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National Holocaust Monument unveiled in downtown Ottawa

Published in the Ottawa Citizen
Article by Andrew Duffy

The long wait for a national Holocaust memorial ended Wednesday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau inaugurating the city’s newest monument in downtown Ottawa.

For many in the invitation-only crowd that gathered inside the National War Museum — a heavy downpour forced the event to be relocated across the street from the monument — it was an emotional moment.

Eva Kuper, 76, of Montreal was two years old when she was ordered with her mother from the Warsaw Ghetto to a train station where they were to board a cattle car for Treblinka. At the last moment, however, a relative intervened — she said Eva was her child — and Eva was passed out of the packed car hand-over-hand. She was returned to her father, Antek, in the Warsaw Ghetto and they later escaped through the sewer system.

Her mother, Fela, was killed by the Nazis within an hour of arriving at the Treblinka extermination camp.

“I am gratified to be a witness today to this momentous occasion when Canada unveils a striking and evocative monument to the Holocaust,” Kuper, now 76, told the audience. “It is a fitting tribute to the victims, the survivors, and to the Canadians who took part in defeating the Nazis.”

Rabbi Rueven Bulka said the inauguration of the event concludes a decades-long campaign to see a Holocaust memorial built in Ottawa.

“It has been an exercise in patience, which is something we’ve learned over the course of the centuries,” he said in an interview. He called the monument the fulfilment of a promise that finally puts Canada on par with other Western democracies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tours the National Holocaust Monument with Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly, and survivor Philip Goldigo on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press.

“It has always hurt me as a Canadian when I would go somewhere and be asked why we don’t have a Holocaust memorial in the capital. I no longer have to apologize and say, ‘It’s a lamentable thing.’”

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said the monument honours those lost to the Holocaust while also speaking to “the strength and courage of the survivors who made it to Canada.” An estimated 40,000 survivors immigrated to Canada.

“It is the courage of these survivors, the willingness of these survivors to share their experiences that ensures this will never happen again,” she said.

A man stops to take a photograph of the Canadian National Holocaust Monument following its official opening ceremony on Wednesday Sept. 27, 2017. Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the city’s newest monument, saying: “We now have a place here in our nation’s capital where families can come together to learn, to ask those tough questions, to grieve and to remember.”

He told the audience it’s also important to acknowledge that Canada, in June 1939, refused to provide sanctuary to the European Jews aboard the MS St. Louis, some 254 of whom would later die in the Holocaust.

“May this monument remind us to always open our arms and hearts to those in need,” Trudeau said.

The star-shaped monument stands at the northeast corner of Booth and Wellington Streets, across from the Canadian War Museum, and is the largest one built in the capital in more than 70 years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) speaks with holocaust survivors Georgette Brinberg, Philip Goldig, Eva Kuper and Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly after visiting the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, Wednesday Sept. 27, 2017. Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press.

 

Rabbi Daniel Friedman, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, chaired the National Holocaust Monument Development Council, which raised $4.5 million for the design and construction of the monument. He said the monument should be a required stop for every visiting foreign dignitary and every schoolchild.

“It has been a very long work in progress, but we have reached the goal: It’s something I’m very proud of,” he said in an interview. “It really symbolizes who we are as Canadians.”

Mina Cohn, director of the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship at Carleton University’s Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies, carried her grandmother’s brooch to the ceremony as an act of remembrance. Cohn said the brooch was the only family possessions to survive the war.

“Having this place to go to is so important,” said Cohn, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. “I think about all of the survivors who still now carry the burden or remembering and telling the story. Now, finally, there’s this monument that will talk for them when they’re not here.”

The drive to build a national Holocaust monument was spearheaded in 2007 by Laura Grosman, then an 18-year-old public administration student at the University of Ottawa. She was appalled by Canada’s lack of recognition for Holocaust victims, and lobbied federal politicians to enact legislation to build one.

A private member’s bill launched by Conservative Tim Uppal, a Sikh from Edmonton, became law in March 2011.

In May 2014, a selection jury awarded design of the monument to a team, led by Lord Cultural Resources of Toronto, that included architect Daniel Libeskind, landscape architect Claude Cormier, photographer Edward Burtynsky and University of Toronto historian Doris Bergen. Their winning design was titled Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival. It features six triangular concrete structures that create the points of a star, along with Burtynsky’s large, monochromatic photos of Holocaust sites.

The monument opens to the public Thursday.

The Holocaust involved the systematic, state-sponsored murder of six million Jews by the Nazis, who believed Jews were inferior to Germans and represented a threat to Aryan racial purity. Other victims of the Holocaust included Poles Roma, homosexuals and the physically and mentally disabled.

The Contemporary Rebbetzin: What’s It Like to Be a Rebbetzin in 2017?

Scroll down to hear from Beth Israel’s own Rabbanit Batya Friedman!

by Avigayil Perry
Published in Jewish Action

It was the chicken soup that made all the difference.
Fifteen years ago, when Rabbi Daniel and Batya Friedman moved to Edmonton, Canada, where the weather can plunge to a bone-chilling twenty degrees below zero, there was no Friday night minyan at Beth Israel, the local Orthodox shul. Drawing upon the recent influx of tradition-minded South African Jews, Rabbi Friedman, who was hired to lead Beth Israel, quickly established a minyan. To lure people in, he started offering piping hot, homemade chicken soup along with freshly made potato kugel—courtesy of his wife.

