Shabbat Candlelighting 8:40 p.m.                                             Friday, July 29, 2011/27 Tammuz 5771

This message has 965 words, and will take about 2-3 minutes to read.

Tragedy in Norway
Just a few hours after last week’s message was sent, we began hearing the first reports of the tragic terror attacks in Norway, in which a single crazed ideologue killed at least 76 people with a bomb attack in central Oslo, and a shooting spree at a youth camp sponsored by Norway’s labour movement. For a society that prides itself on peace, the horrific loss of life has thrown Norway into deep mourning. We have reached out to the local consul general of Norway here in Vancouver with a message of support and solidarity.

Summer camps are a vital part of our Jewish informal educational network, and many families rely on them as safe and exciting environments for children to grow, learn and have fun. No parent whose children go off to camp saw or heard this news without a truly gut-wrenching reaction.

We have been in discussions this week with the Jewish residential camps in our region to offer assistance in reviewing existing security measures and thinking proactively with our national advocacy partner (CIJA) about how we can enhance their security. We will also be continuing with our work around community safety, building on what we started four years ago through updated security audits, further grants for upgrades, and hands-on staff training on security issues.

One of our camps, Camp Miriam-Habonim Dror, is also affiliated with a labour movement, based in Israel. The Norway attacks strikes a particular chord for this segment of our community. The personal reflection of Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan of Or Shalom Synagogue, whose children attend and work at the camp, was particularly moving and worth reading.

Ethiopian-Israeli Singer Wins Israeli Idol Competition
Twenty-one year old Hagit Yaso from Sderot won first place in the “Israeli Idol” singing competition, Kochav Nolad, earlier this week. Hagit’s parents made aliya from Ethiopia in the early 1990’s directly to Sderot. At first they found it extremely difficult to integrate into a new society. With time, they adjusted to their modest life in Sderot. For Hagit, growing up with constant sirens and the fear of rockets falling on her home made life very tense. It affected her so profoundly that she had serious concerns about joining the army because of her fear of shootings and sirens.

Through funds provided by the Canadian Federations’ Israel Emergency Fund, Hagit was awarded a scholarship to the music school at the community center, which allowed her to enhance her music studies and take voice lessons. As a result, she had several opportunities to perform at various Federation-related events both in Canada and Israel, including a special tribute to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Hagit’s dream was to be a singer in an IDF music troop. She was skipped over during the first round of auditions and was crushed, but based on her experiences with the Canadian Federations she was able to reapply, and was accepted the second time around. Upon being announced the winner Monday night of Kochav Nolad, Hagit expressed her pride in representing the Ethiopian community in Israel and the city of Sderot. Hagit’s win represents a new and enlightened Israeli society. Voted a winner by her fellow Israelis, based upon her talent, demonstrates greater acceptance for diversity in Israeli society.

Join Hillel at the Pride Parade
The Vancouver Hillel Foundation is once again taking the lead in ensuring a positive Jewish community presence at the annual Vancouver Pride Parade, taking place downtown this Sunday. Join the students and staff of Hillel together with other community members to demonstrate our own acceptance for diversity in our society. Gather at the east side of Thurlow between Barclay and Nelson at 12:00 noon.

There’s a Pride Parade after-party for Jewish young adults taking place at 3:30 p.m. at the Yaletown Brewing Company.

Legal Threat to Circumcision Fought Off
Over the past few weeks, Jewish communities around the world have watched with concern a ballot initiative in a local municipality in California’s Bay Area that would ban circumcision. The initiative was opposed by a strong coalition of Jewish and Muslim community groups, as well as strong advocates from the medical profession. The Superior Court of California ruled that the initiative be removed from the November ballot because municipalities have no jurisdiction over regulating legitimate medical practices.

Parashat Mas’ei

This week’s parasha begins with a long recitation of the various places where the Israelites had traveled and camped on their forty year journey to the land of Israel. To our contemporary eye it can seem a dry recitation, but if you look at it from the vantage point of people using the text to relive the journey, it takes on greater meaning. If you’ve ever kept a travel journal so that you could remember all the things you did on a trip, and what those experiences felt like at the time, you get a sense of how this parasha might be read.

Two of our daughters traveled this summer on trips through United Synagogue Youth – one in Eastern Europe and Israel, and the other along the eastern seaboard of North America. We’d get weekly digests of their activities and it actually sounded a lot like this parasha – first we went there, and then we did this, and then we went on to another place. It was hard to read into the messages the colour, taste and emotion our kids went through, although we could certainly imagine some of it. But when we couple those messages with the stories our daughters will bring back, it will come to life.

We can think about our journeys through life as a list of places and a series of events. Or we can think about the journey in living colour, recalling the emotion of each stop along the way.

Shabbat Shalom!

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