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We hit a huge milestone this week when we debuted on BC Business’ list of the Top 10 charities in the province! Thank you so much to each and every one of you who has chosen to support the community through the Federation Annual Campaign, contributions to endowments at the Jewish Community Foundation, and by funding special projects. You have placed your trust in us, which we value immensely, and we will continue to go from strength to strength together. Todah rabah.
This is the first of two Shabbat Messages where we will share a little more about the speakers at our Annual Campaign Opening Night, which we will be live streaming on September 8th. First up is Sarah Hurwitz. Sarah spoke with staff at Hillel International earlier this year, and we are bringing you an excerpt from Shana Medel’s blog post about her talk to give you an idea of who you’ll hear from on Opening Night.
In her book, she explores the modern relevancy of ancient Jewish scripture. Reviewers have lauded Hurwitz, once a self-described “quintessential lapsed Jew,” for making Judaism accessible and entertaining as she reflects on her own rediscovery of Judaism.
“The mistake we often make in the Jewish community is to assume that basic Jewish literacy doesn’t matter,” Hurwitz said. “It’s to assume that you can have a meaningful experience in Judaism without knowing anything about Judaism.”
Reflecting on her years as a political speechwriter, Hurwitz said her entire career has been in service of the Jewish concept B’tselem Elohim, meaning human beings are created in the image of God.
“We’re all infinitely worthy, equal and fundamentally unique,” Hurwitz said. “That Jewish idea of infinite worthiness and uniqueness is the core animating idea of every speech I’ve written.”
Opening Night isn’t the only event we have coming up in September. You can pencil in our Annual General Meeting on September 30th, which includes the election of our board of directors. Look for more information about the AGM coming your way in the next couple of days.
Basic Jewish literacy, to which Sarah referred, is something on the minds of parents throughout our community, as we gear up for the start of the school year, followed shortly after by the High Holydays. Just as Passover became Zoomover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are going to feel very different this year. Many parents will be looking for meaningful ways to engage their children in the holidays at home. It isn’t always easy, and that’s why we've stepped in to help.
Our PJ Library program has organized a fantastic initiative with partners from across the community to create special Rosh Hashanah boxes for families to make this year’s High Holydays memorable—and fun! The boxes will have crafts, recipes, games, and ideas for celebrating the High Holydays at home. Boxes will be customized for families and will have enough items for every child.
To learn more or register, visit jewishvancouver.com/pj-box.
We would like to thank the following organizations and programs for partnering with us on this new program: Beth HaMidrash, Beth Israel, Beth Tikvah, BI Neighborhoods, Connect Me In, East Side Jews, Har El, Or Shalom, Schara Tzedeck, and Temple Sholom. Together, we are going to help families get ready for a sweet New Year.
That isn’t the only program we have on the go for children right now. We have launched our new JSprouts Judaism through the arts after-school program, which will start on September 17. Taught by Mahla Finkleman, the program aims to engage children in kindergarten through grade three who attend public schools or are home schooled. This past Sunday, we held the first of two socially distanced summer programs for interested families. Families brought their own picnic blankets; learned the meaning of, and shared ideas about chessed (kindness); made beaded friendship bracelets; and just enjoyed connecting. For more information about our next family event on August 30th or the fall program, check out the Jewish Federation website.
The programs we present, whether they be for children and families or to kick off the Annual Campaign, are all in service of making our community stronger, more vibrant, and more resilient, now and for years to come. Our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), has a role to play, too.
One of their policy priorities is combatting online hate—including on social media. Last week, CIJA was one of the lead organizations who wrote to implore Mark Zuckerberg and the leadership team at Facebook to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism as a tool to help identify and shut down anti-Semitic posts.
In response, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “… the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism has been invaluable – both in informing our own approach, and as a point of entry for candid policy discussions with organizations like yours. We will continue to refine our policy lines as speech and society evolve – and appreciate your help and expertise identifying how attacks change over time.”
CIJA is following up with Facebook, and will continue to work with government and engage social media companies on our community’s behalf to create a safer environment online for us, for our children, and for all Canadians.
Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer