Strengthening Jewish today and tomorrow

When we first considered a move to Edmonton, we made a short visit to see if this was the right fit for us to move across the country and raise our family. My first stop, of course, was to connect with the Jewish community. I took a taxi to the former JCC…and now, more than 16 years later, as we are seeing more newcomers arriving in Edmonton, we are planning for a building that will be a place to welcome and serve as a hub for future generations of newcomers. 

The JCC redevelopment committee has a vision – that this building be a vibrant hub of activity for all of the community, and for generations to come. With Mode architects, we are consulting with people from across the community to hear your ideas as we plan the design. Please sign up for the young adults, community, or teen consultations this coming Sunday. If you are coming to the community consultation (at the new building) please bring a light jacket and be prepared that there are no washrooms on site. We will also be sending out a survey shortly – in case you came and have further thoughts, or were not able to make it and want to provide input.  

While a building serves as the hub of the community, strengthening bonds and Jewish identity, another hallmark of a strong diaspora Jewish community is its ties to Israel. It has been shown that communities who maintain strong ties to the Eretz Yisrael are themselves strengthened in their Jewish identity and Jewish lives.  

I am proud of the ways that the Jewish Federation continues to provide means to strengthen our connections to Israel, to our partner region in the north of Israel, and to the people and projects within. Furthering opportunities for community members to visit Israel and to engage with Israeli dignitaries and representatives who travel great distances to our ‘shtetl in the north’ is another means we take to continue to bring real people with lived experience to share with our community.  

After our ceremonies and events with the Yoms at the beginning of May, the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival (which is supporting a visit of displaced Israeli teens to camp this summer) we also had a visit from two Jewish Agency for Israel emissaries, who spent time at Talmud Torah and with our teens and young adults.  

Last week we welcomed Sarah Mali, Director General, JFCUIA and two leaders from Tel Hai College to give us insight into the situation for our brethren in the North of Israel, and impacts of our Israel Emergency Fund. Bookending Yom Yerushalayim, (celebrating the reunification of the city of Jerusalem), we had Sarah came to us from her home in Jerusalem and this week Edmonton enjoyed a visit from another Jerusalemite, Lt. Col (Ret) Jonathan Conricus. We were proud supporters of the JNF Negev Gala, honouring our former employee Tal Toubiana and welcoming Lt. Col (ret) Conricus who delivered a sobering talk on the complexities that Israel is facing. In just a few weeks we will welcome another Jonathan from Israel to Edmonton. Jonathan ElKhoury will be speaking about his reality of being a Christian refugee from Lebanon to Israel and an outspoken LGBTQ+ advocate. This is a talk you don’t want to miss. Sign up here.  

You don’t need to be a professional advocate to make a difference – many of you have asked me how to deal with the barrage of anti-Israel hate you are facing and seeing in social media. I encourage you to sign up for the remaining sessions on digital advocacy that CIJA is providing. Over the course of four sessions, participants from across Canada will be equipped with the skills and resources to identify, monitor, and report antisemitic, anti-Israel, and violent content, and to identify misinformation, disinformation, and fake news across leading social media platforms. You can register here. 

As we enter Shavuot, a pilgrimage festival at the harvest of wheat, we are further reminded of how our holidays provide deep connection to the land of Israel, to the Torah (revealed at Mount Sinai) and to the temple in Jerusalem. Wishing you a Chag Shavuot Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.  



P.S. I want to share with you an excerpt from this email we received this week from a non Jewish Edmontonian, expressing her concerns over what she is seeing on social media and around town: 

“My greatest sympathies for how the Jewish people of Canada must be feeling right now. The horrible consequences of Hamas terror is being felt internationally. The failure of journalism at this moment of Israeli suffering is appalling.  

The behaviour of what generously could be called compassionate intentions of horribly misinformed Canadians protesting against the sovereignty of the Jewish nation is heartbreaking…  

…I have always admired Jew's resilience to rise again and again in the face of oppression. The simple fact that the Jewish culture has not only survived but has continued to thrive in the face of antisemitism for millennia is remarkable. The Jewish cultural values of dedication to family, community, personal responsibility, education and an unwavering commitment to making life better for the next generation has been an incredible influence on me personally. It has contributed greatly to my understanding of my part in a compassionate society. “