Shabbat Candlelighting 8:10 p.m.                                                Friday, April 30, 2010/16 Iyar 5770

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PJ Library Conference Aids our Implementation
As one of the newest PJ Library communities, the Second Annual PJ Library Conference in Baltimore this week provided a rich learning experience for Samara Bordan, a member of our staff who is coordinating the implementation of this program in our community. The goal of The PJ Library is to ensure that every Jewish child and their family have access to Jewish books and music in their own home, instilling lifelong Jewish values and lessons. These books serve as resources for making Jewish choices and establishing Jewish connections. The opportunity to learn from the experience of more than 100 communities who are ahead of us in implementing the program will help us gain from best practices and proven approaches.

A key focus of the conference was finding and reaching families who are not connected to their local Jewish community, and we will also be working to create deeper bonds with families who are already involved. For more information about The PJ Library or to enroll a child or grandchild, contact Samara Bordan at 604.257.5100 or

With Love From Vinnitsa
Two years ago, Herb and Evelynne Loomer, long-time Federation supporters, were in touch with me about an upcoming family visit to Vinnitsa, the town in the Ukraine where Herb’s family was from. We were able to help them connect with the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), our partner for overseas relief services in Jewish communities around the world, and connect with historians and guides who were able to facilitate that visit. The Loomers had an extraordinary visit where they got to see the small shtetl outside of Vinnitsa where the family had lived, and also visit the Adult Day Centre that JDC operates in Vinnitsa for poor, elderly Jews still living there.

Herb and Evelynne came back inspired to help, and have provided an additional contribution over several years to support the Vinnitsa Day Centre. This week, during a visit by JDC staff, we had an opportunity to talk about what has happened in the FSU during these past two years, and to hear the voices and see the faces of some of the people being helped by the Loomers’ generosity.

Between the decline of the US dollar and the rampant inflation in the Ukraine, JDC has seen the purchasing power of their funding decline by 26% compared against four years ago. That has resulted in cutbacks in service, with their caseload reduced to only the most needy. For example, someone living on a pension of $150 a month no longer qualifies for aid, because the unrestricted funds JDC has to work with just don’t stretch far enough. Programs like the Adult Day Centre in Vinnitsa have also been cut back, which makes additional gifts, like that of the Loomers, all the more important.

The Adult Day Centre serves isolated elderly Jews who are otherwise homebound. Once every two weeks they are picked up from their apartments, brought to the centre, and provided two hot meals. They participate in group activities, can get their hair cut or coiffed, and see a doctor. In the words of Fayvishenko Efim Ezrovich, one of the clients in Vinnitsa, “The main point is the communication. The solitary retired people have much spare time, and I spend it for the communication with other people. We recollect our childhood, our Jewish shtetls, our families’ traditions and those of our people in general. I always come here with pleasure; I like the workers’ warm attitude. I always wait for another meeting.”

For more information about supplementary programs like this in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), Israel and here in our own community that need your support, contact Marcie Flom at

Quiet Annual General Meeting for MEC
At last night’s Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Annual General Meeting, the supporters of MEC’s ethical sourcing policy prevailed with the adoption of several special resolutions that safeguard the co-op’s constitution and decision making process against abuse from single-issue political activists. A collaborative effort between Jewish Federation, Canada-Israel Committee, Hillel and Canadian Jewish Congress ensured that there were sufficient numbers of MEC members present at the meeting to ensure the passage of the resolutions.

This started with an effort more than 12 months ago by anti-Israel activists to bring forward a boycott Israel resolution at last year’s AGM. That boycott has now failed, and MEC even saw sales spike about 2,000% on the boycott Israel day attempted last November.

Efforts like the MEC boycott follow an increasing pattern of boycott and divestiture campaigns and legal challenges all aimed at delegitimizing Israel among the family of nations in the world. That approach has its roots in the passage of the infamous UN “Zionism is Racism” resolution 35 years ago.

At the end of the day, peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come through direct negotiation by the parties directly involved. Efforts that seek to place pressure through the delegitimization of Israel thwart the true pursuit of peace.

Parashat Emor
This week’s parasha includes a description of the Sabbath and our three major festivals: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. In the midst of the description of offerings to be made during the Omer, the period between Passover and Shavuot, we are enjoined to leave the corners of the fields available for the poor and the stranger in our midst.

Reading this passage, hours after hearing my colleagues from the Joint Distribution Committee describe the painful situation of the world’s poorest Jews, struck me as a remarkable coincidence. The festivals described in this parasha are our most joyous celebrations. We celebrate our liberation from slavery, the gift of the Torah, and our good fortune in the bounty that God has given us. And even as we are being commanded to celebrate, we are reminded that there are those whose situation does not permit them that luxury.

To leave the corners of your field unreaped is to consciously choose not to enjoy every last bit of your harvest. The message is that a portion of what is yours really belongs to others. In our time, it is through tzedakah such as gifts to our Annual Campaign and other important charitable organizations that we can fulfill that commandment. Hundreds of thousands of poor, elderly Jews in the FSU are counting on us to not forget that principle, and not to forget them.

Shabbat Shalom!

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