.
Is there a reason why you chose this particular day on the calendar?
There was a rabbi named Israel Meir Kagen, but he was called the Chofetz Chaim which was actually the name of his greatest work and relates to the verse is the psalms: “Who is the one that loves life? One that guards his tongue from evil.” He loved life and devoted his to writing against speaking gossip and slander. His work today is more meaningful than it ever has been before and we choose a particular day each year that marks the anniversary of his passing which was in 1933.
Since this famous rabbi wrote against speaking ill of one another, would you like non-Jews to participate in this program as well?
Even though this day was originally envisioned as day of unity for Jews, we encourage others to pray on this day for peace and stability in Israel and the world at large and we also encourage everyone to use this day as a starting point towards treating each other with more civility. We are witnessing throughout the world and in America as well, the absence of decency and dignity in human conduct. We hope this day will mark and be a starting point for discussion.
Do you think in the U.S. we can change our trajectory in terms of how we have such vitriol for opposing political teams? What do you suggest be done to change the vitriol?
We can change it but it will be difficult. Like all grass roots movements, it will take a group of dedicated people. Influential activists must mobilize. People need to speak out against the vitriol.
Is a Jewish Unity event difficult to pull off?
It is not easy but it is our fourth year and is gaining momentum. We have an increasing number of organizations, business, schools and individuals who are participating. We have many people all across the United States and throughout the world that are actively getting involved.
Are the differences among Jewish groups so strong that coming together is difficult?
You have to start somewhere. We are one people with many different views but I am sure if we can learn to talk civilly to one another, we can see that there is much we can agree on.
If that is the case, why do you think you can be successful where others have not?
There always comes a tipping point when the problem becomes so apparent and the need so great. With heartfelt dedication remarkable things are possible.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Originally published at medium.com