Sept. 22, 2006
Taking care of our own
Oy, what a year it's been. Middle East affairs have been at the
centre of world concern not only the spiralling disasters
in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Israel's latest effort to defend itself
from jihadist attack.
At home, domestic politics have taken a shift to the right, with
Prime Minister Stephen Harper having an opportunity almost from
the beginning to demonstrate a new course in Canadian foreign policy.
Condemned as Bush Lite by critics, Harper's approach on the Israel
issue, at least, has impressed Canadian Zionists.
While we are rightly grateful to have allies like those in the federal
Conservative government, we must not lose sight of the allegiances
of some of our seemingly best friends. Christian fundamentalists
such as Stockwell Day, whose unceasing support has helped solidify
backing for Israel in our federal governing party, are motivated
in part by a theological construct that can be interpreted as being
at odds with Judaism. While support is welcome and gratefully received,
the time may come when we are called upon to reciprocate in ways
that are inconsistent with our worldview, a possibility we should
be conscious of while building bridges to other communities.
Locally, the Vancouver-area Jewish community has mobilized with
tremendous force to rally support for an embattled Israel. This
is expected and laudable. But international events have eclipsed
some important local concerns and this New Year should be an opportunity
for us to recommit ourselves to the matters in our community that
still require attention.
A brilliant emergency fund-raising campaign initiated at the start
of the war with Hezbollah merged seamlessly into the annual CJA
Campaign. The campaign leadership and the innumerable volunteers
deserve our sincerest appreciation. But while a tremendous mobilization
for Israel has been realized, we still await the mobilization that
will resolve the needs we see throughout our local community. There
are organizations doing great works or trying to - here at
home, which remain desperately underfunded. In times like these,
Jewish Canadians are expected to prioritize Israel's safety and
security, but we must also never lose sight of the tikkun olam required
closer to home.
Indeed, the marvellous success of fund-raising campaigns can themselves
have unintended divisive consequences. Programs like Tickets to
Inclusion ensure that individuals and families within our community
are not excluded from some of the pricier events taking place around
town. But measures like this cannot deflect the reality that full
participation in community life is often measured by monetary contribution.
This is a conundrum that has been openly addressed for several years
now in this and other Jewish communities, but we need to rededicate
ourselves to finding genuine solutions to this exclusivity. If there
were simple answers to these problems, we wouldn't need to spell
them out; they would have been implemented long ago. All we can
suggest is a community-wide commitment to doing the right thing.
Inclusiveness is a recurring theme when we annually reflect on our
community's conduct. Monetary contribution is one barrier to inclusion.
Discrimination based on a variety of characteristics is another.
This is a community of immigrants from Eastern Canada, from
Eastern Europe and elsewhere. We are a community of people who include
those of different denominations and degrees of observance, marital
and parental status, sexual orientation, physical ability and many
more qualities of diversity. Opinions in our community are diverse
a fact that is not always reflected in official statements
and public discourse. While klal Yisrael is one, b'nai Yisrael are
many. As a newspaper, we will strive to reflect this and encourage
the community at large to do the same.