On behalf of the government of Ontario, I am delighted to extend warm greetings to readers and staff as you mark Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. In Ontario, we derive our strength and vitality from the cultural and spiritual diversity that defines our great province. The rich heritage and traditions of the Jewish faith do much to give our province its character and heart. Chanukah is a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, of liberty over slavery – and an affirmation of the inherent dignity of every human being. As you gather with family and friends on this joyous occasion, may the glow of the menorah fill your heart with hope and pride. Please accept my sincere best wishes for a very happy Chanukah.
Premier of Ontario
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‘The walls have ears’
One winter, my family and I vacationed in the state of Vermont for a few days. We stayed at a motel on the first floor. Since it was Chanukah, we brought along a menorah. After a day of sightseeing, we came back to the motel and I opened the curtains to light the menorah by the window, as I do every year, to proclaim the miracle of the holiday to others (pirsumei nisa). My wife, however, told me not to do so, as we hadn’t asked permission and someone outside might tell the front desk who would then tell us to put it out, being a fire hazard. Reluctantly, I listened to my wife, closed the curtains, and lit the menorah on the table. The next morning, I was in the lobby of the motel when a man came over to me and wished me a happy Chanukah. (He could see by my yarmulke that I was Jewish). He then began shaking my hand and thanked me for what I had done for him. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked him to explain. He told me that the previous evening when he was in his room, he suddenly heard the words to the Chanukah blessings being chanted in Hebrew. He had completely forgotten that it was Chanukah! The man went out, bought a candle and lit it in his room! He was thanking me for reminding him that it was Chanukah! I learned an important lesson that day. Proclaiming the miracle does not necessarily have to come about through others seeing the miracle. If God wants, He can cause it to come about through others hearing of the miracle! That Chanukah, I understood the expression “the walls have ears” in “a new light.”
Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
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Philanthropist built bridges between Jews, Arabs
The article on the recent conference, Jews and Arabs in Israel: The Challenge of Living Together, correctly reported that UJA Federation of Greater Toronto hosted the event, the first of its kind in Toronto (“Time to broaden dialogue on Israeli Arabs: UJA” Dec. 8). The conference was generously sponsored by Don Green and the Green family, in memory of the late Irwin Green. Irwin Green was a visionary and pioneering philanthropist who initiated and funded many projects that continue to benefit Jewish and Arab Israelis, especially in the Nazareth area. His projects included an early child development centre, two educational institutes, a soccer stadium, six tennis courts, a summer camp and a girls’ vocational school. He became a revered figure in Nazareth, admired for his generosity and commitment to bettering conditions for Israeli Arabs and Jews alike. At the age of 90, Green identified the integration of Israeli Arabs as a pressing issue, and he devoted the last nine years of his life to doing something about it. He died two years ago at the age of 99, three months short of his 100th birthday. It was, therefore, fitting to name the conference after him. Green’s example, building bridges between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel, should inspire us to continue the mission of strengthening Israel in this way.
Chair, Israeli Arab Issues Committee
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto
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Bagg Street Shul is thriving
I am moved, having just read Norman Ravvin’s elegant review of Sara Ferdman Tauben’s recently published retrospective on Montreal’s shuls, to remind our community that the Bagg Street Shul has changed a lot over the last couple of years (“History is worth the walk,” Dec. 1). It is true that the building, like all others in its neghbourhood, has a graffiti problem. But “miserably?” The problem is transient: every so often someone “tags” the foundation wall, and almost as often the city comes by to repaint. Much more important, though, is that the shul today is thriving in every possible way: financially, demographically and architecturally. Shabbat attendance is strong, the average age of the minyan is well below 40, and the building is sparkling clean and more beautiful than ever. Passersby in the summertime stop to photograph the garden. Best of all, the shul, as a matter of policy, does no fundraising, charges no fees and receives no subsidy of any kind from the community. To my knowledge, the Bagg Street Shul is the last of the old immigrant synagogues in Montreal. It should be cherished as a communal treasure. I urge the readership to come see it.
Michael A. Kaplan
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What is a Jewish state?
Daniel Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Egypt and Israel, is portrayed as having difficulty accepting the government of Israel’s demand that it be recognized as a “Jewish state” in its prospective talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA should accept Israel: former ambassador,” Nov. 24). He is quoted as saying that even “Israelis [themselves] haven’t decided what we are, what a Jewish state is” and he adds that “we haven’t identified [a Jewish state] for ourselves.” This begs the question as to when Kurtzer expects this identification to take place? Might it be next week, next year or never? One would expect the ambassador, an observant Jew, to know what a Jewish state is. A Jewish state is the Land of Israel, that which our forefathers prayed and yearned for through the centuries as the homeland of our people. A Jewish state is the Land of Israel, for which thousands have sacrificed life and limb. A Jewish state is the Land of Israel, the safe haven for Jews, to this very day, facing persecution. A Jewish state is the Land of Israel as an exclamation mark to the cry that should resonate in the souls of all good people and cause concern to those who wish to do us harm – never again. A Jewish state is the land of Israel, a light unto nations.
Cote St. Luc, Que.