It worked.

Rabbanit Batya Friedman. “As a rebbetzin, I created my own job description.”

The Friday night minyan grew and, after a few years, even thrived. But the early years were difficult, confesses Batya Friedman, who prefers “Rabbanit” over rebbetzin. To attract daveners, the minyan was called for 6:00 pm—even when Shabbat came in as early as 4:00 pm. Rabbanit Friedman would gather her young daughters—a toddler and a baby at the time—and wait in the shul for the minyan, and then the meal, to start. As the hours wore on, her children would grow tired and cranky. Then the rabbi and his family would have to walk home in the bitter cold. “Those were challenging times,” she says.

In the life of a rebbetzin, the sacrifices are often steep. Back in the 80s and 90s, when Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, a rebbetzin for more than thirty years, was busy raising her children, her husband served as the rabbi of the Young Israel of Bayside, a small, struggling shul in Queens, New York. But it didn’t make sense for the couple to move to Bayside—and so they occupied two homes. During the week, they lived in a larger house in the Bronx, where their kids had more room to play and friends in the neighborhood, and for Shabbat they would move to the tiny apartment above the shul. “We were packing every week,” Rebbetzin Steinig recalls. How did she handle such an exhausting routine? “You rise to the challenge.”

To better understand the challenges of contemporary rebbetzinhood, I interviewed rebbetzins from across North America, some just starting out, others with decades of experience. But irrespective of their different life stories and circumstances—one truth emerges: rebbetzinhood entails a certain amount of mesirut nefesh, self-sacrifice. And yet many of the idealistic, high-energy and impassioned women interviewed say they wouldn’t have it any other way. They simply cannot envision living their lives any differently.

Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik, founder of the JWRP, otherwise known as “Birthright for Moms.”

A Fulfilled Life
Lori Palatnik is the well-known writer, educator, speaker and founder of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP). Known as “Birthright for Moms,” the JWRP seeks to empower and inspire Jewish women through its eight-day-long, life-altering trips to Israel. JWRP has brought thousands of women and hundreds of men to Israel each year from nineteen different countries. Rebbetzin Palatnik’s weekly video blog, “Lori Almost Live,” is viewed by over 50,000 people each month.

As a child, Rebbetzin Palatnik, now in her fifties, dreamed of becoming a stewardess, actress and lawyer. In becoming a high-profile rebbetzin, she does, in fact, work as a stewardess (she brings groups of women to Israel every year); an actress (she appears on television and radio), and a lawyer (she advocates for investing in Jewish women through her work at the JWRP). Becoming a rebbetzin has fulfilled her in the most optimal way. “I feel so blessed. I love what I do,” says Rebbetzin Palatnik. who currently lives in Rockville, Maryland. “Hashem made all my dreams come true, just not in the way I expected.”

Karen Hochberg is another rebbetzin who seems tailor-made for the job. Having occupied the rebbetzin role for more than forty years, Rebbetzin Hochberg feels grateful to have served in two very “wonderful” shuls throughout her career: Montefiore Synagogue in Lowell, Massachusetts and the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates in Queens, New York. “I love meeting people,” says Rebbetzin Hochberg, who exudes warmth. “Relationships color our whole lives . . . and we women thrive on them. As a rebbetzin, I’ve had the opportunity to create so many fulfilling relationships.” In many ways, Rebbetzin Hochberg’s congregants have become her family. And despite the fact that she and her husband left Lowell nearly three decades ago, they remain very close to many of their former congregants.

Rebbetzin Hochberg recalls that when their daughter got engaged, their soon-to-be son-in-law asked if they could have a small wedding. “Sure,” said Rebbetzin Hochberg, “only immediate family—just 840 people!”

The Balancing Act
One of the more obvious challenges facing the typical rebbetzin is the struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance. “Forty years ago, husbands tended to be the primary breadwinners,” says Rebbetzin Hochberg. “Today’s financial demands don’t allow for this reality. It’s a given that most rebbetzins are going to pursue a career.”

“Juggling is the number-one issue many rebbetzins struggle with,” concurs Rebbetzin Steinig, who currently serves as the associate director of community services at the OU. In addition to the usual tasks of running a home and raising children, a rebbetzin might be managing her career while finding time in the day to make a shivah call to a congregant, visit an ailing shul member or teach a kallah class to a young bride.

“I give these young rebbetzins a lot of credit,” says Rebbetzin Hochberg. “Many of them have young children and demanding professions, some are doctors, dentists or lawyers. It’s wonderful that they also strive to help their husbands build a community.”

rebbetzin for more than thirty years, Rebbetzin Judi Steinig helps organize programs across the country exclusively for rebbetzins.

When Rebbetzin Steinig had young children, she worked as a freelance editor while tending to the needs of the small shul. “There was no secretary, no executive director,” says Rebbetzin Steinig. “My husband and I had to do everything.” Serving in a small shul can be tough since the rabbi and rebbetzin handle everything, from party planning to marketing to fundraising. Rebbetzin Steinig recalls the year the shul honored her and her husband. As they were preparing to leave for the dinner, her ten-year-old daughter turned to her and asked, “What time do we have to be there?” She told her daughter the dinner was starting at 5:00 pm and that they plan to be there ten minutes early. Accustomed to setting up every kiddush and shul event, her daughter was aghast. “But who’s going to set up the tables?” she asked.

