Shabbat Candlelighting 7:04 p.m.                                             Friday, March 18, 2011/12 Adar 5771

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Local Jewish Organizations Affected by Loss of Community Gaming Grants
Several local Jewish organizations were hit with bad news this week with respect to community gaming grants they’ve been receiving from the province of British Columbia. Jewish Women International and Shalom BC lost their community gaming grant, while the Jewish Seniors Alliance and The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre were notified of reductions ranging from 50 – 56%. In all, the reductions across the four organizations add up to about $95,000. For relatively small organizations this is a very hard blow, and in the case of Jewish Women International, where the grant supported the Jewish Food Bank, it is hard to imagine what the government’s rationale was for eliminating their support.

You can help by contacting Minister Shirley Bond to let her know how important these grants and organizations are to our community.

JCCGV Purim Festival Kicks Off Community Purim Celebrations
Last Sunday, the JCCGV came alive with hundreds of costumed children as more than 2,000 community members came to celebrate and play at the annual JCCGV Purim Carnival. Children danced and sang to the band Two Feet and a Heartbeat, gorged on pancakes, created Purim-related art projects, jumped in the bouncy castle, and played arcade games in the gym. The carnival, presented by the JCCGV staff, was free and open to the community.

In the midst of the carnival, The PJ Library held a special story time and dress-up hour. Young children and their families listened as Lissa Weinberger read a captivating Purim story. Children chose fun costume accessories and musical instruments to help act out some of the story's scenes. As the program approaches its one year anniversary in our community, it was wonderful to see familiar PJ Library faces, as well as families new to The PJ Library. Click here for more information about how to join The PJ Library or email Samara Bordan at

Public Speaking Contest
On Tuesday evening, more than 100 of our community's grade four to seven students competed in the 23rd Annual Public Speaking Contest at the JCCGV. The contest, presented by Jewish Federation and State of Israel Bonds, and supported by the Jewish Community Centre, was a huge success as each student got their chance to shine in front of peers, family members and friends. Many thanks to contest chair Larry Barzelai, as well as to the dedicated team of volunteer judges and moderators. With over 230 people gathering in the Wosk Auditorium to hear the final results, the spirit and ruach of the students was incredible. Mazal tov to all those who competed!

IdeaSlam Generates Great Energy and Great Ideas!
Also on Tuesday, Jewish Federation sponsored IdeaSlam – an evening for 20- and 30- somethings that provided an opportunity for them to share their ideas for building and improving our community. More than 50 people came out for a very engaging and fun evening. We were fortunate to work with PresenTense, an outstanding organization based in Israel, which provides training in social entrepreneurship. The evening was both a chance to bring forward new program opportunities for young members of our community, and a chance to test whether Metro Vancouver would be ripe ground for PresenTense’s Community Entrepreneurship Partnership.

The diversity of the group was very striking. We had participants from at least five to six different countries of origin. We ran the gamut from Habonimniks to Chabadniks, gay and straight, business people and graduate students. What was particularly exciting was the degree to which this very diverse group was comfortable engaging with each other, exchanging ideas and contact information.

The ideas generated were great too, including a model for a community service program incorporating both local and global opportunities, and a regional Jewish summer camp program for young adults. Most innovative – “Jew-dar” – a phone app to help newcomers to town identify who around them is Jewish so they can more easily connect with the community. You can check the IdeaSlam website for more information.

Parashat Tzav
In this week’s parasha, we see the continued detailed description of the various sacrifices commanded by God in different situations. As I noted last week, it can be challenging today to relate to this section of the Torah. But if we step back we can recognize that there is an effort here to infuse spirituality into every aspect of life. In fact, that is what our whole body of Jewish law and ritual is about. Lived to its fullest it can encompass us from the time we rise to the time we go to bed, when we eat, when we walk into our homes, even when we go to the bathroom. There are rituals for everyday life, and for our Sabbath and holy days, because every moment has the potential to be made holy.

At this week’s JFSA Innovators Lunch, Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, delivered a powerful message that echoes this theme. Ben and his partner created a company that was about more than providing a great product and making a profit. They decided at a crucial juncture that their business was also fundamentally about living out their social values and making the world a better place. Once they decided to measure success equally on the criteria of profit and community betterment, they were able to look at every decision through the lenses of both. Imagine what kind of world we would have if every business operated that way. Imagine what kind of world we would have if every person lived their life thinking about how every action could advance not only personal gain and fulfillment, but also the good of the community.

When we infuse our daily lives with ritual practices that remind of us of the presence of God, and the place of spirituality in our lives, we cannot help but do good in the world. If ever there was an argument for the holiness of eating ice cream, this is it!

Shabbat Shalom!

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