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Strategies for Sisterhood Success: Canada Day Celebrations

By: Caroline Ingvaldsen, Holy Blossom Leadership Council, Toronto, ON
Published in: Women of Reform JudaismWeekly Digest 6/29: Canada Day Celebrations

As Canada Day 2018 approaches, I’m prompted to consider how is it to be a Canadian Jew. There have been Jews in Canada since 1760, and more than 250 years later we are the fourth largest community of Jews in the world.

In many ways, we are so similar to our American neighbours, yet we are very different as well. Instead of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” we have “Life, liberty and the security of the person.”

As members of WRJ, the women of our sacred community of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto share our love of Judaism and our pride as Canadians. There are many social justice and equality triumphs that we can celebrate on this day.

Here are some examples:

  • Aboriginal People’s Rights: As a Treaty Nation, Canada is undergoing a painful process under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At Holy Blossom, information sessions enhance our community’s understanding of this complex history.
  • Assembly and Community: Freedom of assembly as guaranteed by our Charter of Rights was celebrated, in the wake of the horrific Toronto van attack, by the #TorontoStrong interfaith vigil in which Holy Blossom’s Senior Rabbi, the first woman Senior Rabbi in Canada, delivered an eloquent address informed by Torah and Canadian values.
  • Environment: As Canadians, we are enchanted by the “grandness of Canada in the raw.” We celebrate this with outdoor worship in nearby parkland.
  • Gender Equality: Our charter guarantees equal rights regardless of gender, We are a staunch supporter of “Women of the Wall” in their struggle for parity in Israel and a leader in the movement for pay equity for women in Jewish professional life.
  • Homelessness: Central to our charter is “security of the person.” The health and welfare of those beyond our community are equally as valuable as those within. We often reach out to the homeless with our “Out of the Cold” program and host Ve’ahavta’s meal distribution program.
  • LGBT Rights: All Canadians are equal under the law regardless of sexuality according to our charter. Gay marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005. LGBT individuals and families are warmly welcomed in our synagogue.
  • Racial Discrimination: Our charter also guarantees all Canadians equality under the law regardless of race or ethnicity. Holy Blossom proudly welcomes Jews from every race and ethnicity and their families. In response to the unrest that triggered the Black Lives Matter movement, Holy Blossom has hosted information sessions to add to our community’s understanding.
  • Refugees: More than 80 years ago, the government of Canada’s response to the plight of European Jews fleeing the Holocaust was shamefully, “one is too many.” Thankfully, Canada is now a refuge for the displaced and Holy Blossom has been a beacon to waves of Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union, “boat people” from Vietnam, and now Syrians, and so many others.
  • Religious Freedom: All Canadians are guaranteed freedom of religion and peaceful assembly according to our Charter. In response to anti-Muslim feeling, Holy Blossom Temple’s Senior Rabbi led the “Rings of Peace” initiative when Toronto Jews held hands and circled local mosques.

At Holy Blossom Temple we like to say, “Life can blossom here.”  As Toronto’s first synagogue and a leading Canadian Reform Jewish congregation, we are honoured to promote Jewish and Canadian values in our congregation and community, our city and country, the Reform Movement, Israel, and around the world. On this Canada Day let us celebrate these values together.

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