Of course, larger shuls present a different set of challenges. “You can have simchas almost every night of the week,” says Rebbetzin Steinig.

Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, a twenty-five-year-old mother, serves as an editor at the Forward and an adjunct professor of journalism at Stern College. She is also in the midst of writing a fiction novel. “I struggle with the time commitment,” she says. Upon returning home from work, after getting her one and a half year old fed and into bed, her day is far from over. On most evenings there is an event to attend with her husband, Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt, assistant rabbi at Park East Synagogue in Manhattan—whether it be a simchah, a visit to a shivah house, a funeral, a philanthropic event held at the shul or an appointment to teach a kallah class. Shabbat is hardly a break—Rebbetzin Chizhik-Goldschmidt is expected to host young couples for a meal. “People think that I get to go to lots of parties and dress up all the time,” she states. “While I truly love what I do, I am always on, always smiling.”

Rebbetzin Chizhik-Goldschmidt manages by planning one day and one week at a time. They only host guests for Friday night, reserving Shabbat lunch as their private family time.

“It feels like having a second child, always feeling guilty about whom I am giving more attention to—family or community,” she admits.

Setting boundaries and knowing one’s limitations is critical in order to prevent burnout, say veteran rebbetzins. “In my younger years, I said ‘yes’ too much,” says Ruchi Koval, a forty-two-year-old mother of seven who serves as the director and co-founder of the Jewish Family Experience (JFX), a family education center and Sunday school in Cleveland, Ohio. “I was much more intimidated and insecure.”

A mother of seven, Rebbetzin Ruchie Koval copes with her non-stop schedule by delegating. “Some women . . . do everything on their own and they burn out.”

In addition to running the JFX, Rebbetzin Koval teaches four classes every week. She is also a certified parenting coach, author of a popular blog, a JWRP trip leader, as well as founder and board member of Ohr Chadash, a day school track for children with autism and ADHD in Cleveland. To cope with her non-stop hectic schedule, she delegates. “Some husbands and wives do everything on their own and burn out,” she explains. She hires staff to help run her various endeavors and is a firm believer in hiring household help. She has also lowered her expectations, permitting herself to be okay with non-essentials; she cooks simple Shabbat and dinner meals.

But the way rebbetzins choose to juggle—or not to—is a highly personal choice. When Rebbetzin Palatnik assisted her husband in running the Village Shul, the first Aish HaTorah shul in Toronto, Canada, she stayed home to raise her five children, now ranging between the ages of eighteen and twenty-eight. These days, working well beyond full-time, she admits: “I couldn’t have run the JWRP when my kids were little.” When she launched JWRP in 2008, she was totally consumed by the program—leading every trip, doing all the fundraising herself and taking care of basically every last detail. “I did everything on those trips except drive the bus,” she says. Today Rebbetzin Palatnik relies on talented trip leaders like Rebbetzin Koval, enabling her to be there for her family when necessary.

“When I was younger, mothering seemed so hard practically and physically,” continued Rebbetzin Palatnik. “Now it’s a different type of challenge—it’s more emotionally challenging.” Currently, Rebbetzin Palatnik is busy helping her older children find suitable life partners and navigate the stormy waters of early adulthood. “The most important decision one will make is who to marry,” she says. “Being there for my children at this most crucial juncture of their lives is important. I can outsource a lot, but I cannot outsource being their mother.”

An Ever-Changing Role
Most of the rebbetzins concede that their role is constantly changing, never static. “What a rebbetzin does when she’s in her twenties will often be very different from what she does when she’s in her forties or fifties,” says Rebbetzin Steinig. And the needs of the community will change. Rabbanit Friedman knows this well. Attracting worshippers to Beth Israel on Friday nights is no longer a struggle—even on the coldest nights; so she no longer needs to make her much-celebrated chicken soup. “Back then that was what the shul needed,” she says. “My role as rebbetzin has evolved and continues to evolve.”

“Since every community, every shul is unique, every rebbetzin partnership is unique—no two rebbetzins are alike,” continues Rabbanit Friedman, whose five girls range from two to sixteen. “The role is determined by both the needs of the community and the individual personality of the particular rebbetzin. Depending on where I was in life, I was able to give more or less.” While Rabbanit Friedman devotes herself fully to serving as rebbetzinin Edmonton, there are not too many young rebbetzins who view the role as their full-time job, notes Rebbetzin Meira Davis, who runs an annual Yarchei Kallah for rebbetzins.

“As a rebbetzin,” says Rebbetzin Karen Hochberg, “I’ve had the oportunity to create so many fulfilling relationships.”

And because rebbetzins are increasingly career-oriented, expectations have become less defined, more fluid. Rebbetzin Hochberg grew up in a home where her parents worked together to build a business; seeing that model influenced her to be a true partner to her husband.

“A rebbetzin has options—you can be as active or as inactive as you want to be,” says Rebbetzin Hochberg. “I chose to be active.”

“The rebbetzin’s role has always been very individual,” Rebbetzin Steinig says. “Each rebbetzin needs to consider a role that she is comfortable taking on, one that suits her personality, skills, family dynamics, profession and shul needs. One rebbetzin may excel at giving inspiring classes while another may not be comfortable teaching, but is skilled in event planning.”

