Sunday, March 13, 2011/7 Adar II 5771

This message has 924 words, and will take about 3-4 minutes to read.

Due to technical issues with our email marketing service, my weekly message that usually arrives on Friday was delayed. The timing was particularly unfortunate, since on Friday we opened the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

Relief Fund for Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
Our Federation has opened a relief fund to help the people of Japan in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit earlier today. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake is one of the strongest ever recorded anywhere in the world, and it triggered a tsunami that affected 2,100 kilometres of coastline, and submerged entire coastal communities.

Funds will be directed through our trusted partner in the rescue and relief field, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which has already reached out to the Japanese Government to offer its assistance. The JDC acquired substantial experience in post-tsunami and earthquake recovery through its relief and reconstruction projects in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Maldives and India following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004.

Click here to donate online and here to read more about the JDC and for news links.

Gilad Shalit Broadcast Draws Tens of Thousands
From all counts, it appears that more than 20,000 people from across Canada and Israel participated in Monday’s live video broadcast in solidarity with Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has held been captive in Gaza for more than four and a half years. Whether or not you were able to catch the broadcast, there are things you can do to help as follow up to the broadcast.

Israeli-Canadians Stepping Up Community Involvement
While in Toronto earlier this week for meetings, I had a chance to meet with Ron Mesterman, an Israeli-Canadian businessman who has sparked the renewal of the Israeli Forum in Toronto, and developed an Israeli division of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s annual campaign. For someone who has been in Canada for about seven years, Ron’s level of participation and success in building strong Israeli participation in the Toronto community is remarkable.

While we may not have the same number of Israeli-Canadians as Toronto, there is no question that we have a sizable and important contingent of Israeli-Canadians living on the Lower Mainland. The fact is that they are already making important contributions throughout our community, as both volunteer and professional leaders in many institutions. We are hoping to build on that involvement, and bring more Israeli-Canadian community members into leadership roles in our community. They have a lot to offer, and we all have a lot to gain. For more information, contact If’at Eilon-Heiber at

Jewish Federation Planning Council Publishes Report on Frail Elderly
This past summer, Jewish Federation’s planning department conducted a study of frail and socially isolated elderly community members and their needs. The findings echo those of other studies of the frail elderly population throughout North America – issues of transportation, social isolation, the need for services in the regional communities and access to more support to “age in place” loom largest among the needs. With our particular demographics, we will see a dramatic growth in this population over the next 10 years. We have been working with agency and synagogue leadership in order to foster further planning efforts to meet the needs identified in the study, and look forward to working collaboratively with a variety of community organizations and synagogues to strengthen our services in this area. To access the report click here.

Jewish Education Services Department Coordinates Professional Development Activities
This past week, 80 educators from our three Jewish day schools participated in the annual community-wide professional development day. The day opened with a keynote presentation from well-known educator and consultant, Dr. John Collins, who engaged and inspired participants with his practical and concrete approaches to increasing writing literacy. Following the keynote, the teachers had choices among various workshop options. A highlight of the day was the presentation of the 2010 Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education to Dina Delmar-Acoca. Mrs. Acoca, who teaches at Vancouver Hebrew Academy, was one of only three Canadian teachers receiving this award in 2010. Every year Jewish Federation matches the award granted by the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Foundation, to enable the local winner to access prestigious professional development opportunities.

One of the workshop choices was an opportunity to learn with Danny Siegel, long-time teacher and mitzvah activist. Siegel has been involved in Jewish education for more than 30 years, with a focus on helping people take on personal responsibility through helping others and making the world a better place. In addition to his participation in the day school professional development program, Siegel also led workshops for supplementary school educators, communal professionals and youth workers, and met with students at King David High School, Richmond Jewish Day School,and TAG supplementary school.

Parashat Vayikra
This week we begin reading the third book of the TorahVayikra, or Leviticus. The parasha provides a detailed description of the different kinds of sacrifices and the actions, situations and sins to which they relate. To me, it frankly makes for a pretty grim reading, and it is hard to feel very connected with this part of our tradition. Especially for parshiyot such as this, reading commentaries can help provide bridging connections. Leviticus 4:15 talks about the sacrifices appropriate for a chieftain who unwittingly commits a sin by doing something which God commanded shouldn’t be done. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai said, “Blessed is the generation whose leadership recognizes having sinned, and brings an offering of purification.” The implication here is that a leader who sets the example for his or her people will bring others along in recognizing their wrongs. But, a leader who blames others and avoids responsibility also teaches the people by example.

Once again, the parallels to what we see unfolding across the Mideast jump out, as we see despotic leaders fight to hold on their power and ill-gotten wealth, at the continued expense of their people. The lessons they are teaching their people are all too evident.

Shabbat Shalom!

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