Rabbi Carey Brown presents at LimmudVan ’14. (photo from Limmud Vancouver)
The inaugural event of Limmud Vancouver received rave reviews for its diverse and engaging presenters. The second annual festival of culture, creativity and learning promises to be even better.
Would you like to be part of this fascinating, thought-provoking and inspirational event? Organizers are now searching for presenters with ideas for sessions at LimmudVan ’15.
Here is an opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with eager learners. A teaching certificate is not necessary. Limmud especially values the notion that everyone has something to teach and much to learn from others.
The Limmud weekend will begin with an interactive evening program on Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, followed by a full day of sessions on Sunday, Feb. 1, at Eric Hamber Secondary School.
It is the daylong program for which Limmud is inviting proposals for presentations. Submissions from presenters will be accepted until Oct. 15. The program will be confirmed in November. Tickets for the event will go on sale soon afterwards.
What is your passion? The sessions could be on any topic with a Jewish component. Proposals for sessions for families and children are welcome. How you share your knowledge is up to you – lecture, study group, storytelling, panel discussion, dance or maybe poetry slam.
An important aspect of Limmud is that volunteers run the event. Presenters at the front of the room in one session become participants in other sessions. Everyone pays the registration fee; no one is paid or receives an honorarium for sharing their knowledge at Limmud.
The full array of sessions at LimmudVan ’14 are on the Limmud Vancouver website. New and seasoned presenters are invited to submit proposals to limmudvancouver.ca/present – Share. Learn. Teach.
After a successful run in Edinburgh, Scotland, the play My Rabbi, from Sum Theatre, has arrived in Victoria. It comes to Vancouver next month.
The playwrights and performers are Kayvon Kelly from Vancouver and Joel Bernbaum from Saskatoon. Their co-creation is billed as a “comedic drama about faith, friendship and fathers” by taking “a look at old world politics through the eyes of two young guys in a pub.”
My Rabbi follows a pair of Canadian best friends that take on divergent spiritual journeys. Arya is a Muslim who searches for cultural identity in the Middle East, while Jacob is a Jew who goes on to become a rabbi.
“The play is about the connection between two boyhood friends but, at its heart, it is about Canadian identity and how that relates to the battle between old world politics and religious boundaries,” Kelly told the Jewish Independent in an email interview.
The friendship between Arya and Jacob is based on that shared by Kelly and Bernbaum.
“We used our friendship as a springboard for the story. The base of the friendship is ours,” Bernbaum explained.
“Our sense of humor with each other is strongly reflected in these characters,” added Kelly.
Kelly said the inspiration for My Rabbi came from his and Bernbaum’s cultural backgrounds – Kelly is half Irish and half Iranian, while Bernbaum is Jewish.
“We have always found these differences vibrant and positive,” said Kelly. “But, we also acknowledged that, for a great deal of the world, these differences cause the greatest conflict. We wanted to explore why it is this way with [so] many,” but not with others.
Both Bernbaum and Kelly have been involved in theatre since a young age, and Kelly explained the origins of their theatre company.
“After we graduated from the [Canadian Centre for Performing Arts],” he said, “we both took advice from our mentor to heart, which was to ‘make your own work.’ Both of us have always wanted to play a role in the shaping of the Canadian theatre community, and establishing our voices from within it. Forming Sum Theatre is one of the ways we have found to do that.”
About My Rabbi, Bernbaum said, “Politics, religion and family are all parts of this play, but they are not the focus; they are factors that impact the friendship. We see this play as an opportunity to challenge our audiences to work towards peace and understanding.”
Kelly added, “Whether this platform enables conversation into the Israeli conflict, so much the better, but we are not making any direct political comments with this play. We are only asking questions, and making an attempt to boil the immense and often immeasurable global situation into a conversation between friends.”
Bernbaum said that, after a performance of My Rabbi “at the Edinburgh Fringe, an audience member came up … and told us that the play made him ask more questions, as opposed to giving him answers. This was great to hear.”
He continued, “Art has the ability – and the responsibility – to take people a little further down their path of engaging with the world around them.”
Kelly explained that the play “reflects who we were six years ago, who we are today and what we think we ‘could’ look like in some version of the future.” He and Bernbaum share much of their personal lives in My Rabbi and hope that audiences will be encouraged to do so also. “The live theatre experience creates a community, a group of people who have agreed to gather in one place. They bear witness, and thereby are able to feel involved – and culpable,” said Kelly.
“From pub humor to the spiritual journeys to the guys’ relationships with their fathers, there is something for everyone,” said Bernbaum.
Artist Jess Riva Cooper’s work for the Gardiner Museum competition is entitled Viral Series. You can vote for her at gardinermuseum.on.ca. (photo by Sophia Wallace)
Canadian artist Jess Riva Cooper is currently vying for the RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Award, taking place at the Gardiner Museum. You can vote online at the Gardiner site until Oct. 12, 2014. The winner, selected by your votes, will receive $10,000.
“It’s an honor to be nominated as one of five Canadian emerging artists, and the only woman, for this award,” Cooper said.
A ceramic artist and educator, Cooper has participated in residencies across Canada and the United States, including a stint as artist in residence at Medalta in Medicine Hat, Alta., and Brandeis University in Massachusetts.
She cites Yiddish folklore among her most meaningful influences, particularly the foundation myths of the golem and dybbuk spirits, which she reinterprets through a female lens. Her artist statement expands on this point: “I see a direct parallel between my interest in insidious plant life and a malevolent dybbuk spirit, which takes over the human body. In both situations, a loss of control is suffered as the parasitic entity subsumes the host.”
Cooper’s work for the Gardiner competition, entitled Viral Series, is a continued exploration into the death and regeneration taking place in deteriorating communities. Places and things, once bustling and animated, have succumbed to nature’s mercy. Without intervention, nature takes over and breathes new life into objects, as it does in her sculptures. The busts, once plain, are hardly recognizable. They become tattooed with nature. Their heads grow leaves instead of hair. The faces scream out in pain – or perhaps pleasure – in the midst of transformation. Often used to represent life, nature instead becomes a parable for an alternative state, one where life and death intersect.
Supported by the RBC Emerging Artists Project, the $10,000 award honors a Canadian artist who has been out of school and practising professionally with clay as part of his/her artistry for seven years or less. A national panel of artists, curators and arts educators nominated the five exceptional artists.
Are you concerned about the cost of living and the lack of affordable housing in Vancouver? Is it preventing you, or someone you know, from feeling connected to the Jewish community? Tikva Housing Society in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and with the support of the Jewish Community Foundation is conducting a housing needs assessment to understand and address the growing concern about affordable and appropriate housing options for the Greater Vancouver Jewish community.
The Jewish community includes you. Affiliated or not, your thoughts and stories of your experiences are important because they will help determine how we can best support the diverse and widespread Jewish population. Since the late 1870s, our community has settled in Vancouver and moved within the city as new immigration and neighborhoods were established. By the 1960s, the heart of the Jewish community stretched the Oak Street corridor, into Kerrisdale and Marpole. In recent years, families are transferring to more affordable areas, such as Richmond, White Rock, Burnaby, Coquitlam and the Fraser Valley.
The housing climate and overall population growth in Vancouver is impacting every ethnic and cultural community. According to the 2011 Statistics Canada Census, there are 26,245 members of the Jewish community living in Greater Vancouver. Of these, 4,220 Jewish people are living in poverty, including 450 children. For most, housing is often more than 50 percent of a person’s income, leaving little left for food, clothing, transportation and other costs that enable a balanced lifestyle with connections to the Jewish community. People with mental health concerns, disabilities, seniors, single parents and women fleeing abuse are among those struggling most to get by. Also vulnerable are young adults attempting to become independent while still remaining connected to the communities they call home.
Since 1948, Vancouver Jewish community organizations have successfully contributed land, buildings and grants towards affordable housing. Many of these initiatives have been in partnership with government and private partners, resulting in the management of close to 700 affordable housing units. Tikva Housing is very aware of the current issues and is working towards accessing opportunities for safe, affordable housing primarily for working-age, Jewish, low-income adults and families.
Your voice is extremely important for us. We would like every Jewish person in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland to tell us how to address their housing concerns, to enable them to either remain in, or move to, the community that best meets their needs.
Tikva Housing will also be holding focus groups throughout the Greater Vancouver area to complement this information. If you need help completing the survey, would like to participate in a focus group or speak with the housing researcher, contact Hazel Orpen at [email protected] or call 604-563-3309.
This year’s Rosh Hashanah cover featured a photographer by Saanich-based biologist Leah Ramsay (leaningoaks.ca).
Domestic honeybees, like this one, were introduced to the east coast of North America from Europe in 1622. Aided by settlers, it took a couple hundred years before they reached the West Coast. Today, they are found across the continent, with both domestic and feral populations. There are estimates that up to 80 percent of all crops in North America are dependent on bee pollination – both the honey and the apples eaten during Rosh Hashanah are dependent on bees for their production, plus multitudes of other food and forage crops. The other species in the photo is the annual plant, Sea Blush. It is a native wildflower that grows in meadows on the West Coast and produces carpets of pink in the spring. They are often alive with the introduced honeybee and native bumble bees.
Beth Tikvah Congregation has hired Rabbi Howard Siegel as interim rabbi for the coming year. Siegel is no stranger to the Vancouver and Richmond Jewish community. He served as assistant and associate rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel from 1978-81 and 1986-88. He also served Beth Tikvah as rabbi from 1983-86.
After leaving Vancouver in 1988, Siegel served congregations in Minneapolis and in Houston. In addition to his congregational work, he was the founding director of the Solomon Schechter Day School in St. Louis and the Jewish Information Centre of Texas (an outreach program to unaffiliated Jews in the Houston and Austin communities). In recent years, he has been an interim rabbi in Los Angeles and San Antonio. Siegel and his wife, Dr. Ellen Lefkowitz, currently make their home in Austin.
Beth Tikvah will be looking to Siegel for advice and counsel in revitalizing their religious school, enhancing religious services, and preparing to search for another full-time rabbi.
“My role is to offer Beth Tikvah continuing rabbinical presence while assisting in strengthening their Jewish presence in Richmond and the Lower Mainland,” said Siegel, who is currently officiating at Beth Tikvah and will be with the congregation through June 2015.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at Ben-Gurion Airport with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen. (photo by Ashernet)
A petition calling on the adjudicating committee of the Nobel Peace Prize to reject B’nai Brith Canada outgoing CEO Frank Dimant’s planned nomination of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the honor says accepting the nomination “would be a disgrace and insult to [the] prestigious award.”
Dimant’s intent to nominate Harper for the 2015 prize – to mark the prime minister’s “moral leadership in the world … especially when it comes to standing up to radical Islamist terrorism” – has garnered considerable backlash, including the online petition, created by Calgary resident Edward Tanas, on the website change.org. As of Sept. 15, the petition had amassed more than 29,500 signatures.
The nomination idea has also drawn criticism from the Vancouver-based Canada Palestine Association (CPA), whose chairperson, Hanna Kawas, was quoted in the Vancouver Observer Sept. 1 as saying “with nominating [Harper], you don’t know whether to laugh or cry … it’s outrageous.”
Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay and the official opposition critic for ethics, also spoke out against the nomination, tweeting on Aug. 31, “Nominating Stephen Harper for the Nobel Peace Prize is like nominating [Sun News contributor Ezra] Levant for the Pulitzer Prize. Sorry, Steve, you’re no [Lester] Pearson.”
He later told CJN: “My comment was more sardonic than anything else. I don’t think anyone’s going to pay much more attention to this nomination. The role Canada’s traditionally played internationally is trying to bring parties back to the table, to de-escalate. Mr. Harper hasn’t shown that … we haven’t seen that kind of leadership from this leader.”
Dimant, who, in his capacity as professor of modern Israel studies at Canada Christian College, qualifies as a nominator under Nobel rules, said he viewed the nomination as an opportunity to help restore prestige to an award he believes has been diminished in stature of late.
“When [former Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat received [the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994], it certainly diminished the very notion of what a peace prize is,” he said. “And when [U.S. President Barack] Obama was given the prize for doing nothing except the anticipation of something, it diminished it. I felt it was time to elevate the prize again to the position it held historically.”
Dimant further praised Harper for “speaking up for the people of Ukraine,” as well as for the prime minister’s vocal condemnations of groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic State And he gave a nod to Harper’s staunch support of Israel, saying, “Here is a man who truly understands what it means to fight for freedom, national liberation and to understand that people have a right to return to their homeland and live in security and safety.”
This past January, Dimant and a delegation of other Jewish community leaders accompanied Harper on a trip to Israel, at which time Dimant praised Harper’s “unparalleled” support for Israel and his “principled stance on issues of importance to the Jewish community.”
Angus, however, said Harper’s approach isn’t deserving of the Nobel Prize. Issues connected to the Israel-Palestine conflict, he said, “are such emotionally heavy … traumatic issues for people on all sides. We want a prime minister in Canada who says, ‘Let’s find a way to move toward peace and resolution.’” That was the role Pearson, former Canadian prime minister and Nobel winner, played in the Suez Crisis, he continued, when, in 1956, he proposed a United Nations peacekeeping force to help ease the British and French out of Egypt, “and people saw that as a role for Canada to play.”
Neither Tanas nor CPA could be reached for comment, despite multiple attempts to contact them.
The deadline for the 2015 Nobel nominations is next February. According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee website, the 2014 prize has 278 candidates, the highest number on record. The nominees include Pope Francis, Malala Yousafzai, Edward Snowden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The 2014 winner will be announced in early October.
– For more national Jewish news, visit cjnews.com.
Gazan civilians on the roof of a building that had been used for terror activity. (photo from idfblog.com)
As Palestinians begin to discuss the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after seven weeks of fighting with Israel, Israeli, Palestinian and international officials warn of the risk of another round of fighting unless there is a diplomatic agreement between the two sides as well as an agreement to rebuild Gaza.
Hamas senior official Musa Abu Marzook said that indirect talks with Israel would resume in Cairo later this month. He hinted that Hamas would be prepared to negotiate directly with Israel, saying that there is no obstacle in Muslim religious law to negotiations with Israel.
Israel, for its part, says that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and it will not negotiate either directly with Hamas or with any government that includes Hamas. This could complicate efforts for a new unity government of technocrats from Hamas and Fatah.
European Union Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen warned last week that without a long-term political solution that would see Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in charge of Gaza, violence could start anew. Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on Aug. 26, and were expected to restart negotiations on long-term issues within a month. These expected talks come amid growing tensions between Abbas’ Fatah movement and Hamas, which is far more popular in Gaza now than it was before the war.
The issues on the table for the Cairo talks include an airport or sea port for Gaza, which Israel is expected to oppose, rebuilding Gaza, which is estimated to cost $7.8 billion, and demilitarizing the Strip, which Hamas has opposed. Cairo is also expected to host an international donors conference in October.
In the short term, the Palestinian Authority has appealed for more than $550 million in emergency aid for Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are still homeless after the fighting.
Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa said, “Reconstruction is the ultimate goal, but our government won’t accept a return to the status quo. We are getting to a limit that can no more be accepted. Never again, never again.”
Israeli officials said they would support the PA having control over a demilitarized Gaza Strip.
The parking lot at the Rambam Health Care Campus is a dual-purpose facility capable of converting into a fortified 2,000-bed underground hospital in times of conflict. (photo from Rambam Health Care Campus)
Not unexpectedly, southern Israel suffered more than other areas of the Jewish state during this summer’s conflict with Hamas. Yet up in northern Israel, 30 doctors from the Haifa-based Rambam Health Care Campus (RHCC) were drafted into the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
“Israel is a small country, so everything affects you whether you are in the conflict or not,” Prof. Rafael (Rafi) Beyar, a renowned cardiologist and the director general of RHCC, told this reporter.
Now, in the aftermath of the 50-day summer war, RHCC is proving that medicine has “no borders,” in Beyar’s words. The week of this interview, doctors at the hospital conducted a successful kidney transplant on a 14-year-old boy from Gaza.
The largest hospital in northern Israel, RHCC serves more than two million residents and functions as the primary medical facility for the Northern Command of the IDF. In addition to treating Gazan patients and training Palestinian physicians, the hospital is receiving wounded Syrian refugees.
Many of RHCC’s Gazan patients are children facing cancer and kidney diseases.
“These kids don’t have any other solutions,” Beyar said.
While suffering from kidney failure, the Gaza boy treated this week also had a blood condition that obstructed some of his blood vessels. Doctors first needed to check for useable blood vessels, and only then could they transplant his sister’s kidney into his body. When it became clear that the boy’s functioning blood vessels could not sustain the new kidney, doctors implanted a synthetic connector that saved his life.
On the Syrian front, RHCC has received nearly 100 wounded refugees over the past few months. IDF soldiers provide the necessary immediate treatment for injured refugees at the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights, and then bring them to the hospital. Most of the Syrian patients have sustained injuries from shock, bombs and other blasts. When they are treated and recover, most return to Syria, but some don’t want to go back, said Beyar.
Like the patients from Syria, most of the Gazan patients are thankful for the treatment they receive from RHCC. Although Beyar doesn’t know what happens to the patients once they return to Gaza, he said, “Someone who is treated and whose life is saved knows how to appreciate that.” Beyar added that he believes Israeli medical treatment of Gazans “has a long-term impact” on how Palestinian civilians view Israel.