At the end of the day, it all comes down to personality. Some women thrive on rebbetzinhood, others don’t.

But customizing the role to suit one’s lifestyle seems to work. It took Rabbanit Friedman, a former banker, a few years to figure out how she could best contribute to the community. Today she is a real partner with her husband, serving the shul in a multitude of ways, including giving shiurim, teaching bat mitzvah classes and engaging in her newfound passion—doing interfaith work. Rabbanit Friedman has the distinction of being probably the only rebbetzin paid by the Anglican Church—she works as the director of the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative.

She also takes great pride in being able to bring the entire Jewish community together. This past Yom Yerushalayim, for example, she organized a fun-filled event that the whole community could participate in, from the Reform temple to the local kollel. “As a rebbetzin, I created my own job description,” she says.

Rebbetzin Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt juggles being a mother, an editor at the Forward, an adjunct professor of journalism at Stern College and a rebbetzin. Notwithstanding her full schedule, she “wouldn’t trade her job as rebbetzin for anything.”

Learning the Ropes
Most Orthodox shuls won’t hire an unmarried rabbi. “A rebbetzin is often integral to a rabbi’s professional success, whether she takes a public stand or a more private role of a supportive spouse,” says Rebbetzin Chizhik-Goldschmidt. “The rebbetzin’s job is usually unspoken, with no contract.” Yet there is no rebbetzin degree or certificate, no official training for the position.

“I learned a lot in high school and seminary, but didn’t have training in public speaking, counseling, et cetera,” says Rebbetzin Koval. “I made a lot of mistakes along the way.” In her early years serving as a rebbetzin, a woman sought her advice regarding her marital difficulties and Rebbetzin Koval provided her with a lot of reassurance; however, she felt nervous, hoping that she acted correctly in validating the woman’s concerns. “Now I have more education and training, and feel more confident, but at the time, I did not. It was very disconcerting,” she says.

Rebbetzin Palatnik shared a similar experience. “I would give advice to people when they approached me about questions regarding their teenaged kids. Then I had my own teenagers and called [those people] and said, ‘Forget everything I said.’” Sometimes, she would reach out to Rebbetzin Feige Twerski, a seasoned and well-respected rebbetzin in Milwaukee, for advice. “I also learned when to say, ‘I don’t know,’” Rebbetzin Palatnik says.

A little over a decade ago, Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future launched the Rebbetzins’ Yarchei Kallah, an annual two-day conference that attracts rebbetzins from throughout North America and abroad. A yearly highlight for many of the attendees, the conference gives participants the opportunity to network, enhance their skills and develop relationships with peers. Offering sessions on a broad range of relevant issues including women’s health and halachah, raising children in the limelight, and rebbetzinburnout, the conferences are geared to address the issues rebbetzins face in their day-to-day work. For rebbetzins who are often confronted with some of the most difficult life challenges—self-mutilating teens, those grappling with drug or other addictions or with gender identity issues—such a support system is invaluable. It’s also imperative for rebbetzins to know how to respond appropriately and to refer to the right professional. “Rebbetzins in their communities were pretty isolated. What kind of support did you have decades ago? None,” says Rebbetzin Davis, the conference organizer, who served as rebbetzin at the Young Israel of Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale for thirty-six years.

Today, avenues of support for rebbetzins are available, with more cropping up each year. In her role at the OU, Rebbetzin Steinig has coordinated programs with Rebbetzin Davis for training rebbetzins, as well as for kallah teachers, in several venues across the country. Other training programs for rebbetzins include those run by Ner LeElef, Shalom Task Force, and the United Task Force for Children & Families at Risk, a consortium of forty social-service and mental-health agencies that provide a myriad of services within the Tri-State area.

In addition to training opportunities, the use of technology to connect rebbetzins from all over the world is a game-changer, say many veteran rebbetzins. YU launched Rebbetzin’s Café, an online forum where rebbetzins can network; and a group of rebbetzins from around the world created a WhatsApp support group. Rebbetzin Koval describes this support network as “life changing.”

“Thirty years ago, when I began as a rebbetzin, there was no support system,” says Rebbetzin Steinig. “When I was a young rebbetzin and met other more-experienced rebbetzins, I was always impressed because it seemed like they ‘had it together.’ When I actually got to know some of them, I realized everyone is struggling.”

Spiritual Satisfaction 
What propels these women to throw themselves into klal work while managing demanding careers and growing families? For many, it’s the spiritual benefits.

Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik with JWRP Board members. From left: Cindy Zitelman, Michelle Leader, Rebbetzin Palatnik and Manette Mayberg. Photo: Aviram Valdman

Rebbetzin Hochberg did not have a career outside of her shul until her special needs child reached adulthood and moved to a group home more than a decade ago. Since then, along with serving as director of community programs for the Afikim Foundation, Rebbetzin Hochberg has organized an array of chesed activities including singles events, clothing drives and an annual 5-K run/walk for Israel that has raised more than $1 million in proceeds. Each year she, along with the women of the shul, sends 150 bags of clothes to Israel. “[Being a rebbetzin puts you] in a position where you can harness the energy of a lot of people,” says Rebbetzin Hochberg. “We have the opportunity to do so much good. People really want to do good things; with a little bit of planning, we can bring out the best in people.”

Rebbetzin Davis agrees. “The opportunities to have a positive impact are endless,” she says.

