I have just returned from my first trip to Israel as President & CEO of Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA. While I have been to Israel numerous times, including a year spent studying in Jerusalem at Hebrew University and living on a Kibbutz in the Negev, this trip was unique and full of new experiences.
Over 9 days, I met and engaged with Jews from across the globe and from all demographics in business and social settings.
I spent time in Northern Israel with the Coast-to-Coast partnership, visiting projects sites and meeting with Israeli children and families whose lives are positively impacted by Federation funded programs and investments in the region.
I attended my first JFNA General Assembly in Tel Aviv alongside 3200 Jews from across North America. Canada had a strong presence with over 80 citizens in attendance. Of significance was a lengthy and moving address at the closing plenary from Canada’s Ambassador to Israel, Debra Lyons, where she spoke about her unwavering support for Israel and the Jewish Diaspora.
At the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings, I witnessed passionate and sometimes heated exchanges between historical Israeli partners, each of which has the strength of the Jewish people at the core of their mission.
Each chapter of my visit was enlightening and encouraging.
On reflection, it occurred to me that the adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts rings loud and true when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people. But what I hadn’t realized until this trip was the vast number of parts that make up this moving machine that we call the ‘organized’ Jewish community.
The list is long - Federations, NGOs, social welfare agencies, Israel experience program organizers, and historical agencies upon which Israel was founded like the Jewish Agency for Israel and Keren Hayesod - to name a few. Each is a distinct entity and serves a unique role within the system. Yet each works alongside the next to create a mighty force, always responsive and adapting to the changing times while remaining true to our history and culture.
I boarded the plane to return home moved by the spirit of Tikkun Olam that permeates this complex and responsive global structure. I left feeling grateful for the experience.
I was home with my family on Saturday when I learned of the Pittsburgh shootings. As I watched coverage of the deadliest act of antisemitism in the history of the North America, my heart broke for the victims, their families and the Jewish people.
I felt tremendous pain but was comforted as I watched the world respond in condemning this atrocious act and embracing the Jewish people with deep compassion and generosity of spirit.
Jewish communities across Canada reacted swiftly and came together at community vigils, some within hours of the tragedy, in honour of the victims and the Pittsburgh community. This is when I realized the strength of our national community. In good times and in bad, we never fail to support each other from near and far.
This Shabbat, November 2-3, a continental movement will bring community members from Los Angeles to Halifax together in spirit at Solidarity Shabbats in synagogues from coast to coast. We will come together to pray in our local synagogues, bound to each other and to the larger Jewish world by the spirit of ‘Am Echad’, One Nation.
This act of endless community demonstrates the reason that the Jewish people have not just survived but thrived. Our Jewish family knows no bounds. We are united by our deep commitment to our culture, our history and our Jewish values. I am so proud and honoured to be a part of our incredible community.
I wish each of you a peaceful Shabbat, surrounded with family, friends and community.