Shabbat Candlelighting 8:08 p.m.                                             Friday, April 29, 2011/25 Nissan 5771

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Your Voice Counts When You Vote
The first in a series of upcoming opportunities for BC residents to exercise their democratic right to vote comes this Monday with the federal election. I urge you to celebrate our democracy and cast your vote for the candidate and/or party of your choice. Too many people around the world are fighting for this right for us to squander it by sitting out the election.

You can also amplify your impact by putting some volunteer hours behind your candidate of choice. Contact their organizing office – they’ll be all too happy to put you to work on the many last minutes tasks involved in mobilizing electoral support.

Your Voice Counts When You Answer the Census
This week, census packages will be mailed to all households across Canada. The short form is sent to every household, and then a smaller sample of those who return the short form will receive the longer length household survey. Help us make sure that we have data about our community to help guide our planning of vital services. We’ll only have that if everyone participates when given the chance. For more information, click here.

Your Voice Counts When We Celebrate Israel Together
This year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) concert is on Monday, May 9th at 7:30 p.m. at the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts. It promises to be another outstanding evening in celebration of Israel. More than 1,000 community members already have their tickets – don’t miss out on getting yours.

This year’s performers, formed in the rich tradition of IDF entertainment troupes, include performers drawn from the ranks of Israel’s version of the “Idol” singing talent pool and will bring their youth, energy and ruach (spirit) to our community for this annual event, which is one of our community’s largest annual gatherings.

As always, we also gather together the evening before to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, which recognizes those who have lost their lives defending the State of Israel or through acts of terrorism. This year’s Yom HaZikaron ceremony takes place Sunday, May 8th at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Sholom.

Reading the Tea Leaves Getting Ever More Difficult
With daily twists and turns occurring between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their relationships amongst themselves and with each other, I am asked virtually every day by someone in our community what I think the outcome will be. It is truly difficult to gauge. The Fatah and Hamas factions have signed on to a unity pact. Does it reflect weakness on Hamas’ part, which needed to put their rift with Fatah behind them to sustain a tenuous hold on Gaza? Does it reflect a shift to a harder line by Mahmoud Abbas in order to forestall a political uprising on the West Bank? Are the Israelis better served by seeking to engage a newly unified Palestinian polity in a fresh round of peace talks, or by advocating that no peace is possible while Hamas is still sworn to Israel’s demise? How will all this affect the Palestinian Authority’s bid for UN recognition for statehood in September?

Place all that in the midst of the continuing ferment throughout the Middle East, and it gets even harder to predict what the outcomes may be. As I shared with one community member this week, buckle your seat belt and get ready for a very turbulent period.

Parashat Kedoshim
This week we read Parashat Kedoshim, which includes Leviticus chapter 19, often referred to as the “holiness code”. The chapter begins with a statement, “You shall be holy, because I, your God, am holy.” It then provides a lengthy recitation of actions and behaviors which we are commanded to do or not to do because of our relationship with God, the source of our own holiness. The litany of dos and don’ts in Kedoshim touches on many rituals, but also on our everyday relationships with people around us, the way we conduct our business and the way we go through daily life.

It brought to mind the words of Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, who spoke at our Annual Campaign opening in 2009 and talked about what it meant for us to be created in the image of God. For Artson, being created in the image of God means that we strive to emulate God-like behaviors, to be our best selves, and to do so in every moment and every action. Earlier this week, I attended the UBC Law Alumni Association’s annual recognition dinner, at which one of our community members, Morley Koffman, was presented with their Lifetime Achievement Award. There were many from our community attending, I suspect because of their respect for an individual who brings his integrity, his passion for justice, and his treatment of everyone around him with dignity and respect into every moment of every day. I doubt that UBC consulted the cycle of Torah readings when selecting the date for their event, but for me, the timing couldn’t have been better. Kol HaKavod Morley, for inspiring so many around you in your profession, and in your community.

Shabbat Shalom!

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