Shabbat Candlelighting 4:09 p.m.                                             Friday, November 19, 2010/12 Kislev 5771

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JCCGV AGM Marks Leadership Transition
The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver marked a leadership transition this week as Alex Cristall succeeded Alvin Wasserman as president of their board of directors. As both had recently served on Jewish Federation’s board it was a pleasure to be at the JCCGV Annual General Meeting to recognize their leadership contributions to one of our key local agencies. Leading a large, complex organization such as the JCCGV through the economic turmoil of the past two years was no small feat, and JCCGV’s board, management and staff managed to do so while growing the membership base and maintaining activities.

Also of note was the election of Gabor Elias and Arnold Silber, both of whom have made extraordinary leadership contributions to the JCCGV over many years, as life directors. For more than 20 years Gabor Elias has been a key volunteer in all matters relating to the JCCGV’s building and finances. His wealth of knowledge and thoughtful approach to complex issues have been invaluable throughout the past two decades. Arnold Silber played a catalytic role in building the JCCGV’s relationship with the Weinberg Foundation, and helped facilitate extraordinary contributions from that foundation to our community at both the JCCGV and Louis Brier.

Gerda Weissmann Klein a Voice for Freedom
US President Barack Obama named 15 winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week at a special ceremony at The White House. I was interested and moved to see that among the recipients this year was Gerda Weissmann Klein, who spoke to a group of our women donors about a year and a half ago. Gerda is a Holocaust survivor who has written several books about her experiences. After Nazi Germany took over Poland, Klein was separated from both her parents: they were sent to Auschwitz and she to a series of labor and concentration camps. In 1945, she was sent on a forced 350-mile death march to avoid the advance of Allied forces. She was one of the few who survived the forced journey. In May 1945, she was liberated by forces of the United States Army and later married army lieutenant Kurt Klein, who liberated her camp. A naturalized citizen, she recently founded Citizenship Counts, an organization that teaches students to cherish the value of their American citizenship.

Klein has spoken to audiences of all ages and faiths around the world about the value of freedom, and has dedicated her life to promoting tolerance and understanding among all people. I remember bringing Gerda to speak to students at the University of Albany 30 years ago when I was a Hillel leader on that campus. It was amazing to meet her again when she visited our community so many years later, and to see her still inspiring others to do good in the world.

Unite2Nite Concert Brings Community Together
A significant number of community organizations banded together to create a new community-wide pre-Chanukah concert that took place this past Wednesday night at the River Rock Casino. Initiated by the Jewish Seniors Alliance, it grew to include the participation of King David High School, Louis Brier Home and Hospital Foundation, Richmond Jewish Day School, Vancouver Hebrew Academy, Vancouver Jewish Men’s Choir and Vancouver Talmud Torah. The concert, which drew a crowd of about 900, featured renowned New York composer and performer, Cantor Sol Zim, and provided an opportunity for various choirs from across the community to perform together with him. The primary purpose of the concert was to build and strengthen community spirit and unity, which it seems to have been accomplished by drawing together so many different constituencies across our community. Kol hakavod to all the volunteers and community professionals involved in making the event happen.

Parashat Vayishlach
This week's parasha includes the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel on the night before his fateful meeting and reconciliation with his brother, Esau. Jacob hasn't seen Esau since he fled his home after stealing Esau's birthright. During the night before their reunion he stays alone and wrestles with a mysterious man until dawn breaks. Although fearing at first this was an encounter with a demon, he realizes as dawn breaks that he has been struggling with an angel of God, and he is given the new name, Israel.

The image of wrestling with a demon is one which we can all understand, as it is such a universal human phenomenon. Of course, most often, our demons are internal. Often we can find our own way through such struggles, but sometimes we need help to do so. Through the work of our partner, Jewish Family Service Agency, the single largest local recipient of our Annual Campaign funds, individuals and families are helped to address such challenges. Unlike Jacob alone in the wilderness, they need not struggle alone, because we as a community are standing with them.

Shifting gears, if you are looking for a humorous depiction of the Jacob-Esau encounter, click here.

Shabbat Shalom!

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