Shabbat Candlelighting 8:29 p.m.                                                Friday, May 14, 2010/1 Sivan 5770

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Israel Accepted into OECD
Israel was admitted this week as the 32nd member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Israel has experienced unprecedented economic growth in recent years, establishing itself as an international leader in science, medicine and technology, and its acceptance into the prestigious European-based economic organization is extremely significant. It will make it easier for the world to access the fruits of Israel’s cutting edge, innovative economy. The OECD’s decision follows three years of comprehensive evaluation of Israeli civil society and government institutions by 18 different committees of the organization, and required the unanimous approval of the OECD’s 31 members.

Remembering Oskar Schindler
This past Monday, Jewish Federation was honoured to co-sponsor an event organized by Chabad of Richmond featuring Leon Leyson, the youngest survivor on Schindler’s list. A full capacity crowd of more than 600 people filled the Sheraton Airport Hotel to listen to Leyson’s personal story of what happened to him from the time Germany invaded Poland until the end of the war.

The story of Oskar Schindler, and the extraordinary steps he took to save Jews from extermination by employing them in his factory in Krakow, was popularized by Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster film, Schindler’s List. Leyson repeatedly commented on the accuracy of the film, with one exception – it did not capture the daily brutality of the Nazis and the horrific things that routinely happened to people. Time and again, Schindler went above and beyond what anyone might expect, at extraordinary risk to himself, to ensure the survival of his employees and their families.

A veteran of 39 years of teaching in the Los Angeles public school system, Leyson skillfully wove together his personal experience with the overall timeline of events of the Holocaust. It was clear that many in the audience were non-Jews drawn to the opportunity to touch the Schindler’s list story, and in that respect, the event demonstrated the extraordinary power of mass media to shape people’s perceptions of history and world events.

One of the most powerful messages of the evening came in Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman’s introduction, in which he talked about the Jewish people's long and rich history, as grounded in memory rather than history. It is our collective memory of events, whether the Exodus from Egypt, or the Holocaust, that nurtures and sustains us as a people.

What’s Your “#Ish”?
Jewish Federations of North America has launched an effort to reach out to young Jewish adults aged 19-36 by giving them an opportunity to express what makes them Jewish through social media (Facebook and Twitter). To weigh in with your “#ish” or to see what others have to say, visit

Israeli Artists Focus on Jewish Identity and Unity
While we’re on the Jewish social media scene, a group of Israeli musicians got together for a collaborative recording of a new song called “I’m A Jew”. It isn’t quite “We are the World” but listening to or reading through the translation of the lyrics, it is an interesting comment on Israeli society that a group of artists felt the need to come together with a message about what unites them (and us) as Jews despite their (and our) differences.

Festival Ha’Rikud Brings High Energy to Vancouver JCC
Walking into the JCCGV this morning you couldn’t help but smile at the infectious enthusiasm and energy of about 50 teens who were gathering to head off on an outing before their rehearsals for this year’s Festival Ha’Rikud. The teens include our own JCCGV Or Chadash dancers and Hora Goel from our partnership community in Kiryat Shemona. There are also visiting youth dance troupes this year from Miami, Winnipeg and Edmonton, and an adult troupe from Argentina. Forty local families are involved in billeting visitors, as the annual dance festival hosted by our JCCGV continues to grow bigger and bigger each year. The festival germinated several years ago from the initial visit of Hora Goel to Vancouver as part of our Partnership 2000 exchange program with the Upper Galilee, and has taken on a life of its own.

Tickets are still available for truly outstanding dance performances Sunday afternoon and Monday evening. Contact the JCCGV for tickets and more information at 604.257.5111.

Parashat Bamidbar
This week begins the reading of the fourth book of the Torah, in English known as Numbers, but in Hebrew called Bamidbar, or “in the desert”. One month after the establishment of the mobile sanctuary God commands Moses to undertake a census, and there is an account of the ordering of the tribes in their respective locations around the Tabernacle. At this point the Israelites are two years and one month into the journey in the desert, which will extend another 38 years.

Many commentators focus on why so much of our biblical history focuses on stories in which the crucial action happens in the desert. A common response is that the desert represents a wild and pure environment, uncluttered by growth or decay. A second is that the extended period of enduring hunger and thirst was necessary in order to prepare the people to receive the spiritual gift of the Torah. Other commentators describe the desert as an environment in which the challenge and struggle of the forty-year journey forged the Israelites into a nation with a collective identity. It is the remarkable tenacity and endurance of that collective identity that Rabbi Baitelman spoke about on Monday evening in his introductory remarks.

Shabbat Shalom!

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