Chanukah feels different this year

Hatikvah—this is how we began the annual general meeting—singing the national anthem of Israel, which translates to “the Hope”. Hope is how we ended the AGM—with the membership overwhelming approval of moving forward with 14205-109 Avenue as the new Jewish Community Centre. This is further affirmation of Jewish life and Jewish community presence in Edmonton, ushering in a new era for our community. While the purchase will need to be finalized and there are many steps ahead, we look forward to engaging and informing you so that we can continue with our vision of a thriving, caring, engaged, and connected Jewish community.   

Another ray of hope came through us yesterday with this announcement, further demonstration that our Government of Alberta has listened to our concerns and is standing with us in the face of hate. With the temporary expansion of the Alberta Security Infrastructure Program (ASIP) grant, schools and synagogues will commission off duty sheriffs and with expansion of the recovery fund limits, capture back more of the costs. While there have been no specific indications of threat to our community institutions, we continue to monitor with all levels of law enforcement and are taking security measures out of an abundance of caution. 

Chanukah this year feels different. Like our Israeli brothers and sisters, we are resolute and comforted by the light that Chanukah brings to our community. I am inspired by our modern day Maccabees, the brave soldiers of the Israel Defence Force (IDF) who are ensuring the security and safety of Israel, dismantling Hamas so that October 7 does not happen ‘again and again’, as the Hamas leadership has promised. We are worried about the 138 hostages, still not visited by the Red Cross. Please write letters to the hostages in care of the Canadian Red Cross. And we are concerned about the 200,000 displaced people from the peripheries in the north and south, refugees in their country, and not returning to their homes soon. 

When Steve and I were in Sderot, we visited the police station. Reduced to a pile of rubble after overtaken by Hamas terrorists on October 7, with an Israeli flag in the center. It now has a giant menorah. Soldiers lit a menorah in the window of a destroyed home in Kibbutz Beeri. Jewish life will return to these communities, and we will be there with them to help them do so.  

This week we had a short Hanukkah mifgash (exchange) with our Partnership2Gether partners. Some of you may remember Telem from the Clore Centre (who came for the United Jewish Appeal launch). He zoomed in from what is now a command room at the centre, showing us his second instrument (a rifle). Before he accompanied us with the singing of Maoz Tsur, he also told us that there was an ‘event’ in the area, and the IDF shut all roads down. Meytal told us that her sukkah is still up in Metullah, as this is a militarized zone. She could not take it down yet.  

We will present about our trip to Israel on Monday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Federation office. You can register now. We will also schedule a Zoom briefing shortly from Israel with an emphasis on the impact on our partner region, and on how the funding is helping our friends there.  

In the meantime, we encourage you to attend one of the many events going on in Edmonton this week, including the Menorah lighting at the legislature with all levels of government, with great thanks to Rabbi Ari and Chabad for organizing. We are also partnering with the synagogues and Jewish National Fund for a community event on Thursday where we will begin with a solidarity lighting for the hostages, followed by activities and solidarity card making or watching an Oilers game together. We can hope for another hat trick from Zach Hyman while enjoying some kosher food available for purchase. Please register right away. If we do not have a minimum number ahead of time by Tuesday, we will have to cancel.   

Wishing you a Chag Chanukah Sameach and a Shabbat Shalom.