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We hope you had an easy and meaningful fast on Tisha B’Av and that you’re ready for a joyful and relaxing Shabbat.
We would like to start by thanking Premier Horgan, Minister Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry for hosting another conversation in their ongoing dialogue with leaders of faith-based communities across the province regarding how communities can deliver spiritual care in this evolving environment. Once again, we were proud to participate along with some of our rabbis and other rabbis from across the province, and to represent the perspective of the Jewish community as we prepare to head into the High Holiday season.
Giving kavod is one of our favourite ways to close out the week. Kol hakavod to the 16 partner organizations whose boards achieved 100% participation in the 2019 Annual Campaign. This means that every board member of these organizations supported the full spectrum of needs across the community by making a Campaign gift last year.
We usually hold an event to appreciate those boards who reached 100%, but it was cancelled this year due to COVID-19. Just because there was not a formal celebration doesn’t mean we want to miss giving these boards the recognition they deserve! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the board members of these agencies.
So many of our partners work hard to ensure participation and a number of them achieved 75% and above. We also want to recognize all of them for their amazing efforts!
If you follow us on social media, you may have noticed that we were quiet on Twitter on Monday and Tuesday as part of a global protest against antisemitism on the platform. Click here for background on what prompted the protest.
We also took part in a roundtable conversation on Sunday with the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), an independent professional policy planning think tank that engages in strategic thinking and planning on issues of primary concern to world Jewry. They are in the process of gathering information on the effects of global antisemitism. A thoughtfully-curated cohort of 25 people, predominantly young adults who represent a variety of programs we support, took part in a 90-minute conversation. We are proud to be part of the important research that JPPI is doing in this area.
The fight against antisemitism and racism of all kinds is something that unites our community. Yet, as a community, as an organization, and as individuals, there is more we can do. That can start with being more inclusive of our own community members.
Last year, someone pointed out to us that our campaign video referenced “bubbies and zaydas,” but that such language was not inclusive of those in our community who had a savta, a sabba, a popo, or a yehyeh. She was right, and as a result we were able to take steps to be more inclusive at our Choices event. After all, Jews in our community come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
At our staff meeting on Zoom this week, we were very pleased to welcome Rivka Campbell, a Jew of Jamaican descent, to share with us her experiences as a Jew of colour and to start a conversation about how we can do better.
One of the things she said is that she is almost never welcomed at a Jewish community event with a simple hello. Instead, people assume she isn’t Jewish and she gets quizzed. Does she know this is a Jewish event? Is she Jewish? Oh, did she convert? And the look of surprise when she tells them her full Hebrew name. What they’re really saying, she told us, is that she doesn’t look like them and they don’t think she belongs there.
We’ve all been “othered” at some point in our lives, but Rivka pointed out that she and other Jews of colour are often othered by their own community—their own mishpocha. These micro-aggressions, she said, are like mosquito bites. A few are simply a nuisance. But, if you are covered in mosquito bites, eventually you just decide to remove yourself from the mosquitoes.
We talked about meaningful steps we can take to be more welcoming and inclusive, and about the growing pains organizations often have when they try to evolve, but don’t necessarily get it right. This year, Rivka put together mishloach manot for her synagogue and used them as an opportunity to showcase diversity by adding Caribbean hot sauce, shakshuka seasoning, and a map with key facts about Jews from around the world. Someone asked why the traditional foods were missing, perhaps without realizing that for many Jews, these are traditional foods. “It’s not all about the bagels and lox,” she said. What a great way to put it!
Shabbat shalom and happy BC Day.
Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer