There must be a better way

Achinoam NIni, living in Kibbutz Shefayim north of Tel Aviv, wrote her uncle in Victoria, Mike Goldstein, who would like to share her message with you.

Greetings from our corner of the Middle East, where all hell has recently broken loose.

Terrorized, anguished and depressed, frustrated, angry….each emotional tidal wave competing with the other for domination over my heart and head…none prevail, I am drowning in the boiling ocean which is all of them combined.

There is a missile alert every hour somewhere near my home. In Tel Aviv, its worse. My son and I stopped our car in the middle of the street today and rushed to a nearby corridor as the piercing siren went off…a few minutes later we heard three loud booms that shook the walls. In the south it’s unbearable. Their lives down there have come to a standstill, their livelihood crushed; they spend most of their time in bomb shelters. A large part of the missiles are intercepted by our defense system, but not all. Every civilian is a target, our children are traumatized, the emotional scars are irreversible. And the tunnels, dug underground, reaching the very doorstep of some of the kibbutzim on the Gaza border…in the dark dungeons of my nightmares I imagine what they are intended for: smuggling, kidnapping, torturing, murdering…. ! Our soldiers are on the front line. These are our sons, the sons of our friends and neighbors, the young men and women of this country called to duty by their government…and already, coffins draped in the flag, tear drenched funerals, shattered lives, Kaddish…the well known, devastating routine.

And the Gazans..Oh lord, the Gazans…what could possibly be more miserable and horrible than what these people have to endure? Will their destiny be forever to suffer under the hands of cruel tyrants? The pictures of the bleeding children, the crying mothers in blood stained clothes, the rubble and devastation, the terror in their eyes, 5 minutes at best to get out of your house, to run for your lives because the bombs are falling…no shelter…the Taliban tactics of Hamas on one side and the F16 bombers of the Israeli army on the other, these people are clamped like walnuts, crushed by the thick metal jaws of blindness and stupidity!….the death toll rising and rising…for God’s sake….how much longer will this go on??

Hamas are extremists, they are Jihadists, they are dangerous, they aim to kill every Jew including me and my children, they do not recognize Israel,  they plan to turn all Gazans into Shahids by using them as human shields…we’ve heard all of that. We’ve heard Hannia and his henchmen, and it’s probably all true, as far as there is any truth at all…

But is every man woman and child to blame for the bitter, horrible foolery of both sides??

I listen to Naftali Bennet speaking on CNN, coolly explaining how Hamas are terrorists and we have every right to defend ourselves, which we do, granted…I wait, patiently, for his expression of sorrow, for his regret at the loss of innocent life…but none such gesture comes. And i say to myself: have you forgotten that you represent an entire nation?? Have you forgotten the most basic teachings of your own religion??  Bow your head in shame! For you have brought the deaths of innocent people, men women and so many children..even if you did NOT intend to! And yes, Hamas continue with their horrible blood soaked rhetoric, their cruel bravura at the expense of the miserable Gazans….they do not hide their sinister plan! They INTEND to bring the deaths of innocent people! No doubt there is a special place in hell for all of those, and history is full of them. But that does not release us from the obligation to behave as human beings, unless our aim is to metamorphose into the terrifying spitting image of our gravest enemies.

We, Palestinians and Israelis alike, have “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to make peace”. We have created this mess with our own two hands, and we are paying the awful price for our arrogance and deaf foolery.

It is easy to point fingers and become extremely self-defensive when bombs are falling…each side huddles in his own corner, sticking with his own, blaming the other…

My heart goes out to the families of the victims wherever they are. I am happy to have a strong Israeli Army to defend me against the those who clearly state their aim is to slit my children’s throats…BUT..i do not want to use my sorrow and fear as a shield against human empathy and clear thinking. On the contrary, I want to do the opposite.

I want to stand in the middle of the rink, and speak my truth.

There are only two sides, and they are not Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs. They are moderates and the extremists. I belong to the moderates, wherever they are. They are my camp. And this camp needs to unite!! I have nothing whatsoever in common with the Jewish extremists who burn children alive, who poison wells and uproot trees, who throw stones at school children, who are motivated by brainwashed hate and acute self-righteousness. I want to bury my head in my hands and disappear, to the moon if possible, when I read the sermons of Rabbi Ginsburg and Lior, romanticizing death and killing in the name of God as did Baruch Goldstein, their sacred martyr, who murdered 29 Arabs in cold blood as they were praying !..When I read the incredible words of racism and hate written by some of my fellow Israelis, the cries of Joy when Palestinian children are killed, the contempt for human life!! …The fact that we share the same passport and religion means nothing to me. I want nothing to do with these people.

Likewise, the extremists on the other side are my bitter enemies as well. But their wrath is directed not only against me but against the moderates in their own society….thus making us all brothers in arms!

Just as I urge the Arab moderates wherever they are to do everything in their power to shun extremism, I have no intention of blinding my eyes to the responsibility that must be taken by my side for the fiasco that is now occurring. Radical Islam is a dangerous phenomenon that must be dealt with not only by Israel, but by the entire world. But there are in the Muslim world more liberal voices, there are partners for dialogue! Have we done everything in our power to reach out to them?

The answer is NO, on the contrary. The present government led by Netanyahu has done everything in its power to suppress any attempts at reconciliation. It has weakened and insulted Abu Mazen, leder of the more moderate PLO, who has stated again and again that he is interested in peace. When Abu Mazen made statements about the Holocaust, calling it the greatest tragedy in human history, they sneered and belittled him. They have disrespected agreements they themselves signed, refusing at a whim to release prisoners they already agreed to release, preferring to continue the outrageous and infuriating building in the settlements as if no talks were being held. It’s like slapping someone in the face, again and again, while at the same time innocently saying: “let’s make peace! Don’t you see how much I want peace? Why aren’t you cooperating??”

It’s despicable.

And what of the Arab League’s peace initiative?? Why has it been consistently and recurrently ignored but the Israeli government??? Just recently, in an unprecedented act of good faith, a very prominent official from Saudi Arabia wrote an article in an Israeli Newspaper, expressing his wish for peace!! It went unnoticed! This behavior can only be described as obnoxious and arrogant.

What crazed messianic forces blind the eyes of these politicians and their constituency? What biblical Joshua syndrome? What are they thinking to themselves, that they will slowly but surely dominate the occupied territories until there will be no way to create the Palestinian state? What of all the Palestinians who live there, their aspirations, their history? What of their well being, their dreams, hopes, future??   Will they simply live happily ever after as second class citizen, or maybe convert en-masse to Judaism? What is the plan??

There is no plan, there is no vision that is morally compatible with universal values, intent on procuring co-existence: or at least none that is being articulated coherently to our people. In its place, we are being fed constant fear and paranoia, fanning the flames of nationalism, cultivating xenophobia and racism. De facto, these policies are deteriorating Israel to an ideological and strategic point of no return.

Only dialogue from a place of respect and empathy can save us. Only a concerted effort to strengthen the moderates and thus marginalize, as much as possible, the radicals, can afford us some hope. As much as we in Israel justifiably despise Hamas, it does not look like they are going anywhere. Have we seriously considered the conditions they pose for a cease fire? Many of them make sense! Why not attempt to alleviate the suffering of the Gazans, enable them to flourish economically, return dignity to their lives and gain a 10 year cease fire…10 years is a long time! Young minds can be opened; even modest prosperity can be the catalyst of change! Why assume automatically that these years will be used ONLY to strengthen Hamas military power? The conditions include international supervision. Maybe the years will create a reality in which Hamas, with a younger generation of leaders who see a different horizon, be drawn into the Political circle in a way that will, finally, enable dialogue??

I ask myself, and Netanyahu: why don’t we surprise ourselves! Netanyuahu, you are known to be a clever man: why not go 180 degrees, change the rules of the game, think out of the box? Welcome Abu Mazen, stop the building in the settlements, support the unity government, open Gaza and enable commerce with international supervision, embrace the Palestinian’s aspirations alongside our own, welcome international intervention, and gain a real ally AGAINST the waves of extremism?? Check mate!

Have we really made every effort to do all this before sending our young men to die? Sadly, we have not.

 No one is dismantling the Israeli Army anytime soon, and it should remain strong. But why are we so stubbornly refusing to take this calculated risk, and rather, choosing to sacrifice our children??? It is beyond my comprehension.

In Akedat Yitzchak, God intervened and saved the boy. Where is God now?? Has he been driven to numbness by the abomination of his sacred teachings, by all extremists on both sides???

If we refuse to recognize each other’s rights and embrace our obligations, if we continue to each cling to his own narrative with contempt and disregard for that of the other, if we again and again choose swords over words, if we sanctify land and not the lives of our children, we shall soon be forced to truly seek a colony on the moon, for our land will be so drenched in blood and so cluttered with tomb stones there will be nothing left for the living.

I wrote these words, and sang them together with my friend Mira Awad. They stand truer than ever today:

When I cry I cry for both of us,

My pain has no name.

When I cry, I cry to the merciless sky and say:

There must be another way

Achinoam Nini 

july 22, 2014

Women’s League Calendar Diaries

Women’s League for Conservative Judaism CALENDAR DIARIES are available.

As usual, these small calendar diaries have prayers & brakhot and all the Jewish holidays.  There are also excerpts every month from Mishpaḥah or the Wellness & Learning Network of the Modern Jewish Family.  Cost is $13 each.  Please email Barbara Walker or tel. 250-592-2201 if you wish to purchase one.

All Over the Place: Adventures in Personal Geography

July 27

Devorah Stone invites you to her solo art show on Sunday, July 27 1:00–4:00 pm at Little Fernwood Gallery, 1923 Fernwood Road (opposite The Belfry Theatre).  Devy’s show features a variety of work in various mediums dealing with the concept of place.  For more information, contact Devorah at 250-588-0370 or devystone@shaw.ca.

Synagogue Sanctuary Restoration: Interim Report

23 July 2014 

image

Background 

Before providing an update of where we are today, a brief historical recap: 

  • 2 June 1863: laying of the cornerstone for “Emanu-El of Victoria” 
  • Rosh Hashanah 5624 (14 September 1863): first use of the sanctuary 
  • November 1863: construction complete 
  • 1948: our sanctuary enters its ‘cocoon’ phase. All windows and all but one door are sealed in stucco. Interior reduced to one storey with the installation of a false ceiling 
  • 1979 – 82: a major restoration returns the appearance of the sanctuary to its historical glory 
  • 2006 – 2010: we observe cracks growing high on the walls, particularly in the south-east corner 
  • 2010: engagement of a heritage consultant (Donald Luxton and Associates, Vancouver (DLA)) and determination that the cracks are a result of the sagging roof structure 
  • 2010 – 2013: mounting the Emanu-El 150th anniversary celebrations and the raising of funds to carry out the restoration 
  • 3 January 2014: restoration starts in partnership with Reed Jones Christoffersen Ltd (RJC), consulting engineers, and Knappett Projects Inc.(KPI), general contractor. 

Progress of the Restoration 

Clearly the team of Congregation Emanu-El (CEE), DLA, RJC, and KPI was assembled in high places. In many years of managing large and small contracts in many parts of Canada and in difficult places in the world, I have never seen a project team so united in purpose and so generously mutually supporting as the team we have enjoyed here. 

Work immediately started on the core problem, the sagging roof structure. RJC had developed an innovative solution based on assembling, in situ, two large purpose-designed steel trusses to arrest the sagging and convert loads from lateral to vertical to be transferred to the existing brick walls. In addition, the roof was fastened to the brick at over 100 points around the roof perimeter. Some repair of water damaged supporting beams and reinforcing across cracks was also carried out. The implementation of this plan presented some formidable challenges to the contractor but, with amendments from RJC where needed, the leadership of the extraordinary KPI Site Superintendent, Joe Ventura, found ways to make it all happen. 

While launching the major structural work, an examination, perhaps the first in 30 years, was made of the small flat roof housing the spectacular stained glass oculus skylight window. We were surprised but not astonished to learn that the unvented single-pane shelter over the oculus had been acting as a magnifying glass and had caused near-failure deterioration of the flat roof and the supports under the stained-glass. The team was able to keep everyone safe while securing the oculus for restoration. Clearly a new shelter was needed, a design task that RJC willingly took on. Naturally this discovery had implications for cost and duration of the contract. 

In the meantime, DLA was researching old photos to determine the nature of the original roofing material. It was suspected to be slate (from Wales – it would have travelled as ships’ ballast). KPI (Joe), alert to the ongoing research, found 150 year-old fragments of the original roof inside the structure thus proving the presence of slate. After due consideration, the CEE Building Restoration Committee (Aron Bookman, Mike Goldstein, Chanah Aviva Caplan, Ed Fitch) decided to amend the contract to replace the roof (as necessitated by age and other work on the structure) with close-to-original slate. The visual effect is stunning while the extra cost now should save money in the future as the slate roofing material is known to have a superior service life. Not surprisingly, there were more implications for the cost and duration of the contract. 

Another example of project team cooperation came in the restoration of the decorative finials on the peaks of the roof. The old ones had deteriorated badly but were going to be very expensive to replicate. Again, Joe to the rescue – he discovered a method to rebuild the existing finials with his on-site crew thus saving considerable time and money. 

As the weather improved in the spring, Vintage Woodworks Inc., the window restoration contractor, started work. The old and opaque-with-age Plexiglas covers were removed from the windows and replaced with a resistant and clear storm pane. The result was felt immediately in the sanctuary interior where improvements to lighting, street sound attenuation, and stability of interior temperatures were noted. Several of the windows presented unforeseen challenges, thus more implications for the cost and duration of the contract. 

Another sub-project was to replace the antiquated, noisy and non-functional electro-mechanical controls for the sanctuary heating. The new digital controls have been installed by Houle Electric Limited and are functioning well. The final step is to connect them to the office manager’s computer so that they can be set according to anticipated activity. This upgrade is expected to save considerable electrical expense. 

As I write, the only significant piece of work left is to replace the oculus window and its newly designed shelter. The custom nature of this kind of work is such that we are affected by scheduling issues with the few shops that can undertake this sort of work. 

“Light from the East”1, 2 

  1. i.e. light from the menorah, a spiritual illumination from the Holy temple in Jerusalem. See About the Menorah: A Spiritual Illumination
  2. When a person builds a house, he makes the windows narrow on the outside and wider on the inside, so that the light from the outside should optimally illuminate the interior. But when King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem he made the windows narrow within and wide without, so that its light should emanate to the outside and illuminate the world. (Midrash Rabbah

Early on, we noticed the small bricked-up window frame included in the apse on the exterior of the east wall of the sanctuary. Inside, this apse forms the Holy Ark (Aron HaKodesh) where the Scrolls of the Law (Sifrei Torah) are housed. We found no record of this window ever having been opened. To make a long story short, with rabbinical and Board consultation we undertook to investigate and discovered a hollow in the back wall of the Aron HaKodesh. With the skilled help of, once again, Joe Ventura we succeeded in opening this feature in the original but perhaps never realized design of the sanctuary. Glass blocks were fitted flush with the exterior and interior of the opening. Now, when conditions are right, the effect of the light streaming in from the East is quite electrifying. 

Periodic Maintenance 

A once-in-a-generation large restoration project does not relieve us as stewards of this Canadian Heritage treasure from the responsibility of normal periodic maintenance to keep everything running smoothly. One of the deliverables from this restoration work will be a schedule of periodic inspections and maintenance. 

Heritage Deficiency List 

While the current contract will soon come to a close and, with it, the major restorations undertaken in conjunction with the 150th anniversary celebrations, we will not have achieved all our aspirations which now include sub-projects only discovered or contemplated during the execution of the planned work. Examples of items on the deficiency list include: 

  • Rose Window: Should be fully restored as per Vintage Woodworks specifications. Exterior to be painted in Haddington Grey colour to match other trim. 
  • Trim Painting: Finish painting any exterior trim not covered under the current contract. Colour to be Haddington Grey. 
  • Front Doors: Should be stripped of existing finish, repaired as required, stained in a medium–‐ to–‐dark walnut varnish and clear–‐coated with polyurethane or spar varnish. The doors should match the historic appearance as seen in archival images. 
  • Decorative Lighting: Consider low‐level LED lighting that would highlight the architectural features of the exterior. Consider decorative lighting that would highlight the Rose Window and the Oculus from the inside. 
  • Interior Repainting: Consider investigation of original colours, and the development of a colour scheme that would enhance the historical appearance. 
  • Interior Lighting: Consider the installation of more appropriate light fixtures inside the Sanctuary. This could include decorative lighting for key architectural features. 
  • Protecting the Aron HaKodesh: four threats were considered: fire, theft, flood, and earthquake. A plan is developing but is outside the scope of the current contract. 
  • Early Fire Detection: money is running low but we still aspire to improve and update the current fire detection system. 

Having completed the critical repairs needed to conserve the structure, fundraising for the current round of restorations has ceased. New fundraising efforts must now be focused on more pressing operational priorities. This deficiency list may be thought of as the “to-do” list for the next generation. Surely all will be put in good order in time for the 200th anniversary celebrations in 2063! 

Conclusion 

As always, we remember with gratitude our major sponsors: 

  • Parks Canada, National Historic Sites Cost-Sharing Program 
  • Heritage BC, Heritage Legacy Fund 
  • Victoria Civic Heritage Trust 

My next report should be in a month or two, when the oculus window is back in place and the KPI/RJC contract will have run its course. In many ways it will be sad to see the project team breaking up and moving on with their own separate destinies but this is the way of life. The team intends to assemble a photographic and narrative record of the project that will serve to inform of what has been accomplished in more detail than this interim report could manage.

– Ed Fitch
Chair, House & Security Committee
Congregation Emanu-El 

Holding Emunah (faith) in time of war

Dear Ones,

First off I am recommending to all of us—and I fully include myself in this one—to limit our use of social media: it feels like it only is fuelling anxiety and in some cases escalating the already over the top tension that exists.  
It is not easy now—and perhaps it has never been—to be a Jew and a Zionist.  I can say from my personal experience as a soldier once upon a time in the IDF that we really do try our best as an army to be careful and humanitarian.  There is a concept drilled into every member of the IDF known as Tohar Haneshek (“purity of arms”).  Which essentially boils down to using force only as a means of defense.  That said, we all know that innocent people are hurt and killed in times of war and that is never acceptable.  We have all probably seen and heard some outrageous statements made by our own leadership that wreak of hatred and revenge.  I can say  that I personally do not know anyone in Israel who would agree with these ideas.  I can also say that at my present age-nearly all of my friends have children who are currently in the Israeli army and that they are all young men and women who come from sensitive loving families and do not hold these kinds of sentiments and I know that these people are the vast majority of Israelis.  
I personally read the names and look at the pictures of every fallen soldier and weep inside.  I also weep inside for the scared and scarred Palestinians of Gaza and I hope and pray that they can overcome the dark miasma of the sickening pedagogy that is Hamas.  Yesterday I when I was in prayer and approaching the Shema, where we invoke God’s unity and Oneness.  Where we as Jews declare that there is only God, I needed to pause and take many extra breaths.  My thought to self was how to pray when I still have even a remnant of feeling like the Palestinians are my enemy.  Can I form the word Eḥad when the idea of enemy is lingering in my heart.  Does the idea of an enemy, the ultimate other, negate the core of my prayer?  The word for “war” in Hebrew is milḥamah—the root of this Hebrew word is leḥem (bread).  On a purely metaphysical level the concept of war mitigates the faith that God provides enough for us all.  War mitigates the faith that the soul roots we share with Palestinians are some how not enough to nourish us all.  In the realm of the Eḥad can there really be any lack?  
I know for all of us that on top of the worry and the hope that this can all end and some semblance of quiet can be restored there is a gnawing feeling of alienation.  Alienation and separateness when we hear and see the anti-Israel rallies where the mask of politics and Israeli policy is lifted and virulent anti-semitism is revealed.
We cannot control the world but we can control how we react and respond.  Here are some of the ways in which I am reminding myself to respond.  

  1. Never despair, never lose hope in finding peaceful solutions.
  2. Do not allow the conflict in all of its horrible intensity to allow self to no longer see the humanity of the other side.  
  3. My actions, words and intentions have meaning and impact, even if the impact is infinitesimal.  (Kind of like homeopathy. Where the cure/medicine only holds the slightest essence of the substance)   I can respond with anger, upset and despair, or we can respond with compassion, understanding and patience.
  4. I need to pray like I mean it—Oseh Shalom is not just a pretty and catchy tune—Shalom is a name of God.  Ask and demand that God give my people’s leaders regardless of how flawed they may be—the wisdom and clarity to take us out of this pit of violence.  When we offer traditional condolences we add “With all who mourn in Zion and Jerusalem.”  The growing circle of mourners needs tenderness and prayer.  I need to add the families of those we are in combat with to my prayers—and pray now for all who mourn.
  5. Note to self.  When Israel is at war I get very emotional and that emotionality manifests as being short-tempered and sometimes aggressive.  This is a time for deep breaths and calling in my personal reserve of kindness.  This is a time to hold the people I love and care about and remember to tell them how much I love them.
  6. Emunah (faith) is about relationship.  Let God know how I feel.  Let God know when I am scared, angry, frustrated, hopeful… keep the lines of prayer communication open—wide open.
  7. The people I know and love in Israel need me.  They need to know how much I care and I need to reach out to them—it means so much.

The prayer Shema  essentially teaches us at our most core place that there is only God.  The shadow of violence and fear is the realm of God that is not yet realized, not yet within our conscioussness.  In our liturgy we declare Ain Od Levado—"There is nothing but God.“  Please God help us find a way out of this mess and place us on a foundation from which we can find shalom.

Rabbi Harry (trying to be on vacation)

Membership Dues

If you haven’t paid your membership fees yet please do so now. Either send your cheque to the office by mail, or phone the office at 250-382-0615 with your credit card number.

The synagogue’s mailing address is: 

Congregation Emanu-El
1461 Blanshard Street,
Victoria
V8W 2J3

The synagogue office is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm.
 
We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and we value your membership in our Kehilah.
 
Sharon Fitch, Membership Chairperson