Shabbat Candlelighting 5:06 p.m.                                             Friday, February 11, 2011/7 Adar 5771

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Uncertainty Continues as Mubarak Resigns
Yesterday’s see-saw of announcements and events in Egypt culminated in the news this morning that Mubarak had stepped down from the presidency. Vice-President Suleiman has announced that the military will assume provisional leadership. Now, the world is watching to see if a peaceful transition of power will ensue, and to what degree democracy will play a role in the new government that ultimately emerges. Understandably, anxiety continues to grow in Israel. At the risk of sharing a piece from two days ago that is already outdated, one of the best analyses I’ve seen of the forces playing out in Egypt is a column by Fareed Zakaria for Time Magazine.

Amidst the uncertainty, our community has been hosting a visit this week from Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Miriam Ziv (photos). The ambassador has had a full schedule of meetings with non-Jewish business and civic leaders, local media, the TRIUMF nuclear research facility at the University of British Columbia, community leaders and Hillel students. She is speaking tonight at services at Congregation Beth Israel if you want a chance to catch her.

Even with all the uncertainty stemming from the Egyptian crisis, the ambassador’s main focus is on the ever-present threat to regional and world peace posed by the radical Islamic regime in Iran. Through its sponsorship of various terrorist groups and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran is a much greater force for destabilization and war than any of Israel’s direct neighbours.

BCTF Magazine Prints Rebuttal
Some weeks ago, I wrote about a column that appeared in the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) magazine that I felt offered a very one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A thoughtful critique of that column by Glenn Bullard, a social justice representative for the New Westminster Teachers' Union and a member of our community, was included in the magazine’s most recent issue. Kudos to Glenn for his excellent column, and to BCTF for publishing it. What I most liked about Glenn’s response was that it wasn’t an ideologically-based tit-for-tat polemic, but rather a serious critique, rooted in the BCTF’s own policies and good educational practice.

Registration Opportunities Abound
Birthright Israel’s next registration period opens on Monday, February 14th for 18-26 year-olds looking to take advantage of this free opportunity to visit Israel. Don’t miss out. Those interested in being on a Vancouver bus this May should indicate their preference on the online registration form by choosing “CIE Original Program May 2011” at

The annual Public Speaking Contest for students in grades 4-7 takes place on March 15th. Registration is open now at Visit the Jewish Federation website for more information on the program, topics, and registration.

Yesterday evening, Jewish Federation facilitated a summer camp and educational options “fair” at the Jewish Community Centre. The various Jewish summer camps that serve this region are in full recruitment mode. If you missed yesterday’s fair but still want to consider Jewish camp for your children, visit the Jewish Federation website for links to the camps that participated. For a complete listing of community organizations, including all camps, visit our community directory.

Chutzpah! Is Here
Chutzpah! Festival: The Lisa Nemetz Showcase of Jewish Performing Arts has started, bringing its usual extraordinary line-up of Jewish theatre, dance, and music to our community. Looking through the festival program, it is hard to know how to choose among the many great offerings. Visit the festival website for information about the various shows, performance times, ticket prices, etc.

Teacher's Conference at VHEC a Tremendous Regional Resource
The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre hosted its 7th Biennial Shafran Teachers’ Conference today. More than 70 teachers from British Columbia and Washington participated in a wide-ranging set of workshops offering teachers the tools needed to address the complex issues of the Holocaust and its lessons for today.

Parasha Tetzaveh
This week's parasha continues the description of the tabernacle's furnishings, particularly focusing on the garments to be worn by Aaron as the high priest, and by the kohanim (priests). On Aaron's robe there are two stones that sit on his shoulders, each inscribed with the names of six of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the description of the ephod, the breastplate to be worn at times of important decision-making, 12 gemstones are worked into the design, each inscribed with the name of one of the tribes.

The dichotomy between collective naming on the robe and individual naming on the breastplate is symbolic of the degree to which religious life constantly balances individual and collective activities and responsibilities. A commentary included in the Etz Chayim chumash notes that when the priest wears the breastplate, the Israelites see all the colours together - a reminder that the people of Israel is a collective made up of individuals.

We each have our own individual lives, with our own priorities, desires and drives. It is when we come together with others that we truly have the power to shape broader societal forces - for good or for ill. Today we see that collective power reshaping the political map of the world, or at least the Mideast. Hopefully, that collective power will also introduce respect for the rights and dignity of individuals - a value, which if embraced in Egypt, could truly reshape that part of the world for the better.

Shabbat Shalom!

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