Shabbat Candlelighting 4:10 p.m.                                             Friday, November 18, 2011/21 Heshvan 5772

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Partnership in Upper Galilee Making Strong Impact
I’m just back from Israel, having participated in meetings related to our partnership in the Upper Galilee Panhandle. The schedule included a remarkable ceremony at the new Bar Ilan medical school campus in Safed. This is a project we have been working to support over the past several years, and to see it come to fruition was quite amazing. The school opened a few weeks ago with about 125 students and will continue to grow over the next several years to more than 800 students. The launch of the school is an important catalyst in the development of a biotechnology hub in the Eastern Galilee, comprised of relatively new resources such as a new Bachelor of Science in Medicine degree and the Sidney Warren Science Education Centre at Tel Hai College, expansion of the Migal Research Centre, a new research institute to be developed near the medical school, and the upgrading of seven hospitals across the Galilee. These developments are important because health resources in the Galilee lag behind other areas of Israel (shorter life expectancy, fewer hospital beds, fewer doctors per person). They also hold the promise of attracting and retaining a new population to the Galilee, which is an important strategic objective for Israel’s security.

We also had a chance to visit the new centre for young adults, based in Kiryat Shmona but serving the entire Upper Galilee region. The centre is a one-stop shop assisting young adults in accessing resources for higher education, as well as volunteer and job opportunities that can help them connect socially and build their careers. We met with several visitors of the centre who shared their personal stories about how the centre has helped them see a future life in the region.

Over the past several years, our Federation, both through the Coast to Coast partnership and on our own, has directed more of the funds we allocate for overseas needs to a series of interrelated programs focused on youth and education. The cumulative impact of these programs is being felt in a deep way in the region, and a real difference is being made in closing social gaps between the periphery and the centre of the country.

Strong Vancouver Contingent on Habonim Dror Year Course in Israel
During this past week in Israel, I had the opportunity to visit Kibbutz En Dor in the Lower Galilee, and spend time with 12 young adults who are active with Camp Miriam, and who are participating in the Habonim Dror Gap Year program. They comprise the largest BC contingent in many years, and almost a third of the total cohort. All are participating with grant support through the Jewish Agency for Israel's MASA program, funded by the Jewish Federation.

One of the unique aspects of the Habonim movement is the degree of responsibility it puts on youth for their own experiences and those of the group. The group context and the ideological emphasis on the collective means they are constantly working through a whole range of issues through deep, passionate debate. At every step, individually and as a group, they have to work things through in terms of what works for the group. Whatever your own ideological perspectives may be on the socialist underpinnings of the Habonim movement, our world can certainly benefit from more young people thinking in a deep way about how their actions affect everyone around them.

The evening I was there was November 11th, and some of the Canadian participants organized a brief tekes (ceremony) for Remembrance Day. I had just come to En Dor after a visit with a friend to the cemetery where both Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and his son Assaf are buried, near the Ramat David Air Force Base. It gave me a chance to reflect with the group on the importance of these kinds of remembrance ceremonies in a society where people are continuously called on to sacrifice their lives.

Annual Campaign Update
The Federation Annual Campaign continues to progress towards completion, as we have now raised $5.5 million, or two-thirds of our $8.2 million goal. Last night we held the last of our major events, Night of 100 Dinners, as 12 hosts graciously welcomed about 150 guests into their homes and other venues ranging from Richmond to West Vancouver. Co-chairs Judi and David Korbin, and Kathryn Young and Alan Shuster helped introduce several innovations that put a fresh face on the event this year. Our thanks to the co-chairs, committee, hosts and hostesses for making it a special evening.

If you have not yet made your Annual Campaign gift, there is no time like the present – click here to make your gift now.

Jewish Cultural Festivals Abound
The Jewish Film Festival concludes another successful year this Saturday night with their closing event. Tickets are still available online on the JFF website. This year’s festival had a very strong line-up of interesting films, which drew outstanding audience participation. The JFF is partnering with Jewish Federation this year in a new teen film contest, providing local youth a new interesting way to express their Jewish identity. For more information about the film contest, click here.

The JCCGV’s Jewish Book Festival also takes place in November, and it provides a rich opportunity to connect with a different slice of Jewish culture. Click here for the book festival schedule of events.

Parashat Chaye Sarah
This week’s parasha begins with the death of Sarah, and Abraham’s negotiations for a burial site. It then moves on to arrangements for Isaac’s betrothal, and ultimately Abraham’s own death and burial. Taking this section of the biblical narrative as a whole, the parasha is dealing with important aspects of the continuity of the Israelites’ identity from one generation to the next, and its rootedness in the land of Israel. By cementing the tribe’s tie to the land through acquisition of the burial site, and by ensuring future generations of his family, Abraham is taking essential steps for the future.

There are many aspects of communal life through which we do the same today. Among the most powerful are programs such as Birthright and MASA, through which young adults are provided with a serious engagement with Jewish life and the land of Israel. These life-changing experiences help kindle and deepen participants’ Jewish identity, at a time when they are charting their paths for their adult lives. By supporting these critical programs through the Federation Annual Campaign, we too are taking essential steps for the future.

Shabbat Shalom!

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