Federation continues advocating in light of recent events

I wanted to share with you the warm experiences I had this week, connecting with our community while we connected with one another. Jewish Family Services organized a tasty seudah in the sukkah dinner at Beth Israel Synagogue. Many agencies sponsored this event, including the Jewish Federation. Talmud Torah School held a book-nic with students, staff, and families where we ate our lunches together in the gym, as part of read-in week. Federation and Talmud Torah discussed how we can best serve the needs of our community members together. We are thrilled to offer BBYO teens a place to be active and social by partnering with Talmud Torah for after-school gym time. But rather than go into glowing details, I want to focus on the news that we are continuing to see in the headlines.  

It is ironic that as we were heading into Sukkot, news from Ottawa threw us a lemon. Connecting the community includes the greater community. This involves, but is not limited to, our elected officials and local partners, such as the Edmonton Police Service and the University of Alberta. The relationships that we maintain are important for many reasons, in particular when there are issues of concern.  

We are still advocating for the removal of two monuments in the city that honour Ukrainians who fought with the Nazis in World War II. Plus, we also want to emphasize the importance of mandatory Holocaust education. The Edmonton Journal interviewed Steve Shafir, and the article was published on the front page, further amplified in the Daily Phil published by E-Jewish Philanthropy. Maybe you are aware of the calls to release the full Deschênes Commission papers. They investigated claims about Canada being a haven for Nazi war criminals. Senator Paula Simons called on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday for these records to be opened up. The Globe and Mail quoted the senator in an article that explores further endowments of concern at the University of Alberta. In addition, our Governor General has apologized for the Order of Canada having been bestowed on Peter Savaryn, former Chancellor of the U of A, who also served in the Waffen SS unit. 

We are having conversations with the U of A's top leadership, a trusted partner, regarding these issues and other endowed funds. Their response encourages us, and we will continue to keep you informed.  

As the saying goes, when life gives you etrogs, you make etrog-ade. For many years, we have been asking to have Holocaust education mandated into the Alberta curriculum. Our national partners and agents have requested the reopening of the Deschênes Commission. The events that have unfolded in recent weeks have showed the necessity of these actions.  

While we continue to advocate locally, we are also looking forward to joining Jews from across Canada in Ottawa on October 16 and 17 to talk about antisemitism with our elected officials on Parliament Hill. With a united voice, we make a difference. It is not too late to join us, to gain critical insight and knowledge from thought leaders and influencers at the Face it, Fight it conference.  

I am proud of the work that my staff team has done and continues to do to support these issues and the volunteer leadership in our midst. As we enter a new cycle of Torah readings, let us continue to be inspired, seek knowledge and find strength in unity. 

Shabbat Shalom,