Rebbetzin Davis’ elderly parents lived with her and her husband during the last fifteen years of their lives. Without even realizing it, the Davises were modeling love and respect and how to treat aging parents with dignity. To this day, members of their community say things to Rebbetzin Davis like, “I still remember how you took care of your parents.” At the time, Rebbetzin Davis was solely focusing on tending to her ailing parents, not on serving as a role model. “But people see what you do,” she says.

The opportunities for religious fulfillment, say many of the rebbetzins, make all the sacrifices, the mesirut nefesh that is part and parcel of rebbetzinhood, worthwhile.

“Being a rebbetzin makes you be who are supposed to be,” says Rebbetzin Hochberg. “It forces you to be your better self.”

Should Rebbetzins Be Paid?
Generally speaking, shuls pay the rabbi and rebbetzin a “two for one [deal], expecting both the rabbi and rebbetzin to work, but only paying the rabbi’s salary,” says Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik. But thirty years ago, realizing the toll teaching a number of classes a week was taking on her and her family, Rebbetzin Palatnik decided to do something truly revolutionary. She asked for a salary.

Even more remarkable—she got it. When rebbetzins are paid, says Rebbetzin Palatnik, “shuls get more out of them, and [the rebbetzins] feel more empowered and appreciated.” Her advice to shuls: “A wife is a rabbi’s number-one partner. Invest in her.”

Some rebbetzins admit that if their shuls would provide a salary, they would quit their jobs and throw themselves wholeheartedly into their rebbetzin career. Chamie Haber, for example is a thirty-seven-year-old mother of five and part-time preschool teacher. She also serves as the rebbetzin of Congregation B’nai Israel in Norfolk, Virginia. In her unpaid role, Rebbetzin Haber gives shiurim to women, organizes speakers and occasionally meets with congregants seeking guidance and advice. “I have the zechus to counsel people and help them with issues they struggle with. Unfortunately, as much as I think about them and want to meet again, often, I just don’t have the time for the follow-up.

“Communities that pay their rebbetzins so that they don’t have to work outside of community leadership show that they value and understand the role of rebbetzin.”

While most rebbetzins do not get paid, some feel changes are happening. There is a greater recognition that a rebbetzin might have an all-consuming career and simply cannot devote time to the congregation. “There was always an unstated expectation that a rebbetzin needed to be actively involved in her husband’s career,” says Rebbetzin Meira Davis. “Nowadays, this is no longer taken for granted.” There is also growing realization, she says, that if a rebbetzin is giving classes, she should be paid for her time.

The OU’s Heshe & Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC), launched in 2000, hires educator couples to serve as role models for Orthodox students on campus. Now on twenty-three campuses, these educators, with each partner receiving a salary, share similar duties including teaching, organizing programming, and counseling and learning with students. While it’s still early in the process, with the OU-JLIC “campus rebbetzin” getting both recognition and compensation for her role, she is perhaps starting a new trend in Orthodox life.

Despite the sometimes contentious debate surrounding compensation for rebbetzins, somewhat surprisingly, there is no real consensus among rebbetzins about the issue. Some, in fact, prefer the freedom that comes from not being on the payroll. “The fact that I’m not paid gives me flexibility,” says Rabbanit Batya Friedman. “If I can’t give a shiur, I don’t have to. I need the flexibility.”

Coping with Loneliness 
“Join the rabbinate, see the world.” So goes the expression. Indeed, many young rebbetzins realize early on that it’s unlikely they will be able to spend their entire lives happily establishing roots in one community. “A lot of women who become rebbetzinsdon’t end up living anywhere near where they lived before they married,” says Rebbetzin Meira Davis. Leaving the comfort of friends and family, and familiar streets and neighborhoods can, of course, bring about an intense sense of loneliness.

The early years after her move from the rich Jewish life in New York to the relatively tiny Jewish community of Edmonton were “rough,” admits Rabbanit Batya Friedman. She made local friends, but the isolation was always a shadowy presence. Moreover, since Edmonton is a “transition city” where people come for schooling or to finish a residency, even the relationships that she built tended to be short-lived. Rabbanit Friedman used the situation to her advantage. “My husband is my best friend,” she says. “We became stronger because of the isolation.”

Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik, who spent years working in community outreach shuls in Toronto, New York, Denver, and currently Rockville, Maryland, was keenly aware of the loneliness that is endemic to living in a mostly non-observant community. During the long Shabbatot in the summer, her kids had no friends to play with. One year on Purim she sent out 100 mishloach manot packages; she got only one back. Ultimately, however, those who got involved in her shul became her closest friends. In every community in which they lived, she and her husband brought many Jews closer to their roots. Now she attends many of their kids’ weddings. “All of those years of loneliness were worth it!” she says.

And yet, serving as the rabbinic couple in a small community can be intensely rewarding.

“Out-of-town, you are often everything,” says Rebbetzin Davis. “You are the kallahteacher, you are part of the chevra kadisha. If the rabbinic couple in a small community doesn’t provide certain services, people can’t get them.” Committed to community building while raising her nine children, Rebbetzin Davis worked alongside her husband for nearly four decades to establish a strong, vibrant community in Hollywood, Florida. Their efforts paid off. When they first came, the shul consisted of forty-five families; today it boasts more than 600. “We made a difference,” she says.

Avigayil Perry lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with her family and writes for various Jewish publications.

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Destroying The Idols Of History

by Rabbi Daniel Friedman
Published in the Edmonton Jewish News, 14 September 2017

(EJNews) – The year is 2117.  Following important research on concussions and serious injuries, it has now been fifty years since “barbaric” sports were outlawed.  Football, wrestling and boxing have been thrown into the dustbin of humankind’s shame, joining other previously banned pursuits such as gladiatorial ‘to the death’ duels.  But every decision has ramifications.  The Government of Canada is facing intense pressure to remove the bust of former Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from the Parliament building.  On the one hand, he was a great leader who contributed so much to this country.  On the other hand, his reputation is chequered undoubtedly by his record of repeated physical assaults on his fellow human beings.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a spate of challenges to historical figures in North America, some tussles bringing out the worst dregs of society and ending tragically.  The terror in Charlottesville and President Donald Trump’s equivocal response has left us all reeling, fearful of the state of twenty first century anti-Semitism.  In our country, we have not been exempted from the controversies, as we struggle to define our perspectives on the place of certain Canadian historical figures, in light of contemporary values and understandings.  (Thank God, we have been spared the violence of our southern neighbours.)  The latest target of such protests is our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, whose legacy in dealing with First Nations Canadians is troubling.

Societal values will always change.  Things that are acceptable today will be considered beyond the pale in future generations.  Guaranteed.  That’s why it’s important to have values that are above time and place.  The Torah provides those values.  When do the Torah’s values fail?  Only when we view them through the prism of our short-term 2017 culture and values.

Let’s take one example: Slavery.  Today we all know that slavery is bad.  And yet the Torah seems to condone it!  Viewing the Torah through the lens of today’s fleeting values leads one to be dismissive of G-d’s Word.  But once one realizes that our present lens is what is deficient, not the Torah, then we can begin to understand the meaning of the Torah.  In the case of slavery, it’s pretty much a mistranslation.  A better translation would probably be ‘servitude,’ a term applied throughout our tradition, including to public servants such as rabbis and even the Jewish monarch!  Indeed, our Sages teach that “One who acquires a servant acquires a master over himself.”  Why?  Because the standard the Torah demands when dealing with a servant is incredible: one must share one’s regular meal at the table, provide them with the same standard of shelter and bedding, clothe the servant and his family in an honourable manner, and so on.

In other words, if we see something in the Torah that, in light of today’s values, makes us uncomfortable, we need to approach it in one of two ways.  Either we need to demonstrate the humility of knowing that, in contrast with Torah values, societal values are not static and will change with time. Or, we need to admit that we are probably misunderstanding the Torah; oftentimes due to as basic an issue as a mistranslation.

The alternative option of dismissing the Torah as archaic and outdated is short-sighted and immature and leads to the erosion of Jewish and societal values.  If ultimately nothing in this world is eternally true, then why believe anything at all?  Once we remove our timeless commitment to our foundational text, the Bible, what are we left with?  It’s no wonder that synagogues and churches that have questioned and dismissed its eternal truth are left scratching their heads as to why the next generation is not interested in showing up.  If it’s all made up and open to change based on each generation’s version of morality, why bother with an ancient book?  Today we know better!

There’s something deep in our souls that draws out every Jewish person, even the most “irreligious,” to High Holy day services.  It’s the feeling, however subconscious, that amidst all the fleeting values offered by the world around us, there’s an authenticity that only the synagogue offers.  This Rosh Hashanah, let us all recommit to the eternal truth of the Torah and rejoice in our Divine gift, a guide for all generations.

On behalf of Rabbanit Batya and myself, we wish everyone a healthy, happy, and sweet New Year, and generations of children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces that appreciate our eternal Jewish values!

Beth Israel Hosted A Great Day Of Golf

By Dr. Stan Kitay and Mike Zabludowski, Co-Chairs
Published in the Edmonton Jewish News, 13 September 2017

(EJNews) – On Thursday, August 17, 2017, 35 golfers and over a dozen volunteers had a terrific day at the Beth Israel Golf Tournament held at the beautiful Lewis Estates Golf Club.  Whether the scores were high, low, or somewhere in between, it was the challenge, fun and teamwork that made the golf day so special.

The day took many months of planning by a volunteer committee headed up by Stan Kitay, Past-President of the Beth Israel Synagogue and long-time volunteer and Past-President, Mike Zabludowski.   Many individuals took the time to plan a tournament extraordinaire including: Paul Deutsch, Dr. Shelby Karpman, Rosemary Kitay, Steve Lazanik, Tsipora Reboh, Jodi Zabludowski, and Program Coordinator, Luba Allen.

We are proud to announce that every hole was sponsored.  Thanks to all who donated funds to make sure this happened.  There was even a hole-in-one sponsored by Investors Group (Sandra Nageli), although no one was lucky enough to win the $5,000.

The event was fortunate to have 3 silver sponsors:  Dr. Stan & Rosemary Kitay, NCJWC-Edmonton, and an Anonymous Donor.  There was one bronze sponsor:  Total Plumbing and Heating.    The other hole sponsors were:  Bunt & Associates, Edmonton Granite Memorials, Morris & Pearl Grojecki in memory of Sara & David Grojecki, Dr. Shelby Karpman, Land Rover Edmonton, Dr. Sam & Michelle Marcushamer in honour of the soldiers of the IDF, Metalex Recycling, Mintz Law, Barristers & Solicitors, Risktech Insurance Services, Romanovsky & Associates (Alan Jacobson and Ram Romanovsky), Schayer & Wolinsky Families, Smith & Wight Opticians, Stratica Medical, and Michael & Jodi Zabludowski.

The tournament could not have occurred without the able volunteers at the various holes. Each and every volunteer, too numerous to mention, contributed immensely to make the day fantastic for all involved.  The golfers appreciated the fresh donuts generously donated by Bliss Baked Goods.  The EDGJE, courtesy of Rabbi Kaplan, cooked up a tasty cholent which was provided “at the turn”; this was very special and made the golf tournament a unique experience. Having fruit kabobs, delicious salami sliders, a scotch and beer hole, plus a candy hole together with photos, made the day memorable and fun.

The day proceeded into the evening where golfers, guests and members of the community enjoyed a delicious steak dinner with all the fixings catered by Lauren Baram and her able crew.  Prizes were given out, and people enjoyed bidding on over 25 silent auction items generously donated by the Jewish and general community at large.

David Dempsey, who was raised in Australia and lives in Edmonton, provided comic relief to the audience.  He is a very talented young man and he became a Western Australian state finalist for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s competition in 2006.  He gave his thought provoking insight into daily life living in Canada in general, and Edmonton in particular.

The top three teams for the golf tournament proudly accepted their prizes at the dinner.  The winning team for this tournament was:  Mark Huberman, Michael Paull, Randy Soifer, and Jeff Rubin. Congratulations to this winning team!  The second place team was:  Mike Zabludowski, Dr. Shelby Karpman, Steve Lazanik and Ernest Pheh. The third place team was Dr. Heather and David Vickar, and Asher Pertman.

The Men’s Longest Drive prize went to Alex Bernstein and the Men’s Longest Putt went to Paul Deutsch.  The Closest to the Hole – 2nd Shot went to Dr. Shelby Karpman.  The Women’s Longest Drive went to Heather Vickar and the Women’s Longest Putt went to Lindsay Logodin.  Andrew Gergely won the Ball in the Water and Dr. Stan Kitay won the Ball in the Sand.

Honorable mention goes to Andrew Gergely for wearing the most original golf pants which no one can ever forget!   The ladies’ team, consisting of Michelle Marcushamer, Evelyn Schayer and Judy Sternberg, won the BI Ball contest (they were the only team to hand in their played golf ball at the end of the day).

Congratulations to all the winners!!

Proceeds from this event will go toward The Beth Israel programs for both children and adults.  Beth Israel, the Family Shul, is a forward-thinking modern orthodox synagogue.  The Youth Department runs weekly and annual programming for all ages, infants to Grade 12.  No matter a person’s tradition, all are invited to future events for fun, inspiration and programs that will leave you with fond memories and new friends.

Thanks, again, to all who participated in the day of golf and evening program.  We look forward to celebrating future events with you!

The Teams

Team 10 took second place.

Team 1 – third place.

Team 2

Team 3 won the BI Ball Until the End Award.

Team 5

Team 6

Team 7

The Volunteers 

Beth Israel Golf volunteers

Beth Israel volunteers – serving fruit kebabs.

Beth Israel golf tournament – serving salami sliders.

Beth Israel volunteers – serving scotch and beer.

Serving candy…

Volunteers serving cholent.

Beth Israel volunteers serving Bliss Donuts.

Habitat For Humanity brings faiths together

via The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton

By Thandiwe Konguavi 
Staff Writer at The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton

Over a kosher lunch, volunteers of diverse faiths take a well-needed break from a common goal climbing ladders, painting, and dry walling for Habitat for Humanity and bridging the gap between religions.

“We all believe in being there for those with needs so we’re building walls to come together, to bridge,” said Rabbanit Batya Friedman, co-pastor at Beth Israel Synagogue.

“We’re giving hope because there’s so much tragedy and hate out there. It doesn’t matter what you call the Creator, we’re all coming together to make him or her happy.”

On April 20, 25 Muslim and Jewish volunteers worked together at the Carter Place project, a 58-unit multi-storey development, in the Laurel neighbourhood of southeast Edmonton.

 

“Every religion shares basic tenets,” said Sumaira Farooq, volunteer co-ordinator for the Islamic Family and Social Services Association. “Islam, my faith, is a way of life. It tells us to give so much and keep giving so that your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is giving, never expecting anything in return.”

Friedman is the coordinator of the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative which partners with Habitat for Humanity to provide volunteers and lunches for its Interfaith Build project. Its goal is to provide 500 volunteers and 45 lunches over nine weeks. So far, 220 volunteers have participated.

On May 10, eight volunteers from the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton will be helping to build Carter Place.

The Interfaith Build project is about neighbours helping each other, says Alfred Nikolai, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Edmonton.

“This is a really important thing for our organization. We build homes for every faith and it’s really part of who we are,” Nikolai said.  “We’re going to have 1,000 people on this site pounding nails and painting walls and helping 58 families enjoy all the rewards and the dreams that come with home ownership.

“I think everybody across the country realizes that Edmonton has the spirit where we help each other and when we ask for volunteers, they come.”

Carter Place, named after former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, is part of Habitat’s initiative to build 150 homes across the country to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday in July. On July 9, President Carter and his wife Rosalynn – longtime Habitat for Humanity volunteers   will be in Edmonton to help with construction.

