Shabbat Candlelighting 4:45 p.m.                                                Friday, January 29, 2010/14 Shevat 5770

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Fun Facts About Taglit-Birthright Israel
We had a visit yesterday from two staff of the Birthright Israel Foundation, the fundraising arm of the extraordinary program that has taken 250,000 Jewish young adults from around the world to Israel for a 10 day experience over the past decade. Among the biggest and most studied initiatives in contemporary Jewish life, Birthright has time and again proven it is a serious and credible way for the organized Jewish world to engage young Jews and draw them into Jewish life. Some statistics worth noting:

• Since the inception of the Birthright program, our Vancouver Federation has allocated over $300,000 to support Birthright. With 1,040, participants we’ve gotten great leverage on this investment.

• There have been 21 rounds of Birthright trips since the program started – Vancouver has had 1,040 participants during that time.

• In the last 17 rounds, out of 1,673 applicants from Vancouver, 861 were accepted for participation – 51.4%. That acceptance rate into the program has been slightly above average among communities.

• This past year there were 58,000 applicants for a total of 23,000 slots world-wide – an acceptance rate of 39%. Our experience in recent rounds is now closer to this lower acceptance rate.

So you might ask, what is the big deal? What is wrong with a waiting list? Between 70-80% of applicants who are turned down don’t reapply. So when we miss getting young adults on Birthright the first time around, we and they likely miss out altogether. And here is why that really matters:

• Birthright alumni who have married are 57% more likely to marry someone Jewish than applicants who didn’t go on the program.

• 73% of Birthright alumni describe it as a life-changing experience, and that percentage is similar for recent participants, as well as those who participated nine or 10 years ago.

• 72% of alumni report they feel very much closer to Israel.

• 93% of Birthright alumni who did intermarry report that it is very important to them to raise their children as Jews. We know from other demographic research that the percentage of Jews who intermarry and who then raise their children as Jews is in the low 20’s, so this is a very significant difference.

In contemporary Jewish life, Birthright Israel is one of the very few proven game-changers when it comes to Jewish continuity and identity. Therefore, we will be working with the Birthright Israel Foundation on strategies for reducing the waiting list for Vancouver participants.

CJC Sponsors Darfur Shabbat
Canadian Jewish Congress' Darfur Shabbat this past weekend united Canada's Jewish community in action against the genocide in Darfur. Dozens of synagogues and Hillels across the country participated, with confirmed services in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Windsor, St. Catherines, London, Toronto, Oakville, Hamilton, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Fredericton and St. John's. Darfur Shabbat also united the various streams of Judaism, with Independent, Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Chabad-Lubavitch all represented in this unique national program.

To download CJC's Darfur: A Jewish Response, click here. To join CJC’s Darfur Action Committee, email

Help Increase the Charitable Tax Credit
A broad national coalition of non-profit groups are joining together to advocate for a policy change by the federal government to increase the charitable tax credit. You can help by asking the federal government to take this step in the upcoming March federal budget. The higher tax credit would encourage those who have never given before to give now, and benefit current donors who have proven to be Canada’s most charitable givers by enabling them to give even more to charity. This is an excellent way to help strengthen the foundation of the charitable organizations you believe in, and strengthen the charitable sector at a time when government at all levels is pulling back its support for important health, social and cultural services and programs. This initiative is being supported by CJPAC and you can access more information on how you can help here.

Vancouver Hillel Foundation Reports on Strong First Term Program
I had a chance this week to read a recent report shared by Eyal Lichtmann, executive director of the Vancouver Hillel Foundation on their activities during the first term of the 2009/10 academic year. It is a great report, chock full of information on the scope of their activities during the past few months. Check it out by clicking here.

Parashat B'shallach
I have to give due credit to Rabbi Jonathan Infeld of Congregation Beth Israel, who shared this thought at a shiva home this week. The Israelites are leaving Egypt and heading into forty years of wandering in the desert. As they ready themselves to leave, the text says that “Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying - God will be sure to take notice of you: then you shall carry up my bones from here with you.” (Exodus 13:19)

What Rabbi Infeld noted is that our tradition teaches us the importance of bringing our past with us when we are setting on a new journey or path towards the future. Joseph was the link to the generations of the patriarchs and to the generation that came to Egypt in freedom. When later generations of slaves regained their freedom it makes sense that they would carry Joseph with them.

By carrying tangible symbols of our past with us, we remind ourselves from where we have come. It enhances the chances that we will still know who we are when we arrive at our destination. And this is the great challenge facing the Jewish people in our time.

Shabbat Shalom!

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