Shabbat Candlelighting 6:04 p.m.                                             Friday, October 15, 2010/7 Heshvan 5771

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Anne Frank Tree Sapling Making its Way to Vancouver
A few weeks ago, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre was offered a rare opportunity to receive one of a very limited number of saplings from the Anne Frank tree. This was the large chestnut tree that Anne Frank was able to see from her attic hideout in Amsterdam, and which she often talked about in her diary. The tree, which had survived since World War II, was in the news a short time ago when it was damaged beyond hope in a storm. Saplings from tree cuttings have been offered to a limited number of communities where there are important Holocaust education centres, including Greater Vancouver.

A small committee has been struck by the VHEC to determine how we best welcome and care for such a rare and special new arrival. As Frieda Miller, director of VHEC described it, there is such a heavy weight of responsibility and care that goes along with accepting this precious sapling. Fortunately we have Cornelia Oberlander, a world renowned landscape architect, in our community, who quickly guided us away from a number of options that wouldn’t have worked for the tree.

Stay tuned for more details to come regarding this new transplant to our community.

Community Hosts German Government Official
Hans Ulrich-Klose, a high ranking member of the German Bundestag and Coordinator of German-North American relations, began a tour this week of Canadian cities with a stop in Vancouver. In addition to visiting Congregation Beth Israel, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and Jewish Museum of British Columbia, he also had dinner with a group of community leadership last Sunday night. The dinner provided an opportunity for him to reinforce Germany’s commitment, in the face of its history, to serving as a protector of Israel and the Jewish people. From his perspective, Germany had fashioned a history from which it owed the Jewish people that much and more, and as a result, Germany is Israel’s best friend in Europe.

JCCGV Hosts Metulla Youth Worker
As part of its ongoing relationship between the Eidan youth leadership programs of Greater Vancouver and our partnership region of the Upper Galilee, the Jewish Community Centre hosted a week-long visit by Omri Markovich, Youth Coordinator at the Metula Community Center. He is in charge of Metulla’s youth programs and camps activities that serve 220 children. Omri helped JCC prepare for its Camp Shalom - EIDAN Open House this coming Sunday and worked with JCCGV staff on their curriculum for local youth and teen programs. The visit opened up a deeper relationship in which the two community centres can continue to learn best practices from one another.

Night of 100 Dinners Helps Push Campaign Past Halfway Mark
Night of 100 Dinners, our premier Women’s Philanthropy event, brought 165 people together for a sparkling evening of dining and celebrating generosity. Our thanks to Myriam and Geoff Glotman, who graciously hosted everyone for cocktails in their beautiful home before everyone headed off to one of ten individual dinners. Co-chairs Leanne Coleman and Alana James, their committee and our staff pulled off a spectacular evening. A unique option among dinners this year was one held at The BMW Store’s Rolls Royce showroom, which was transformed into a Prohibition-era speakeasy. It was great to be able to involve our newest corporate sponsor in the evening.

With this event behind us the Annual Campaign stands at $4.4 M, more than 50% of this year’s target. If you haven’t yet viewed our campaign video, you can help us maximize a challenge opportunity through which we receive a $1 donation for each unique viewing of the video. Take a few moments to watch and learn about how the campaign touches our community and touches you too, and then pass it along to your friends and contacts.

Parashat Lech Lecha

This week’s parasha details the geneology of the patriarch, Abraham, and his wanderings after God commands him to leave Haran in Mesopotamia to “the land that I will show you”. It is this journey that truly marks the beginning of a distinctly Jewish history. In the midst of the narrative about the journey, there is a description of a war among various tribes in which Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is carried off by invading Mesopotamians. Abraham takes up the role of warrior to pursue the invaders to the north, past Damascus, recapturing his kinsmen and possessions, including Lot.

As I re-read this section of the parasha I was reminded of the extraordinary lengths we go to as a Jewish people to redeem our captives (pidyon shvuyim). We have a long history of ransoming members of our faith who have been imprisoned or held captive, either as individuals or as a whole class within a repressive society. It was an unfortunate necessity in medieval European Jewish history. In the 1980’s we literally bought tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews out of the country as the Marxist regime was collapsing, and more recently and quietly, did the same for Syrian Jews. Today we yearn for the day when Gilad Shalit’s captors in Gaza will make it possible for him to be freed.

As we remember this part of our heritage, it is timely to reflect on the extraordinary rescue this week of the Chilean miners, who were brought to safety after being trapped underground for months. The collaborative international effort to rescue them reflected our best human instincts to rescue those in danger. It is a human instinct that is embedded in our Jewish tradition as we daily recite the phrase “matir asurim” in praising God as one who frees the captives.

Shabbat Shalom!

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