Rabbi Simon Jacobson gives a lecture during a recent Kollel Shabbaton. (photo from Kollel)
In an effort to direct Vancouver’s Jewish consciousness from an “I” culture to a “we” culture, Ohel Ya’akov Community Kollel has launched WeLearn, expanding the Kollel’s centre of learning and celebration.
“We want to spark lifelong learning within the community,” said Rabbi Shmulik Yeshayahu, director of Kollel. “We’ve become a society that over-values individuality and separateness, to the detriment of our personal growth.
“We encourage people to move away from isolation, and experience the richness of community learning,” he added.
WeLearn recently kicked off with a Shabbaton Nov. 30-Dec. 2, attended by more than 400 Jews from across the Lower Mainland. The Shabbaton featured Rabbi Simon Jacobson, author of Toward a Meaningful Life and founder of the Meaningful Life Centre; Shimona Tzukernik, “the Kabbalah Coach”; and Audi Gozlan, the founder of Kabalah Yoga.
The Shabbaton started off with Tzukernik, one of the foremost female authorities on kabbalah as it applies to daily life. Her talk – Joy is an Inside Job – highlighted the importance of developing internal joy, which results in achieving personal understanding and humility. Her claim that “pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice,” appeared to resonate with the audience. She also shared inspiring personal stories, and emphasized that beauty and joy exist from the inside out.
Jacobson engaged the audience next, with a lecture called Is your Self-Worth Defined by Your Net-Worth? He focused on the intrinsic value of tzedakah, and the family legacy of giving that was started by Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. Jacobson remarked how Abraham educated his own children in the path of justice and charity, and left this legacy for all Jews to follow.
The rabbi followed this with a story about Moses Montefiore, a wealthy, philanthropic 19th-century Jew. When questioned by Queen Victoria about the exact amount of his personal wealth, Montefiore is said to have replied that his real worth was what he gave away to others, because its benefit would live on. In short, Jacobson’s message was that our self-worth is defined by what we give, not what we have.
Gozlan, who founded Kabalah Yoga (also called Aleph Bet Yoga), spoke about the daily struggles between the body and soul, and the need to tap into our internal joy. Gozlan explained how yoga and conscious breathing can connect us to ancient Chabad Chassidic philosophy. He went on to describe how we can elevate our body and soul to become a holy spark and a source of light.
“At Kollel, we celebrate education, community and Jewish continuity, and this Shabbaton was a perfect example of this,” said Yeshayahu. “Hundreds of Jews joined us over the course of four days, in friendship and openness to learn and be inspired. It was a truly unforgettable weekend.”
The Kollel distributed brochures outlining their upcoming classes for the winter and spring. Among the classes being offered are sessions on medical ethics, business ethics, prayer, the weekly parashah, kabbalah, Tanya, Genesis and creation, and more. In addition to Yeshayahu, Rabbi Avraham Feigelstock, Shifra Feigelstock, Dan Friedmann, Karen Levitt, Rivki Yeshayahu, Asaf Cohen and other guest lecturers will provide a variety of perspectives and teaching styles to enhance the Kollel’s education centre.