Shabbat Candlelighting 3:57 p.m.                                             Friday, December 10, 2010/3 Tevet 5771

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UBC Student Association Toying with Funding Gaza Aid Flotilla
The Israel Awareness Club at UBC has been working hard to forestall a situation in which UBC student association funds would be used to help finance the Canadian Gaza aid flotilla. Notwithstanding the presence of legitimate international aid agencies working in Gaza, a group of advocates hope to launch a Canadian-based aid flotilla to Gaza, presumably to provoke another incident aimed at embarrassing Israel. The Social Justice interest group (SJC) within the Alma Mater Society (AMS) is putting forward $700 at the request of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) to help finance the flotilla. You might well wonder whether the vast majority of UBC students really want their student activity fees used that way. If the SJC leadership and an apparent majority of the AMS executive have their way, they won’t have any choice.

The Israel Awareness Club has been trying to navigate the procedural minefield of student association politics and process to raise its issues and concerns about this planned use of funds. Their student leaders and Hillel staff have expended an enormous amount of time and energy to force the student association to act in a responsible and accountable way. They have also retained legal counsel to make their case. It is a pretty striking example of the insidious ways in which anti-Israel groups seek every angle and path to continue to delegitimize Israel.

BCTF Magazine Article Provides Biased View of Israel
If the UBC AMS issues weren’t enough, the November/December issue of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) Teacher Newsmagazine includes an outrageously one-sided piece titled Is it anti-Semitic to Criticize Israel. We’ve heard from numerous community members, including many members of the BCTF, looking for help in responding to the article. Working with Honest Reporting and pro-Israel advocates within the BCTF, local chapters have been provided with more balanced information on the issue. Click here to see a point-by-point response to the issues raised in the BCTF article.

Federation Annual Campaign Close to Maximizing Challenge Fund Opportunity
When we launched our 2010 Annual Campaign, we were thrilled to be able to announce a challenge fund opportunity through which every increase to this year’s campaign would be matched by one third.. The $200,000 in challenge funds were provided by seven of our very generous leading philanthropic families. This morning, we crossed the $7 million mark in our effort to raise $8 million. We have seen more than $550,000 in increased gifts from donors other than our challenge donors. We are only $50,000 away in increases from maximizing the challenge fund – an incredible achievement to date.

If you have been reading my column over these past months (or years) and haven’t yet made your gift, or are among those who for whatever reason haven’t supported our campaign in the past, now is the time! Every new dollar we raise from past or new donors is matched by one third from the challenge fund. There has never been a better opportunity to leverage your own gift to support our community. Call us at 604.257.5100 or make your gift online. If you’ve already made your gift and can do a bit more, that helps too!

Carmel Fire Hits Home in our Partnership Region
Israel is such a small country, when a tragedy results in 42 dead, chances are very high that no one is more than one or two degrees of separation away from someone directly affected. Sadly, we learned of our own connection in the past day. Chanan Ochayon was one of the prison guard trainees killed when their bus was engulfed in flames while rushing to the prison to evacuate prisoners. Chanan was a cousin of Tal Malka, a Kiryat Shemona resident who is on the Partnership 2000 steering committee, of our partnership with the Upper Galilee Panhandle. Our hearts go out to Tal and his extended family, and to all those who lost their lives during the fires last week.

About $22,000 was raised through Jewish Federation's Carmel Fire Relief Fund. The first portion of funds was sent early this week to support emergency surgeries for a few very severe burn victims. Unfortunately, the treatments needed by these victims are outside the provisions of health coverage provided in Israel. The balance of funds will be pooled shortly with those of other Canadian Jewish communities to meet other urgent needs of individuals and communities affected by the fires. It is not too late to support relief efforts for victims.

Parashat Vayigash
In this week’s parasha, Joseph faces his brothers. Hearing their expressions of love for their father, and their regret over having sold him into slavery, he reveals his identity to them. They are dumbstruck by the revelation that this powerful agent of Pharaoh is their own brother, whom they assumed to be lost. In the end, the brothers return to Canaan to bring Jacob and his whole household to Egypt so that they may survive the famine.

The bitterness that characterized the brothers’ relations with each other is gone, as is Joseph’s imperious behavior in making demands on his brothers. Reconciliation leads to reunification of the family in Egypt, which sets the stage for the Israelites evolution from a tribal clan into a nation – our collective enslavement in Egypt, our ultimate redemption, and the revelation at Mt. Sinai.

This week’s parasha includes among the most dramatic portions of biblical text, providing riveting family drama. But while the family drama makes the story so accessible to us, more important is the foreshadowing of the events that will later unfold with the formation of the Jewish nation.

Shabbat Shalom!

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