Shabbat Candlelighting 8:38 p.m.                                                Friday, May 21, 2010/8 Sivan 5770

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Busy Sunday at the J
Our Jewish Community Centre was buzzing with activity Sunday, as various events came together on one day. JCCGV’s Festival Ha’Rikud was the headliner, with two performances in front of full capacity crowds. Fifteen local dance groups from schools and synagogues performed alongside visiting youth troupes from our partnership community in Kiryat Shemona, Miami, Edmonton, and Winnipeg, and an adult troupe from Argentina. Adding to the festive atmosphere, the JCCGV set up a stage outside the entrance for dance performances throughout the day, and tents for food and merchandise vendors. With the sun shining, it was a perfect day, and a great milestone as the seventh Festival Ha’Rikud reached new heights of community involvement and engagement.

In the Jewish Federation suite, Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin met with 20 community members and shared his perspectives on the challenges of advocating for Israel in North America, and especially Canada. The consul presented the “Brand Israel” campaign, which launched in Toronto last year, and discussed practical implementation of such a concept in advocating for Israel.

Upstairs in the Jewish Museum, representatives of Jewish Federation, Canadian Jewish Congress – Pacific Region, Jewish Family Service Agency and Shalom BC met with Jason Kenney, Federal Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. The discussion largely focused on immigration trends and policy and provided an opportunity for us to learn more about the directions in which the federal government is moving in this field. It also provided a valuable opportunity to share information with Minister Kenney about our community and the range of programs and services we provide for new immigrants, and challenges that immigrants in our community face. Kenney’s involvement in the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism and our community’s participation in the government's Security Infrastructure Program were also part of the discussion.

Kenney is an extremely engaging and knowledgeable government leader and the meeting was a valuable opportunity to deepen his already strong connection with the Jewish community.

Indo-Canadian Community Focused on Strengthening Democracy
Federation board chair, Michael Fugman, and I had the opportunity to attend the award and gala dinner of the Canada India Foundation (CIF), a national organization focused on advocating for the needs of the Indo-Canadian community, strengthening social and economic ties between Canada and India, and promoting shared values around democracy. The Lower Mainland is home to the first Indian community in Canada, and one of the largest concentrations of Indo-Canadians today. This was the first time that the CIF, now three years old, has held its annual dinner in Vancouver.

The Indo-Canadian community is growing in numbers and political clout within Canada. The establishment of the CIF, with its strong commitment to democratic values and respectful dialogue within our multi-cultural Canadian society, is an important development within that community, and an important potential partner with whom our community can work on issues of shared importance.

Netanyahu Brings Israeli Soldier from Vancouver Back for a Visit
You may have seen news of a chance meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yonatan Fader, an Israeli soldier serving along the Lebanese border, and who is one of Israel’s lone soldiers – a new immigrant soldier with no family in the country. When Netanyahu learned that Fader was from Vancouver he offered to bring Fader home for a visit, as he was heading to Canada on diplomatic business. And so, Fader is traveling on the Prime Minister’s jet and will be arriving in Vancouver soon.

What news stories haven’t captured is that Yonatan is an alumnus of the Birthright Israel program, which he accessed through and with the support of Federation in partnership with Vancouver Hillel Foundation. His experience in the program motivated him to make aliyah to Israel.

Shavuot Message
This week we celebrated the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The holiday comes seven weeks after the beginning of Passover. The period in between, which we count and call the omer, represents our passage through the desert during which the Israelites become transformed into a national collective. Our receipt of the Torah as our guiding body of laws and moral code is a key element of this transformation.

The story of our exodus from Egypt and journey to the foot of Mt. Sinai is the central narrative of our collective identity as a people. And that collective identity is at the core of what binds us together in mutual responsibility and concern for one another.

At Federation, we are now deep in the planning of our next Annual Campaign - our community's largest effort to act on that collective responsibility. We do so guided by the understanding that we are acting out our part of a history that extends over thousands of years.

Shabbat Shalom!

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