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There are always those weeks when the things we plan to write about in the Shabbat Message get moved around. As you can imagine, this is such a week. We’re covering a lot of ground in today’s message.
First, we want to extend our condolences to members of the Muslim community. We were shocked, horrified and deeply saddened to hear the news from New Zealand that 49 Muslims were killed at two mosques during Friday prayers, and that nearly as many were injured. Our advocacy partner, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), issued a statement condemning the attack, as did Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, and Jewish Federations of North America, and numerous other Jewish organizations. As Canadians, we are all too aware that this is not the first time Muslims have been killed in their place of worship.
As Jews, the news of such attacks hits particularly close to our hearts. It seems like just yesterday we gathered at the JCC to stand in solidarity with the victims of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, and we remember the comfort and strength we took not only from each other, but from the members of other faith-based and ethno-cultural communities who joined us at the JCC and then at the Solidarity Shabbat. The Rabbinical Association of Vancouver sent this letter of condolence, solidarity and comfort to local Muslim leaders and the communities they represent. Jewish organizations in Richmond published this letter. CIJA and their affiliate, the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, published an Open Letter to our Muslim Neighbours. We encourage you share them with your Muslim friends and neighbours.
There is a vigil planned for tonight at 7:30 following evening prayers at Al-Jamia Masjid. We realize that the timing of this on Shabbat means that not everyone who would like to attend can do so, but we wanted to share the information for those of you who are able to be there.
Earlier yesterday, our attention was on Tel Aviv as sirens rang out and bomb shelters were opened in response to two rockets fired from Gaza. This is the first time that rockets were fired at Tel Aviv since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Shortly before the rockets were fired, there were reports of Gazans publically protesting the high cost of living, and speculation that Hamas might “strike Israel as a diversion.” We held our breath as the news started to come in and we waited to hear details. It now appears that both rockets landed in open areas, but this could have been so much worse.
Israel retaliated with air strikes, and Hamas fired more rockets at civilian targets in Israel. A rocket hit a home in Sderot, but no injuries were reported. Word this morning was that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire. The Times of Israel reported that, “An IDF assessment found that the rockets were possibly fired toward the coastal city by mistake, and that low-level Hamas forces were responsible for the launches.” All of this comes as Israel prepares for elections just three weeks from now, adding another layer of complexity to the tense situation. Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel office is in touch with its partners on the ground and is closely monitoring the situation.
We were reminded of all that we as Canadians share with Israel, including democratic values, when our community received a visit this week from Tiki Gruner, a representative of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) who provided insights into how Israeli elections work and how the Knesset functions. Tiki ran activities for 300 children and teenagers at five different Jewish schools, and talked to more than 100 adults. The activities culminated to a live broadcast at the Knesset ceremony where Karen James, our Board Chair and a member of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors answered questions by chair of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog. The visit was part of an inaugural program that included similar visits to Toronto, Kingston and Hamilton, and was a joint effort of the Knesset, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Queen’s Hillel and the Hamilton Jewish Federation.
While we were learning about how the Knesset works, students from across our community were learning a new skill: public speaking. Ninety students in grades four through seven participated in the 31st Annual Public Speaking Contest last night. Students crafted their speeches on topics that both reflect and encourage their Jewish knowledge and identity. We were proud to present the program with support from the JCC, the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library, and State of Israel Bonds. The contest was started by Larry Barzelai to honour the memory of his father. Kol hakavod to all the students who participated.
Behind every student is a caring community of family, friends and educators. We are delighted to pass along news from our partner, Vancouver Talmud Torah (VTT), announcing the appointment of Emily Greenberg as VTT’s new head of school. Emily was selected following a rigorous six-month search process that included numerous impressive candidates. She has 16 years’ experience as a classroom teacher, school counselor and administrator at the elementary, middle and high school levels in both Canada and abroad. She is currently vice principal of the Elementary School division at Bialik Hebrew Day School in Toronto. Please join us in welcoming Emily and her family to our community.
Shabbat Shalom and chag sameach.
Ezra S. Shanken
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver
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