Wednesday, September 28, 2011/29 Elul 5771

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Ambassador Gillerman Helps Push Campaign Forward
Monday’s night’s Annual Campaign Opening Night event drew more than 800 people together to hear former Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman. Ambassador Gillerman has a strong presence on stage, by turns humourous, serious and insightful. Having come straight from the UN General Assembly in New York, where he was working behind the scenes with the Israeli delegation, he shared his perspective that all is not as grim as it seems. To be sure, he wasn’t making light of the range of issues facing Israel. And since he’s not a formal representative of the Israeli government, he was also able to relate a few areas where he feels his country could have acted differently to open up diplomatic possibilities. His bottom line: for almost three years there have been virtually no negotiations, only public posturing. It is time for the parties to start talking out of the spotlight of public attention and focus on real discussions for peace. Ambassador Gillerman closed on a surprising hopeful note, that notwithstanding the seemingly wide gap between the Israelis and Palestinians, a peace agreement is closer at hand than we might assume.

Despite a short week in the office because of the coming holiday, there was a lot of activity on the campaign front. Our campaign now stands at $3 million, 36% of the way towards our $8.2 million goal.

At Monday night’s event we premiered our campaign video, which delves into some of the important issues and changes that our community faces, as shown through three very personal stories of community members here and in Israel. I invite you to take a few minutes out of your day to watch it and to pass it along to others.

Canadian Government Stands Behind Israel and the Jewish People
With the UN General Assembly and the UN Durban III Conference both opening last week, the Canadian government took multiple opportunities to demonstrate its principled support of the State of Israel and the Jewish people in the world arena. You could point to Canada’s choice to vacate its seat in the UN General Assembly during the speech of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. You could look at Canada’s choice to boycott the Durban III Conference, given the blatant usurpation of its important agenda by groups focused largely on embarrassing and isolating Israel. And, you could look at Foreign Minister John Baird’s speech at the UN General Assembly, where he focused on explaining Canada’s foreign policies in the context of historic Canadian values. It’s no wonder Ambassador Gillerman described Canada as the very best place he could come to visit following his time at the UN last week.

Whatever your political leanings are, this past week our government demonstrated the extraordinary depth of its convictions on a range of issues important to our Jewish community. I encourage you to acknowledge Prime Minister Harper by sending a message of thanks.

Welcoming the New Year
Tonight we begin the Jewish New Year with our celebration of Rosh Hashanah. As our campaign leadership shared at Monday’s Annual Campaign Opening Night event, it is a time of reflection – for ourselves, for our community, for our world. What more can we do to take care of the vulnerable among us? What more can we do to ensure that our children, youth and young adults get connected and stay connected to Jewish life and community? What more can we do to strengthen ourselves as a community as we face so many challenges in today’s complex world?

As we join together over the next few days in our homes and synagogues, we look with hope towards a year of greater security for those rattled by economic turmoil, a year of greater peace for all whose lives are shattered by violence and war, a year of nurturing for all who are hungry and cold.

On behalf of our Jewish Federation family and my own, my best wishes to you for a sweet New Year!

Shana Tovah!

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