Israeli Hamas attack leaves our community in shock but we will prevail

The nightmare of all nightmares has occurred. To quote Irwin Cotler in his famous saying, “too terrible to believe but not too terrible to have happened”. The magnitude of barbarism is staggering, and each of the over 1,300 souls with a story and loved ones that ripples across the nation and reverberates in Canada. They notified 120 families that their loved one(s) are confirmed being held hostage in Gaza. Please include them in your prayers this weekend. 

We are a community in shock, in grief, in a rage, like all of klal israel. Our Israeli brethren are traumatized but resilient. CEO Telem Chorin of the Clore Centre for the Performing Arts sent us a picture of his new instrument, a rifle. Our former Federation employee Tal Toubiana sent me pictures and video of him rejoining his unit arriving in Israel. Glimmers of hope I am told about include videos of entire communities singing Hatikvah from their apartments. New olim asking for a minyan as they have just buried their son and hundreds arriving to support them. Our own Shaul Zohar telling us on the Partnership2Gether executive update this week that they are resilient, they have to be, and that they will prevail. 

Many of you have asked how I am doing. While I cannot return every call and text right now, please know how much I appreciate this, and it strengthens all of us. Your encouragement with your responses to the various aspects of the work that my team and I are doing mean volumes to all of us.  

Edmonton Police Service has an increased presence in the west end and around our institutions. When I visited Talmud Torah this morning, there were two cruisers out front and two constables (one on his day off) outside the school.  

These are heightened times, and many of us are under considerable stress. We all react in different ways. Please be kind to yourself and to one another. We are collaborating with Jewish Family Services to provide more counseling resources. Support groups and workshops will be available soon. While I have had a good cry now and then, there is no shame in speaking to someone if you are finding yourself struggling with profound grief or fear.  

We have clarity of mission and mobilization of staff, volunteers, and community members like I have never experienced. Through your support, we continue to work for the betterment of the community, ensuring security, advocacy with all partners and levels of government while ensuring that our local agencies are supported and working with one another for a common goal. This is the work of the Jewish Federation, and your United Jewish Appeal (UJA) contribution enables to continue with this work.  

Through years of contributing to the UJA campaign, you have supported a network of partners on the ground in Israel who are assessing the immediate needs, through the Jewish Agency for Israel, Joint Distribution Committee, and Israel Trauma Coalition. Many of you have made contributions to the Israel Emergency Fund. Many have told their non-Jewish friends who want to be of help to contribute as well. Thank you. The board voted to access $103,000 from Our Parents’ Home Legacy Funds to add to this fund as well. Our board has committed to matching the next $103,000 of UJA gifts with a match to the Israel Emergency Fund. I am confident we will get there.  

This morning a few of us could connect with Sarah Mali, Director General of Jewish Federations of Canada - United Jewish Appeal, who lives in Jerusalem. Sarah told us about her visits to Kfar Aza and Kibbutz Shvarim, as well as a respite centre that had the feeling of a displaced persons camp. “It was a feeling of collective shiva,” she said, adding there was organized chaos with social workers, nurses, trauma care on site.  

Funds raised will provide immediate care for terror victims, including medical supplies, trauma relief, and support for affected families. This immediate term will continue until normalcy can be established. Through Sarah’s participation as the Canadian representative to the Victims of Terror Fund committee, we are being kept abreast of assessments for medium and longer-term needs.  

Please sign up for our newsletter, and visit our web resource page regularly so you can receive updates on resources and information.  

In this week’s parsha of Bereshit, which recounts the world’s creation, the Torah declares the beginning of each day with “it was evening, it was morning.” In Jewish tradition, our days begin and end at sunset. Darkness and fear may prevail at first, but thereafter the sun rises, bringing warmth and light to banish the darkness. 

I hope to see you at the Community Havdalah Saturday at 7:50 p.m. at Westridge soccer fields. Out of an abundance of precaution, there will be security on site. Thank you to our rabbis who are working together to provide this service as a unified community.  

Shabbat Shalom and Am Yisrael Chai,