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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

February 1, 2019 | 26 Shevat 5779 | Candlelighting 4:51 pm

This message has 700 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

As Jews living in the modern world, we are conscious of the rhythms of both the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish calendar, and the influence they have on our lives as individuals and as a community. Today, there are important connections to be made to both.  

It is February 1st, which means today is the start of Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), the mission of which is to build awareness in Jewish communities and increase community engagement. JDAIM is an opportunity to celebrate our commitment to removing barriers, celebrating diversity and connecting with our Jewish values.  

Just a few months ago Pamela Schuller, an internationally respected disability and mental health advocate and professional stand-up comedian, presented at FEDtalks. She left us with three ways every community can be more inclusive. Check out this two-minute clip from her FEDtalk. It’s a great reminder to keep saying “yes, and...” throughout the year and throughout our lives.  

Before we get to the Jewish calendar connection, we want to take a look back at two things that happened last week.  

Last Friday, Rachel and I were honoured to host the new Consul General of Germany, Dr. Klaus Schmidt, and his wife, Marie-Luise, at our home for Shabbat dinner. We were joined by a number of volunteer leaders from our Federation and our advocacy partner, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). We are grateful to CIJA for creating this opportunity for us to share our traditions and to practice hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests). The Schmidts have a strong connection to Canada, and fondly remember living in Ottawa in the 1990s; their youngest child was born there. Please welcome them back if your paths cross.  

The next night was our hugely successful Birthright Israel Mega Event, which celebrated 18 years of the program that sends young Jewish people to Israel for free. Held at the JCC, it was a chance for past Birthright Israel participants to re-connect, and for potential participants to meet those who’ve already experienced this life-changing opportunity and were eager to share their insights. Just as importantly, it was a great dance party for the excited crowd of 350 young people. Many had evidently come to see the winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, Israel’s iconoclastic solo act, Netta Barzilai.  

The night kicked off with a riveting drumming session by local musicians, followed by an electrifying performance by Netta. Local DJ Krista kept the crowd dancing until midnight. Outside the dance hall, in the lobby of the JCC, tables of organizations and sponsors provided participants with information about programs in Canada and Israel that will further their Jewish connection in both countries. Check out the photos here.  

We are proud to have made Birthright Israel experiences possible for nearly 2,700 local young adults since 2000, thanks to your gifts to the Federation Annual Campaign. Registration for summer trips is open. Click here and register.  

Looking to the Jewish calendar, this week we read parshat Mishpatim, part of which outlines the laws around lending money. Each year at this time we devote a portion of our Shabbat Message to theHebrew Free Loan Association (HFLA), which was founded on the mitzvah of gemilut chesed (deeds of loving kindness that anticipate no reward). HFLA supports a wide range of Jewish people, from children with special needs to struggling entrepreneurs and seniors in need of dental care, and its funds come from caring individuals who live amongst us. The organization engages in an annual outreach campaign to advise the community of their services. This year, in addition to speaking at many of the synagogues in the community, they have produced this two-minute video.  HFLA makes a big difference in the lives of many in our community, and we are pleased to share it with you today.  

Parshat Mishpatim outlines not only obligations of one individual to another, but our responsibility to the community. The themes we touched on today – inclusion, tradition, outreach, Israel connections, and knowing both how to help and where to seek help – all relate to individual actions that strengthen community. For as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once wrote, “Community is society with a human face – the place where we know we’re not alone.”

Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

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