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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

August 4, 2017 | 12 Av 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 8:28 p.m.

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This week started on a solemn note with Tisha Be’Av, a day of mourning and reflection when we put ourselves in the place of our ancestors who saw the destruction of our temples.

It is said that one of the contributing factors to the destruction of the temples was sinat chinam, the baseless hatred that existed amongst factions of our People at the time. It was by no means the only reason for their destruction, but the idea is that infighting rooted in sinat chinam weakened us. Some would say it still does today. We have a beautiful tradition of respectful dissent. Our passionate debates and disagreements can add to the richness and complexity of our families and our communities. It is part and parcel of who we are. Golda Meir z”l put it perfectly to Richard Nixon when she said, “You may be the president of 250 million people, but I’m the prime minister of 5 million prime ministers.”

Yet when we look around, the way we disagree with each other is often so harsh. Some people even shy away from sharing their opinions on controversial issues out of fear of the vitriolic response they have come to expect. Just watch the news or log on to Twitter and it’s everywhere.

We thought it would be a good time to talk about civil discourse, so we were delighted when Rabbi Jay Henry Moses, vice president of the Wexner Foundation, agreed to present at FEDtalks on how we talk about difficult issues. He will delve into how this is playing out, both inside and beyond the Jewish community, with a focus on how we can reclaim our culture of healthy dissent. The Wexner Foundation is instrumental in developing leaders across the Jewish world, and they have been engaging in this conversation as part of their very prestigious program. This is a rare and exciting opportunity for Rabbi Moses to bring the conversation to us. 

Part of Wexner’s mission is to “expand the vision of Jewish volunteer leaders, deepen their Jewish knowledge and confidence, and inspire them to exercise transformative leadership in the Jewish community.” In previous years we have provided a number of our local leaders the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge base through Wexner programs, including our immediate past Board chair, Stephen Gaerber; our past president, Jonathan Berkowitz; and Jill Diamond, who has served in a number of capacities, including as chair of our Allocations Planning Committee. Ruth Wasserman Lande, another of this year’s FEDtalks speakers, is also a Wexner alumna.

Rabbi Moses also happens to be a Wexner alum. (They are everywhere!) He got his start in Jewish leadership through NFTY, Reform Judaism’s youth movement, pursued rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and was awarded a Wexner Graduate Fellowship. Before becoming VP at Wexner, he served as associate Rabbi at Temple Sholom of Chicago, and studied Jewish mysticism in Jerusalem where he also taught and mentored rabbinical students at HUC-JIR.

I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to hear from him and join us at FEDtalks on September 13th at the Chan Centre. There’s still time to buy at the early bird price if you click here. I look forward to sharing more about our speakers over the next few weeks, so you can get to know them better before the big night.

While we began the week thinking about what we’ve lost, let us end it with an attempt to achieve a measure of peace and comfort.  

In the summer of 2014 during Operation Protective Edge, Hamas killed Israeli Lieutenant Hadar Goldin z”l and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul z”l and has refused to return their remains. It has added to the immeasurable pain borne by their families, who have been fighting to give them a proper burial. A number of organizations, including our advocacy partner, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, have worked with the Hadar Goldin Foundation to launch a campaign called Bring Them Home. You can help by adding your name to the petition asking the U.N. Secretary General to demand Hamas return the remains of Hadar z”l and Oron z”l. It’s an act that combines our values of justice, kindness and repairing the world. I’ve added my name and I hope you’ll add yours.

On a happier note, our young adults group, Axis, will be joining CIJA’s Yad b’Yad on Sunday at Pride. They will be at Sunset Beach on Sunday from 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the area between Thurlow and Nicola. Look for booth #68 right at the centre of the action, almost at the opposite end from the main stage. Happy Pride!

And finally, if the hazy yellow-grey sky isn’t reminder enough, we would like to remind you that our BC Fire Relief Fund is still open. Todah rabbah to everyone who has given, either through us or other organizations. To date, we have raised $5,000 and we are working with members of the Kamloops Jewish community to ensure we are deploying the funds effectively to those who need our help. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to contribute, please consider doing so today.

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver