Shabbat Candlelighting 4:43 p.m.                                             Friday, January 28, 2011/23 Shevat 5771

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Councillor Kerry Jang Addresses Tikva Housing Society
The Tikva Housing Society (THS) held its Annual General Meeting last evening, featuring a presentation from Vancouver city councillor, Kerry Jang. Tikva Housing is an important partner of Jewish Federation, working on affordable housing solutions for members of our Jewish community. In addition to managing the Dany Guincher House, an 11 unit apartment building serving community members at risk of homelessness, THS is pursuing a range of strategies to expand housing options for people with varying housing needs.

I’ve heard Jang speak before and continue to be impressed with his intelligence, grasp of critical issues, and articulate ability to put forward information clearly and passionately. His presentation last night was based on concrete data showing the range of housing challenges facing the city, the growth of the homeless population over the past decade, and the real progress that Vancouver has started to make recently. Interestingly, Jang presents as a non-partisan activist – prepared to work with any and all who will advance a constructive housing agenda. He was quick to praise both the previous city council for their achievement in securing 14 new sites for housing projects, and BC minister of housing, Rich Coleman, for his collaborative work in advancing financing for those projects.

Jewish Federation and THS will continue working together with the cities of Vancouver and Richmond and with NGOs to pursue possible means to expand housing options for our community members and others in need.

Unrest Spreads Across Mideast
From when I wrote about Tunisia two weeks ago, unrest has spread to other Mideast countries, including Egypt and Jordan, as broad segments of their population start to actively protest repressive regimes and challenging economic conditions. These uprisings appear to be grassroots manifestations of dissatisfaction, not tied to specific political parties or movements. They have already wrought significant political upheaval in Tunisia, and are likely to do so in Egypt as well.

Given that established political opposition groups aren’t driving the process, it is hard to know what new governments will look like when the dust settles. The uprisings may lead to further violence as organized fundamentalist Islamic groups battle with dissatisfied grassroots secularists over the future of their countries.

Parashat Mishpatim
Mishpatim means ordinances, and this weekly reading is comprised of a long list of statements governing property and moral behavior. Included is the precept to not charge interest when lending money to the poor (Exodus 22:24). It is nestled among a number of precepts relating to the proper treatment of disadvantaged groups including widows, orphans and strangers. This precept has provided the organizing mission of Hebrew Free Loan Associations (HFLA) in Jewish communities around the world, including here in Vancouver. HFLA provides interest-free loans to community members to help them address short-term challenges and needs, such as unanticipated costs due to death or illness of a family member, education or training to reposition oneself in the job market, and many other important individual needs. By joining the Hebrew Free Loan Association you are engaging in one of the oldest forms of self-help organized within the Jewish community. To join HFLA visit their website.

Shabbat Shalom!

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