Federation addresses current controversies

Had Melanie Joly, minister of foreign affairs, been in Israel this past Saturday while 300 drones and ballistic missiles were being launched at Israel from Iran, would she be “calling for restraint from all sides”?  

I have noticed that the NDP MLAs Janis Irwin, Sarah Hoffman and MPs Heather McPherson and Blake Desjarlais who dressed in keffiyehs in legislatures and Parliament, or while attending pro-Gaza and pro-Hamas rallies, do not do so on a ‘regular basis’. I do not believe this is part of their heritage or that they wore this prior to October 7; however, when they are out and about having coffee, or when sitting behind me at the ceremony in the Alberta Legislature Rotunda to commemorate the genocide against the Tutsis of Rwanda of 1994, they did not feel compelled to wear the same. Please do not tell me it is not ‘political’ or making a statement. The picture is worth 1,000 words, and I have yet to hear one word condemning Hamas, or the sexual violence as an instrument of war against Israeli women.  

When Sarah Hoffman glorifies her participation in a Calgary demonstration that took place the day after Israel was bombarded with drones and missiles, and a participant was giving the Seig Heil while holding a poster of the Ayatollah, and then appropriating the word genocide, we (along with our Calgary counterparts) had to speak out. We did not hear of her addressing this individual while at said rally, nor of her advocating for peace, nor hostage release, nor condemning Hamas or Iran. These actions sow division and foment hate in Alberta. So do the promotion of rallies that are advertised based on the erasure (eradication) of Israel. 

If you are a member of the NDP party or would like to give input to their choice of leadership, I encourage you to become a member and to vote. We asked all candidates the same questions and invited them to provide a short video message to be shared with Jewish Alberta. You watch their responses now.  

Yesterday, a community member called me with an update about a conversation they had with a non-Jewish person of influence. Like many of you, who have been reaching out to politicians and leadership in various institutions, they were advocating by engaging this individual in dialogue.  

I appreciate every one of you who takes on this hasbara, and who keeps us abreast as well. And now I want to let you in on a secret… 

The secret is, we should not be so secret. Proclaiming our Jewish identity is something we should do proudly; we should feel safe and compelled to do so in Edmonton. We should also have the confidence and assurance to proclaim our Zionism, our connection to our indigenous homeland, Israel. To tell the stories of October 7 and since, that we have been privy to and bear witness to. We can draw strength from the resilience of our Israeli sisters and brothers. 

I hope you make it a point this May to join the community for our special commemorations of Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha'atzmaut, all led by volunteers with help from our staff. Bring a friend to the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival. We have a lively line up and a family friendly event with the Fiddler on the Roof sing-a-long.   

This Passover, our seders and our conversations will take on a different significance. We will consider ourselves having left Egypt, wandered the desert and returned from exile. We can heed the call from President Herzog, who has asked all Israelis to set an empty chair for the hostages who remain in captivity. 

I have kept wearing the hostage dog tag necklace I received when visiting with families at Hostage Square in November, and I will continue to wear it until we bring every hostage home. Your family may have another approach to incorporate meaning into your seder this year. On behalf of my husband Erin and our family, I wish you a Chag Pesach Sameach. 

Shabbat Shalom,