The Jewish art of asking questions

Judaism is a religion that encourages us to question. As a people, we are known to question, I have been thinking a lot lately about the conversations we have, and the questions we ask. The questions we ask of one another, of ourselves, and of the community.  

This week I was fortunate to participate in a workshop with noted author and activist Irshad Manji, offered by the Edmonton Community Foundation. “How to be heard (even by people who disagree with you)”. One takeaway was that when communicating across divides, before making a statement about your beliefs, it is helpful to ask a question. At least, asking a question about what the other believes can lead to civil conversations. In my experience, the conversation will often lead to great new ideas and opportunities.  

One question that came out of the strategic plan was centered around how we can be more inclusive of the unaffiliated and other disconnected groups and individuals in the community; another was how to increase engagement in community programs as well as in civic activities.  

I would like to share a few of our steps and some recent and upcoming events that will be taking place.  

We have partnered with volunteer leaders to host small events throughout the year for Genesis, an emerging cohort of early 20s to early 30s. Last week we offered for this cohort to meet one another and two emissaries from the Jewish Agency for Israel. Lilach and Gilad were here to have a discussion with young adults about Israel and answer questions about the realities they are experiencing on the ground. This event brought out over 30 people, some of whom have moved to the city in the last few months, and many of whom are looking to connect further with one another and the community. 

Engagement in community programs is one part of the answer. Fostering programs and engagement in new ways is another. We are excited to be launching the microgrants program, which will provide funding for great Jewish ideas. Preference is for those under 40, but all community members are welcome to apply. You can learn more here.  

Our annual Pride Shabbat will take place on June 23 with a Kabbalat shabbat and kosher picnic dinner catered by Eddy. Rabbi Gila Caine from Temple Beth Ora is supporting services and the committee, including teens and young adults, is pulling together an inclusive event for families and friends of our community. Please register here.  

This fall we will be launching a new program to connect tweens Grades 6-8 through volunteerism as they enter Jewish adulthood. Throughout the year, they will have opportunities to connect with one another, community organizations and events, and the greater Edmonton community.  If you are a parent of a youth in this age group and want to hear more, please join Mira Campbell at the Wolf Willow Starbucks Monday, June 19, at 7 p.m. 

Finally, our community has enjoyed a warm relationship with the Dutch Canadian Community which erected the Anne Frank statue at Light Horse Park. If you have not had the opportunity to visit, please join us and the Talmud Torah Grade 6 class who will be participating in a ceremony honoring the birthday of Anne Frank on Monday, June 12, at 1-2 p.m.  

Shabbat Shalom,