From the category archives:

Jewish life

If you’re struggling to make sense of the horrific violence of today’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, a few thoughts:

Judaism has never really been a “thoughts and prayers” kind of religion. It’s an action religion. Judaism teaches that we are all judged by the way we behave towards our fellow human brings, and the things we do while on this earth to make the world better.

So with that in mind, here are a few actions you can take today:

  1. Vote. Wherever you live, vote against the candidates who are cozying up to white supremacists or using the politics of division and fear. Vote for the candidates who believe in inclusion.
  2. Donate to HIAS, a fantastic organization doing great work to help refugees from all over the globe. Today’s shooter called them out as part of his motive for targeting the Jewish community (because they help resettle Muslim refugees), which is all the more reason to support them. I used to work with them on fundraising and I can attest that they’re the real deal. (Here in Montreal, you can also donate to Ometz, which encompasses JIAS, our Canadian equivalent.)
  3. Demonstrate and protest. There will be Havdalah vigils tonight in dozens of cities. But more than vigils, show up to rallies against racism, to protests against xenophobic policies and laws (like the one proposed by the Legault government to ban religious symbols in the public service), and to demonstrations that denounce violence.
  4. Stand up and loudly denounce racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy wherever and whenever you encounter it, whether you feel personally affected or not. If you see someone being attacked, don’t stand idly by and let it happen.
  5. Help someone. Sponsor a refugee. Volunteer at an organization to help migrants. Give your time and your compassion.

The Jewish concept of “tikun olam” means “improving the world”. Everyone, regardless of belief or background, has an obligation to take part. So ask yourself: What have I done today to make the world a little bit better?

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One of the more positive effects of what’s been happening lately has been the coming together of the Muslim and Jewish Communities towards a common cause:

A photo of two kids — a Muslim girl and Jewish boy — rallying for the same cause alongside their dads, warmed the hearts of audiences across social media.

Both children are pictured hoisted high above the crowd on their father’s shoulders, holding handmade signs. Seven-year-old Meryem looks across at Adin, 9, who is smiling back at her. Her father, Fatih Yildirim, is holding a sign saying “empathy.” Adin’s father, Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell, has a sign with a message about the past — “we’ve seen this before never again.”

For what it’s worth, I spotted a significant number of Jewish people at last night’s Montreal vigil to support the Muslim community in the wake of the Quebec City attack, too.

Just a few years ago, this sort of unity between our two communities would have been almost unheard-of. I think the turning point — as far as I can remember — came when we marched side by side to protest against the Charte des valeurs. Thus proving that when the issues are important enough, we can unite and find common ground.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t still big issues to tackle. But I think we’re all looking for nuggets of hope this week. This is one.

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Four thoughts on Bernie Sanders’s Jewishness

02.25.2016

Four thoughts about this New York Times piece on Bernie Sanders being the first viable Jewish candidate for President: He’s usually highly accessible to the media. But he declined to be interviewed for this article. Which is both admirable and highly telling: Admirable because the religious views of American politicians are usually front and centre […]

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Don’t Stand By

01.27.2016

Today is the UN’s internationally designated Holocaust Memorial Day. (Not to be confused with Yom HaShoah, which falls in early May this year.) This year, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is urging us to not only remember the victims of the Holocaust, but to turn our focus towards fighting persecution that is taking place in […]

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Tories, Israel, and Chutzpah

10.09.2015

Two weeks ago, like Jewish people around the world, I went to my local synagogue on Yom Kippur for Kol Nidre prayers. I saw a giant “Shana Tova” campaign poster just outside my shul in Westmount proclaiming the Conservatives as the only party that will stand by Israel “through fire and water”. It wasn’t just […]

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Antisemitism is now a side-effect of drunkedness?

03.01.2011

Warning to those of you who like a few glasses of wine with your meal: Apparently, virulent antisemitic ranting is now a side-effect of alcohol consumption. First, Mel Gibson. Now John Galliano: The French fashion house Christian Dior said Tuesday that it had started procedures to dismiss its chief designer, John Galliano, following accusations that […]

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Chanukah’s difficult questions

12.11.2009

Interesting op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times about the real story of Chanukah and the difficult questions that it raises: Generations of Sunday school teachers have turned Hanukkah into the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire. Settlers in the West Bank tell it as a story of how […]

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Holocaust-denying bishop issues non-apology apology

01.30.2009

Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, recently reinstated by the Pope, much to the anger of Jewish groups worldwide, has issued the classic non-apology apology: “Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused […]

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Save the Saidye

01.17.2007

Okay, so it’s not closing. But it is scaling way back. One of the Montreal Jewish Community’s most beloved institutions, the Saidye Bronfman Centre, is cutting its fine arts classes to focus exclusively on theatre and performance: The school employed 85 artists and had 1,800 students learning painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, calligraphy, printmaking, design, jewellery, […]

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Aseret yemei teshuvah

09.27.2006

These ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are traditionally the days when Jews ask forgiveness from people and from G-d for any wrongs we might have done throughout the year. I’m not religious by most definitions, but I’ve always liked the concept, and particularly the notion that we need to be forgiven by […]

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