Shabbat Candlelighting 4:34 p.m.                                                Friday, January 22, 2010/7 Shevat 5770

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Haiti Tragedy and Relief Efforts Dominate News
Ten days after the massive earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti, the tragic aftermath still dominates the news and world attention. I am both proud of the response of our own community (more than $48,500 contributed through Federation, in addition to funds that members of our community have donated to other relief efforts) and fearful that the devastating conditions on the ground will result in more loss of life before the situation starts to turn around. Yesterday I received a message from an old Jewish summer camp friend, now an emergency medical technician in the Boston area, who is working in triage at an American field hospital. His description of the horrible conditions under which they are working, the extremely limited supplies, and the overwhelming scope of injuries they are trying to address was truly upsetting.

For updates on how our relief funds are being deployed, on the life-saving efforts of Israelis working in Haiti, or to make a contribution visit

Government and Community Partnership Results in 51 new Housing Units
At the same time that we have been witnessing the destruction of homes in Haiti, we were able to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new 51 unit supportive housing complex at 16th and Dunbar designed for adults with physical and mental health disabilities. Yaffa Housing Society, a partner in this project, has ensured that five units will be designated for Jewish adults with special needs. It was very inspiring to hear Aaron Estrin, one of the founders and champions of Yaffa Housing Society, speak about the positive impact of creating a space where residents and community members can come together to share Jewish values, traditions and customs.

Regina Waldman Provides Riveting Focus on Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands
While much of the world has focused on the long-festering Palestinian refugee issue, what is often overlooked is the tremendous dislocation that faced the 900,000 Jews who were expelled from Arab countries after the creation of the State of Israel. The Canada-Israel Committee facilitated the visit to Vancouver this week of Regina Waldman, who spoke at a community meeting last Tuesday evening, spent a morning with the KDHS students and also spoke at Hillel. Born in Libya, Waldman is an energetic and passionate speaker who both conveys the richness of Jewish culture that existed in Arab countries, and the compelling stories of what happened to those Jews. For more information, click here.

CJPAC Focuses on Engaging Jews in Political Activity
This week also saw the visit of the national chair, Joel Reitman, and national director, Mark Waldman, of the Canadian Jewish Political Action Committee. This group, now several years old, works to engage Jews from across the country in the political process on a multi-partisan basis. In other words, rather than supporting a political party, they focus on supporting candidates for public office whose policy positions are aligned with those of the Jewish community. For more information or to join CJPAC, visit their website.

Parashat Bo
This week’s parasha concludes the narrative of the plagues, and includes a description of the laws and rituals we are commanded to observe during the Passover holiday. Just before the last plague is to occur, the text shifts to God’s instructions about the creation of a new calendar, beginning with the month of our liberation from Egypt. The Hebrew calendar is organized around the lunar cycle, each month beginning with the new moon. Samson Raphael Hirsch, a 19th century German commentator, notes that Jews follow the lunar calendar because we know that just as the moon waxes and wanes, our people will go through cycles – periods when we will be strong, and periods of great challenge. At the times of greatest darkness, we know there will be light ahead.

May the people of Haiti, in this time of great adversity and pain, and with their all too tragic history, find more light in their future through the countless acts of courage and generosity of people from around the world.

Shabbat Shalom!

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