Shabbat Candlelighting 8:47 p.m.                                                Friday, July 23, 2010/13 Av 5770

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Alan Dershowitz to Open Federation Annual Campaign
Noted lawyer, author and human rights activist Alan Dershowitz will speak at the Federation Annual Campaign Opening Night on Monday, September 20th. Dershowitz is a compelling speaker with strong opinions on almost any topic imaginable. In fact, rather than have him speak about a single topic, Federation will be canvassing the community to learn what community members want to hear him speak about, and framing his presentation with a series of questions to which Dershowitz will respond.

Join us for an engaging evening with one of the outstanding Jewish personalities of our time. Tickets are on sale now at or at 604.638.7281.

Knesset Defers Vote on Conversion Legislation
After a week of intense political wrangling, the Israeli Knesset adjourned for its summer recess without bringing forward a vote on the controversial Conversion Bill. By the middle of the week most leadership from the Likud, Labour and Kadima parties were openly opposing the legislation. The political discourse focused most intensely on negotiations to keep the Yisrael Beiteinu party, which had brought forward the legislation, in the governing coalition in the face of growing rifts between that party and Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

In the wake of the adjournment, there was a further announcement that there would be a six month moratorium on any vote on the legislation, in exchange for a commitment by the liberal religious streams in Israel to put on hold any judicial proceedings on issues related to religious pluralism in Israel. Without such an agreement, Yisrael Beiteinu would likely have brought forward the legislation again in early October, when the Knesset reconvenes after the Jewish holidays. This is a very significant development, as it gives all of the religious movements and the government time to try to work through a compromise approach to the issue of conversion. A key player behind the scenes in working to foster compromise among the various parties has been Jewish Agency for Israel chair, Natan Sharansky, who brings past experience as head of an Israeli political party and government minister to bear, along with his extraordinary personal history.

The Jewish Federation movement and the Jewish Agency for Israel played active roles in the efforts to avoid a vote this week. The primary motivation in doing so was to slow the process down in order to create room for negotiation of a meaningful compromise. That was precisely the result that emerged this week.

Ethiopian Israeli Law Students Arrive for Internships
For the second summer in a row, we are hosting two Ethiopian Israeli law students for a month-long visit during which they will intern with local law firms and speak throughout our community. Given the background from which they come, it takes extraordinary determination for these young people to crack into an elite profession. These students don’t bring with them the family support and personal networks that their peers in law school do. The internships here provide important and meaningful professional experience, and help broaden their skills and networks. They also provide members of our community with rich opportunities to hear their incredible personal and family stories, and to touch the epic story of the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry.

Ilanit Bito and Ruth Metaferya will be interning at the Farris and the Cohen Buchan Edwards law firms. Our thanks to the law firms and to the families that will be hosting them over the next month. The first opportunity to meet them comes Monday night at the Ohel Ya’akov Community Kollel’s pub night at the Media Club. For more opportunities, click here.

Making the Census Count
The current uproar over the census may prompt people to be asking the quintessential Jewish question - is it good for the Jews? Wouldn't you know, we have an answer. Before the national census hit the headlines this week as a major political issue, our Federation joined with the others across Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress in sending a joint letter to the government voicing our deep concerns over the change away from the mandatory long-form census. As do many government offices, charitable organizations, businesses, research organizations and more, we rely on the census for important information that helps guide our community planning efforts. Where do our community members live? Where were they born, and how long have they lived here? What is the household constellation? How old are they? All of these provide critical data that help us determine what programs and services are needed in our community. For that reason, ensuring the accuracy of the data is paramount, and that is at the heart of the current controversy. This is a critically important public policy issue, and for that reason Federations across Canada weighed in as soon as we learned about the proposed changes.

Parashat Va'etchanan
In this week's parasha Moses continues his final speech to the people, shortly before his death. He recounts the reasons why he won't enter the Promised Land, reiterates various laws, including the Ten Commandments, pronounces the Sh'ma, and exhorts the people to obey and love God. The parasha also describes the many reasons why the Israelites might end up scattered and dispersed from the Land. As this reading falls just a few days after Tisha B'Av, when we remember the destruction of the Temple and other tragedies that occurred on that date on the calendar throughout history, it evokes Tisha B'Av's mood of loss and mourning.

Shabbat Shalom.

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