Shabbat Candlelighting 4:32 p.m.                                             Friday, January 21, 2011/16 Shevat 5771

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New Young Adult Initiatives
Noam Dolgin, a prominent Jewish environmental educator and activist, joined the Federation staff on a part-time basis this week as our new young adult program manager. In this role, Noam will have responsibility for expanding follow-up programming for Birthright alumni, and for launching other new initiatives for engaging young adults in community life.

Among his first projects will be helping launch Moishe House in Vancouver. Moishe House is an international organization that provides meaningful Jewish experiences to young adults in their 20’s. They train, support and sponsor young Jewish leaders as they create vibrant home-based communities for their peers. From Shabbat dinners to book clubs to sporting events, residents find ways to connect their peers with the community. With the support of supplemental gifts from two generous donors, Federation is thrilled to be able to bring Moishe House to Vancouver within the next few months. Ours will be Moishe House’s first Canadian location. For more information about how you can become involved with Moishe House or other young adult programming, contact Noam at

Not a Quiet Week on the Anti-Semitism Front
This past Sunday there was a rash of vandalism attacks on a number of synagogues and Jewish schools in Montreal. For six institutions to be targeted in a single day raises concerns beyond the scope of an isolated incident. Single incidents often turn out to be the work of 1-2 youth or young adults who lash out for some idiosyncratic reason, and who often express genuine remorse when confronted with the gravity of their actions and its impact on others. Six attacks reflects a degree of planning and coordination that moves beyond that level of problem. At this stage, police are still investigating these hate crimes, and the community continues to step up its vigilance, assess the damage and struggle with the meaning of the attacks.

An Interesting YouTube Video
This video on anti-Semitism hit my inbox this week, forwarded by a member of our community. It explores the reactions of bystanders to blatant expressions of hatred targeted at Jews, and is worth a look (runs about 8 minutes).

Coincidentally, this week a new exhibit called The Wheel of Conscience opened at Pier 21 - Canada’s national museum of immigration in Halifax - which memorializes Canada’s 1939 refusal of entry to the 900-plus Jewish refugees on board the M.S. St. Louis and the “none is too many” exclusionary anti-Jewish immigration policy that it epitomized. The monument was designed by internationally-acclaimed architect and designer Daniel Libeskind. The Wheel of Conscience is the centre-piece of a Canadian Jewish Congress national project, generously sponsored by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, to educate Canadians, especially youth, about the St. Louis incident and its impact on Canada’s society and immigration history.

Toronto Conference Focuses on Israelis Living Abroad
When you look at the sources of Jewish immigration to our community and many others, it is no secret that one of the major sources is Israel. There are many reasons why Israelis choose to move abroad (pursuit of educational or employment opportunities, family reunification, getting away from the stress of life in Israel) but they often face challenges integrating into their new communities. Many communities, including ours, have vibrant and active sub-communities of Israelis who are very connected with one another, but not necessarily so much with the broader Jewish community.

The first conference focusing on Israelis living abroad, their needs, and how they might become more connected with their new home communities, took place in Toronto this week. Seven Israeli members of our community participated, one of the larger delegations at the conference. Our delegation included representatives of Jewish Federation, the JCCGV, Jewish Family Service Agency, Shalom BC and two Israeli lay leaders. The group will be meeting next week to debrief their experience, and to consider how to better connect and support the Israelis living in our community. They would welcome others interested in this issue getting involved. For more information contact If’at Eilon-Heiber or call her at 604.257.5100.

Parashat Yitro
This week’s parasha, which includes the first recitation of the Ten Commandments, also introduces the figure of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. After the miraculous redemption from Egypt, Jethro welcomes Moses with respect and honour, and provides meaningful guidance on the organization of justice for the community of Israelites. Coming just on the heels of the defeat of the Amalekites at the end of the previous reading, it offers an interesting juxtaposition of foes and friends. In the way in which he welcomes a different tribe and aids them, Jethro, leader of the Midianites, is a true friend.

Earlier this week the newly elected governor of Alabama, even while recognizing that he was now the leader of all Alabamans, invoked Christian faith and belief in Jesus as the defining criteria of his friends. He meant it as a positive statement – he wants people to be his friends and so he hopes they will accept Jesus in their lives. Not surprisingly, Jews and members of other faiths felt disenfranchised by such blatant religious triumphalism.

Often it is clear who our friends and enemies are; sometimes less so. Our desire to integrate into broader society and not ruffle feathers can lead us to blur the lines, and to not recognize threats that may be real. At times, our fears and desires to protect our own can leave us overly mistrustful and too quick to label others as enemies.

Jethro’s example, perhaps, provides some guidance – friends are those who meet us with respect, who provide genuine aid and assistance, and who do not ask of us to be something other than ourselves. That example is as relevant for our individual lives as it is for our collective existence.

Shabbat Shalom!

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