Shabbat Candlelighting 5:18 p.m.                                             Friday, February 18, 2011/14 Adar 5771

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18th Annual High School Debates
This Tuesday, King David High School will be filled with the excitement and intensity of the 18th Annual High School Debates. The debates are sponsored by our Israel and Overseas Affairs Department and supported by Tel-Aviv University. Students have spent weeks researching and carefully crafting arguments for and against some of the most complex and challenging issues facing the State of Israel – topics specially chosen to promote lively debate, and to challenge young Jewish minds. Past attendees know the extraordinary level at which these teens debate, each team working to convince a panel of judges that they’ve made the better case. This year’s topics have students focusing on Israel’s right to enforce a blockade of Gaza, and whether expansion of housing developments in East Jerusalem is an impediment to the peace process. At a time when many within our Jewish community find it difficult to foster open and calm debate of such issues, we’ve created a forum for youth to learn more about the issues through thoughtful, structured debate. The event is open to the public. Join us to see how passionately and eloquently our teens address the same issues facing Israel’s leaders.

2010 Campaign Wraps Up
Our 2010 Federation Annual Campaign is now formally closed, with a final result of $7,776,000, a new record result for our Greater Vancouver campaign. Our community can be very proud of this response. The 6% increase over last year’s result is possibly the best increase of any North American Jewish Federation in 2010, at a time when economic uncertainty continued to slow the recovery from 2008.

Many of our donors participated in the extraordinary Challenge Fund opportunity we had available in this campaign. Seven donor families contributed a pool of $200,000 to match the increases of all other donors to this year’s campaign by one third. Enough donors rose to the challenge and increased their gifts that we succeeded in achieving the full match. This is one of the factors that contributed to the terrific final result for our community.

Even though we were able to raise more than $800,000 in increased gifts, we went into the campaign with some losses from the previous year from donors who passed away, moved or had made one-time gifts in the previous year. We also had donors this year who are still struggling financially and were not able to sustain their previous levels of support.

Jewish Federation’s Board and Allocations Planning Committee will be working over the next few months to apply the increased funding from the campaign to both local and overseas needs.

Thank you to each of you who participated generously, and in doing so touched thousands of lives. I would also like to thank the many volunteers who lent their time and talent for the benefit of our whole community and Jews around the world.

Parashat Ki Tissa
This week’s parasha includes the famous story of the Golden Calf, but I actually want to focus on the beginning of the parasha, which describes the half-shekel head tax imposed on each Israelite. The text is clear that everyone is to participate equally in this tax, regardless of means. The funds from the tax were applied to the cost of operation and conduction of the Tent of Meeting.

Commentators note that when it came to the holy task of outfitting the Tabernacle, the whole community was to have a stake. Everyone’s contribution counted. Reading the text and commentaries during the week in which we closed our 2010 campaign, the connection was clear to me. One of the great messages we struggle to convey to the community is the extent to which the entire community enterprise rests on all of us. Certainly we couldn’t have accomplished what we did this year without our amazing Challenge Fund donors and other major donors. But, we also couldn’t have met that challenge without the participation of 1,712 other donors who increased their gifts this year. Only together, with everyone participating, can we accomplish these truly great tasks.

Our theme this year was “Your Gift Touches Us All” and the parasha was inspired by the same theme. We all have a stake. We all benefit, and therefore we all need to participate.

Shabbat Shalom!

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