December 24, 2021 | 20 Tevet 5782
This message has about 618 words and will take less than 3 minute to read.
As we settle in to welcome Shabbat, many of our friends are preparing to celebrate Christmas and/or Kwanza. Late fall and winter are times when many communities celebrate days that are holy to them, from Diwali to Lunar New Year and more. One of the wonderful things about living in Canada is how there is freedom for everyone to celebrate what is special to them, and opportunities to learn about and share in others’ meaningful rituals.
Over the decades, Rabbi Bregman cultivated relationships with leaders from a multitude of faith-based communities, which is an important part of what he brings in his new role with us as our interfaith liaison. What better day than today to ask him to guest write our Shabbat Message?
A rabbi, a minister of the United Church, a Sikh chaplain, an Asian Buddhist police officer, a Black activist, a Muslim community leader, and a former chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations* walked into a bar...
OK, it wasn't a bar. They entered a school instead. In fact, on November 24, they all walked into the King David High School to participate in a unique program for students in Grades 11 and 12.
Known as "The OTHER People," these individuals are committed to breaking down the stereotypes that form the foundation of personal and societal bias. Their aim is to expose young adults to people who have experienced discrimination based on their religious, ethnic, or cultural background. By enabling students to meet them first hand, hear their stories and ask questions, "The OTHER People" are helping to dismantle the "us vs. them" divide that leads to prejudice, exclusion and marginalization.
This is the second time I have come out of retirement. The first was to take on the dual role of executive director and chaplain of HillelBC, after having served 33 years as the senior rabbi of Temple Sholom.
Now, eight years later, the opportunity that tempts me back into the game is as interfaith liaison for the Jewish community under the combined auspices of Jewish Federation and the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver.
According to the famous Harvard University Implicit Association study, as well as the song from the Tony award-winning musical Avenue Q, "everyone's a little bit racist." Despite our best intentions and without our awareness, racial stereotypes and assumptions creep into our minds and affect our actions.
On a small scale, implicit bias forms the basis of cliques and exclusive clubs. At a global level, however, "othering" is often used by political entities to justify the dehumanization of unwanted members of society.
Curious about your own biases? You can take the Implicit Association Test here.
Over the years, I’ve learned that you can't fight prejudice alone. In my new role, I will be facilitating and nourishing relationships among people from diverse backgrounds in order to counter implicit bias and foster understanding, respect and acceptance.
"The OTHER People" program is just one of the ways I hope to make a world of difference. I have also been working with my contacts in other faith-based communities to bring new opportunities for partnerships that are helping to maximize the impact of our BC Flood Relief Fund donation. More partnerships are in the works, and you will hear about them as our plans with them are confirmed.
As the 18th Century philosopher Edmund Burke explained, "All that is needed for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing." Each one of us can help to combat racism by acknowledging our own biases, getting to know "the other" and speaking out against bigotry. Together, we can make a world of difference.
Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer