In splansky
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By Rabbi Yael Splansky.

Holy Blossom Temple has a proud history of aid and leadership for immigrants and refugees.  In recent memory, we raised our voices for Soviet Jewry and provided support for Jewish immigrants from Serbia and Argentina.  We reached out in friendship to refugees from Vietnam and Sudan.  Is now the time to turn toward the peoples who have lived on this land for centuries, if not millenia, before we came to these shores?

The most often repeated mitzvah in the Torah is “Love the stranger.”  Sometimes the mitzvah is extended with a rationale:  “Love the stranger, for you  know the soul of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.”  We Jews are supposed to be uniquely skilled at identifying with the stranger, whoever he or she may be.  As a congregation in the ’60s we welcomed The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King and supported his Civil Rights Movement.  As a congregation in the ’80s we compassionately attended to those living and dying with AIDS and reached out to their loved ones and families.  In the ’90s we established Out of the Cold to provide warm shelter for the hungry and homeless of our city.  And in the last decade we helped to build the first high school for girls in Kenya.  “Love the stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger.”

How strange to feel yourself a stranger in your own land?  This is the plight of some First Nations Canadians today.

A number of congregants, from many different pockets of Temple life, are asking what might we do as a sacred community to respond to the outcry of First Nations peoples today.  Our first step, as always, is learning.  Bob Rae will be the first to come and teach us the complexities from the point of view of public policy.  Temple Brotherhood will soon host a Native Canadian leader to speak personally about the challenge of continuity of identity in their youth.  Our Grade 7 students, in their Comparative Religion class, just learned from a First Nations leader about her tribes’ rituals and beliefs.

We will bring others to teach and inspire.  And then we will move to action.

Have you worked with or for First Nations communities?  In education, health, social services, arts or public policy?  We are looking for congregants with previous experience and/or a current passion.  If you’d like to help shape our congregation’s efforts, please contact Rabbi Appleby at [email protected].  And be sure to join in our roundtable discussions following Bob Rae’s address.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Caroline Ingvaldsen

    I’m disappointed that I won’t be able attend because of a previous committment. Please keep me in the loop: I’d like to get involved.


  • Paul Kay

    As an adjunct to the evening with Bob Rae on First Nations … Ryerson University’s Image Centre (RIC) currently has an important show called “Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art”, on until December 15. Nine contemporary artists (all but 1 are aboriginal, 1 of whom is from outside North America) explore issues of aboriginal identity and presence. RIC is open every day except Mondays, and is always free. I am a volunteer docent at the RIC, and would be pleased to take fellow HBT members through the show, if you want to request that I be your guide.
    (I’m sorry I’ll miss the Bob Rae event, as I am scheduled to do a docent tour at RIC at that time.)

  • erin claman

    I am interested & would like to take part. Looking forward to it!

  • Lisa Isen Baumal

    For the past two summers at Camp George, I have organized an exchange program with kids from the First Nations community of Wasausking, on Perry Island. This is a great initiative for Temple, and I’d like to be involved.

  • Johanna Faulk

    Count me in for this work. Both my son and i will be in attendance on November 20.

  • Barbara Organ

    A few years ago, one of our native guests at the OOTC, Steven, told me he drinks because alcohol was the only thing that quieted the voices in his head! I was shocked. He had a treatable disease but he didn’t know it and no one had told him. Not long after that, Steven froze to death in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery where he slept along with some of his friends. When my contact at Anishnawbe Health Centre called me to tell me, she said “No one will care. He’s just another dead, drunk Indian.” Since then, I have been particularly interested in finding a way to help. I am thrilled that HBT feels the same way and is planning to take some action. I am nearly homebound these days but I am hoping you will keep me in the loop and let me know what I can do.

  • Martin Storm

    I am interested in this project, but will be out of town on November 20. Notwithstanding, I would appreciate being kept in the loop, and would like to join a committee. Thank you

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