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“Let your house be open wide” (Pirkei Avot 1:5) is at the heart of our tradition of hachnasat orchim or welcoming guests. This has been a week of welcoming those who are visiting from afar and sending our community’s best and brightest off to be welcomed by others.
First up was the historic visit to Canada by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. He met with Governor General Julie Payette and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, reinforcing the strong ties that exist between the two countries. We are very proud that Karen James, our Board chair, was invited to attend the State Dinner that was held in President Rivlin’s honour. Unfortunately, he had to return home early to be with his wife, Nechama, who is recovering from surgery. We wish her refuah shlema.
Israel is gearing up for elections on Tuesday, and even if you aren’t an Israeli citizen you’re probably interested in the outcome. Now is your chance to have your say, regardless of your nationality, by “voting” in Makom’s parallel election. Makom is an initiative of our partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel.
There are two Israel-BC connections that you should know about. The first is the King David High School grade eight trip to Israel that is taking place right now. A couple of days ago the students visited Beit Vancouver, a centre for youth activities in our partnership region of the Upper Galilee Panhandle. Camille, one of the ShinShinim who will be volunteering in our community this fall, is from our partnership region and she made a video about the students’ visit to Beit Vancouver.
One of the highlights of this trip is always the homestay experience, which gives students an opportunity to see what it is really like to live in our partnership region and helps them deepen the friendships that they are building with students from their sister school, Har Vagai. Building people-to-people relationships is one aspect of our Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) program, and we are very proud to support this trip and others, such as teacher exchanges and visits to Vancouver by Har Vagai students and teachers, that help build closer connections between our community and our partnership region.
We aren’t the only ones taking an interest in local connections to Israel though. It was great to see BC Business Magazine publish an article titled, “The Promised Land: B.C. is building business ties with Israel.” As the province looks to diversity its economy, promote greater innovation and become more competitive, partnerships with Israeli companies and institutions, like universities, are poised to grow and play an increasingly important role. Our advocacy partner, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, continues to play a key role in the planning, facilitation and execution of these trade missions. We are also seeing an increasing number of Israelis come here to work for companies like Amazon and Microsoft, and we are here to welcome them with programs like our Gesher Welcoming Services.
With more and more Israelis making Greater Vancouver their new home, the role of our community’s Sephardic synagogue, Beth Hamidrash, is poised to grow. We were honoured to be part of their 50th anniversary celebration last Sunday at which Rabbi Gabay was officially inducted. The Beth Hamidrash of today was started by a small group of Sephardi Jews from many different countries, and their rich and varied traditions are woven into the fabric of the synagogue, and it is a beautiful example of the strength, continuity and diversity of Jewish community life.
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, came from the UK to celebrate with Beth Hamidrash, and he took time out from his busy schedule to visit several of our Jewish day schools and have lunch with and speak to a group of Jewish community professionals. You can read more about Rabbi Mirvis in this article in the Canadian Jewish News.
Many of us will be ending this week by practising hachnasat orchim as we welcome guests to our home for Shabbat. Hundreds of families across our community receive support in teaching their children about Jewish traditions like this through the PJ Libraryprogram, which provides the gift of Jewish books and CD’s each month – for free – for children ages six months to eight years old. PJ Our Way recently launched in Canada for children ages nine to 11 years old, and you can register here. Two of our colleagues who help support the program locally just returned from the PJ Library International Conference, where they sharpened their skills and exchanged ideas with their counterparts. Look for great new programs for children and families by following PJ Library on Facebook, and check out the online resources they provide, like this page full of ideas to help children welcome guests.
Ezra S. Shanken
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver
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