Shabbat Candlelighting 3:59 p.m.                                             Friday, December 3, 2010/26 Kislev 5771

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Providing Light at a Time of Darkness
It has been a brutally difficult week in our community, as many have struggled to deal with the tragic death of 20 year-old Gabrielle Isserow. Community members engaged in widening circles of search efforts through the weekend, before the heart-breaking news came Sunday afternoon that her body had been found.

Gabrielle’s death has been the starting point of virtually every conversation and meeting that has taken place since the weekend. The Isserow family is active in many circles within our community, their children involved in our community’s schools and youth activities, and so there are a great many families, and particularly young people, who feel touched personally by this loss. There is also the wider circle of people who may not have known the family well, or at all, but who imagine as parents, or as siblings, the toll this would take were it to happen in their own family. The funeral on Monday was one of the largest in the history of our community – a testament to the breadth of involvement and connection of the family, and also to the way Gabrielle’s loss touched so many people.

The festival of Chanukah is our winter festival of light, coming when the days are shortest, and natural light is scarce. When we light the shammash candle and use it to light increasing numbers of candles each night, we are increasing light in the world.

I spoke yesterday with Saul Isserow, Gabrielle’s uncle, and he shared how powerfully the family has felt the love and support of our community at this most dark time for them. The outpouring of help during the weekend to search for Gabrielle, the extraordinary volume of participation at the funeral and at the shiva home, the countless calls and messages of support, have been a pillar of strength that has helped them face the terrible blow they have been dealt this past week. The community has been the Isserow family’s shammash, and they are grateful beyond what words can express.

State of Emergency Continues in Israel
The wildfire that started yesterday in Israel’s Carmel Mountains near Haifa is still burning out of control, and has rapidly become Israel’s worst natural disaster. The death toll has risen to 42, including 40 guards-in-training who were on their way to evacuate a prison in the area. Damage to farms, kibbutzim and villages is extensive, and the fire is now approaching the outer neighborhoods of Haifa. More than 17,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

A sign of hope is the great outpouring of support from countries in the region, in Europe and in North America - and even from some countries that don’t want to be acknowledged as offering help, according to the Israeli embassy in Washington. I am pleased to note that Canada is among the countries formally providing assistance, and that the city of Kiryat Shmona in our partnership region is housing families who have been displaced.

In response, Jewish Federation has opened the Carmel Fire Relief Fund to provide assistance to those in need, with funds raised to be administered by our trusted partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel. Donate online or call the Federation office at 604.257.5100. You may also wish to donate to the Jewish National Fund, which has launched an emergency appeal in response to the fire. You can reach JNF at 604.257.5155.

Tarek Fatah and Amos Guiora Illuminate on Anti-Israel Efforts
This week, community members had the opportunity to hear from two very different but equally important speakers on issues related to the rise of anti-Semitism and world-wide efforts to isolate and demonize Israel. On Monday evening, Tarek Fatah, journalist and author of The Jew is Not My Enemy, spoke to a large crowd at Temple Sholom. On Wednesday evening, Amos Guiora, a professor of law, and author of numerous books, spoke about religious extremism, Israel's right to defend herself and the emergence of "non-state actors". The event was presented by the Canada-Israel Committee in partnership with Jewish Federation and the Canada West Foundation, and targeted to members of the legal profession. He also very generously attended an informal lunch session with lawyers interested in civil rights and international justice issues. Both speakers brought new and insightful perspectives to old issues, and reinforced the importance of our community supporting and strengthening effective advocacy initiatives.

Shabbat Shalom!

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