From the desk of the Rabbi – Parashat Vaera: “Is your community unified?” This intriguing question was asked of me recently in Panama City, Panama, where Rivka and I spent Shabbat. An Israeli Panamanian, who had spent twenty years in the Shomron in Israel, was curious as to whether the Ottawa Jewish Community was unified.Though Ottawa and Panama City Jewish populations are comparable, the Federation system that defines our community may not be the same model that governs the community in Panama City. My impression is that the community there is divided along Ashkenazic and Sephardic lines with its constituents identifying with their ancestral grouping that provides a cradle-to-grave type of religious coverage.
What intrigues us most about the Panamanian Jewish community is the noticeably strong religious presence. There are three day schools, two yeshivot, a Kollel, six orthodox synagogues, two mikvaot and an unbelievable thirty-five kosher restaurants, serving a population of some 15,000 Jews. The intermarriage rate is approximately 2%, and every Jewish child receives a Jewish education from grades ADK-12. Tuition is between $10-12,000 USD per child.
In contrast, the Ottawa Jewish community faces major challenges in terms of continuity, be they in the areas of assimilation, education, kosher facilities, or anti-Semitism, to mention a few. Federation support and its promotion of Torah and Chesed values, as espoused in its vision statement, are crucial components in creating and sustaining our institutions in Ottawa, and in enhancing the physical and spiritual welfare of the members of the Jewish community here. It goes without saying that the synagogue, as the spiritual centre of Jewish life in Ottawa, must be the address where one can indeed find religious inspiration and sustenance.
Whether we talk about the Ottawa or the Panama City Jewish community, we come under the word in this week’s Torah reading which G-d uses in reference to the people of Israel. The word, “am” referring to nation, is used in the context of G-dâ€™s promise to make the Israelites His people. The concept of “am” is not predicated on territory or genetics, but based on the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. We are one people, whether we live in Ottawa, Panama City, or Jerusalem. The Torah is our unifier, and this was the answer I gave this individual. There are differences to be sure among Jews, but G-d, Torah and Israel are one.
This week’s challenge questions:
1. When would you say Ashrei more than once in Pesukei Dezimra?
2. To skip or not to skip. That is the question. Puzzled? Come and find out what this is all about.
Rabbi Yehuda Simes zt”l Sefer Torah
We have been so pleased with the response to Rabbi Yehuda Simes ztâ€l Torah Project and with the responses so far. We wanted to share with you the launch of a dedicated website for friends in the United States to help us reach our goal. https://www.jewcer.org/project/rabbisimestorahproject/We hope you will support this worthy initiative and help us spread the word to all those who knew Rabbi Simes.Please share this link with your family, friends and people who knew Rabbi Simes and who live in the US.
The Rabbi Simes Torah Project is a celebration of the man who positively affected so many lives. His lasting influence on the Ottawa Jewish community and his Congregation is immeasurable. Rabbi Simes loved his family. He loved Judaism. He loved his community and he loved learning.
A Torah scroll dedicated in his memory will honour his love of teaching, learning and commitment to a life of Torah. This Sefer Torah will be housed at Beit Tikvah, the shul Rabbi Simes attended. In recognition of the fact that Rabbi Simes reached the entire community, the Sefer Torah will be made available and brought to other locations for Simchas and sadly, during times of sorrow.
Help us reach our goal. Donations can be made by Interac eTransfer, cheque, credit card, and PayPal or by calling the Shul office at 613-723-1800.
Donations: * General Donations: $18
* Siddurim: Koren/Artscroll $50
* Koren Talmud Bavli: $100
* Wall of Honour/brick: $118
JEWISH COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL DISCUSSION: Rabbi Finkelstein will lead a discussion regarding the revitalization of the Jewish Community High School at Beit Tikvah 15 Chartwell Ave. this Sunday, January 14th at 7:00 pm.
JFS VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: JFS is in need of Friendly Visitors for a few clients. All are isolated seniors in need of a little companionship, whether visits at home, over the phone, or going on outings. Some will be replacements for volunteers gone south for the winter. Students welcome. Commitment is for only 1 hour at a time, every week or twice a month. East and West end locations. 613.722.2225, ext.315 to help. ESL teacher needed beginning January 2018. Beginners’ conversational English for Russian-speaking seniors, on Mondays 1:00-2:30pm, at JFS on Carling Ave. Lesson prep, room set-up/clean up, and attendance taking. Occasional replacement for 10:30am-12 class, as well. Conversational Russian an asset, but not required. Call 613.722.2225, ext. 315 to volunteer. Russian-speaking volunteer needed to help plan and organize monthly day trips, cultural activities, picnics, and potlucks for Russian-speaking seniors. To help, please call Gohar at 613.722.2225, ext.425. Drivers urgently needed to transport clients to/from Adult Day Programs, medical appointments, and social programs. All areas of the city needed. 613.722.2225, ext.315.