Half of these homes will be built in the greater Edmonton area, including the 58 Carter Place units, 16 in Fort Saskatchewan, and one more yet to be determined.

The families receiving Habitat for Humanity homes are required to put in 500 hours of sweat equity as a down payment on their home, and pay the full price of the home back to Habitat for Humanity at an interest-free mortgage of no more than 25 per cent of their monthly income.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity visit: www.hfh.org

Upcoming Events and Ongoing Programs

PomWom – November 21, 2017

November – December Chesed Project

Women’s Prayer Series

Jewish History Crash Course Series

BI Mission 5778: The Jerusalem Marathon

Shabbos Shiur – Monthly

Stay connected with our Google Calendar




Yasher koach to Beth Israel member Nathan Light!
“Shabbat Come Dance” – Hilarious Jewish Parody of “Shutup and Dance”

Edmonton’s Rabbi Friedman Joins Prestigious Cabinet Of Canadians For Canada’s 150th

Edmonton Jewish News, November 4, 2016

(EJNews) – As Canada nears its 150 Anniversary, Cardus Faith in Canada 150 is gearing up to help ensure that a celebration of faith is part of our country’s 150th birthday.

In that vein, a Cabinet of Canadians has been formed and Chairman Dr. Andrew Bennett extended an invitation to Edmonton Beth Israel Synagogue Rabbi Daniel Friedman to join the prestigious Cabinet.

The Cabinet of Canadians forms an integral aspect of the Cardus Faith in Canada 150 initiative. Dr. Bennett said that Rabbi Friedman’s “respected leadership on public issues, including the role of faith in public life, makes him one of a small group of people we want to bring together to give face and voice to the FC150 initiative and to join other Canadians in affirming that faith matters.”

Rabbi Friedman graciously accepted the invitation saying, “I’m proud to be serving our country at this special time in our history. I’m particularly gratified when our efforts ‘out here’ in Edmonton are recognized and appreciated on a national level.  From a faith perspective, some call Alberta the Bible Belt of Canada – faith has always been a vital part of the Alberta story.  It’s an honour to be serving in the Cabinet alongside great Jewish leaders including Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl and Shimon Koffler-Fogel and great Albertan leaders such as Dr. David Goa.”

Under the direction of Greg Pennoyer, and shepherded by Cardus through its president Michael Van Pelt, FC150 will roll out over the next year and a half initiatives encompassing academic research, literature and art, lectures, media engagement, and festive gatherings all designed to bring faith to the forefront of public conversation during this sesquicentennial year of Confederation.

Dr. Bennet explained, “It is our intention to reaffirm the central role that faith has played throughout Canadian history and continues to play today for a majority of our fellow citizens.That Canadians might appreciate anew the role of faith in our country’s public life, however, requires the involvement of recognized leaders adding credibility, approval, and support to the ideal of fostering faith in our common life.”

Dr. Andrew Bennett served as Canada’s first Ambassador for Religious Freedom and Head of the Office of Religious Freedom from 2013 to 2016 during which time he led in defending and championing religious freedom internationally as a core element of Canada’s principled foreign policy. At the same time, Dr. Bennett served as Canada’s Head of Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a 31-country body which leads international efforts in Holocaust education, research, and remembrance.

Rabbi Daniel Friedman is the rabbi of Beth Israel Synagogue, Edmonton, Alberta, the chair of the National Holocaust Monument Development Council of Canada, the assistant chief examiner for religious studies at the Caribbean Examinations Council, and a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.  Born in the UK, with degrees from Canada, Australia, the US, and Israel, he is currently a doctoral candidate in International Relations at the University of Alberta. He is a recipient of the Alberta Centennial Award and accompanied (former) Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his official visit to Israel.

For more information and a complete list of the Cabinet of Canadians visit faithincanada150.ca.

Holocaust Monument Ground-breaking

Rabbi Friedman was recently in Ottawa to mark the construction start for the National Holocaust Monument.

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What An Incredible New Arena!

Edmonton Jewish News, September 29, 2016

(EJNews) – What an incredible new arena!  Rogers Place has positioned Edmonton once again as a world-class city, the envy of our friends across the continent.   We are all truly blessed to be living in this amazing place!  If you haven’t checked it out yet, you will be blown away!

One of the highlights of the grand opening was the appearance of our Edmonton hero Wayne Gretzky.  The Great One was duly impressed and could not stop gushing, but his most memorable thoughts came with his announcement, “What makes an arena really special is when you start winning, and you win championships!”

What made these words so special and poignant?

From the beginning of the month of Elul through Shemini Atzeret we recite chapter 27 of Tehillim (Psalms) twice daily.  Our Sages explain the reason for this custom: The first verse states, “Hashem is my light and my salvation,” and a later verse states, “for He will hide me in His sukkah.”  Since we have these allusions to Rosh Hashanah (when light came into the world), Yom Kippur (when G-d forgives us and we are granted salvation), and Sukkot, we recite the Psalm during this period of the year.

But that doesn’t explain why we begin a month before Rosh Hashanah at the beginning of Elul!  Why start so early?  The Baal Haturim, Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (1269-1340), teaches that the key lies in the penultimate verse “Lulé heemanti liros betuv Hashem” – “Had I not believed I would see the goodness of Hashem [my enemies would have destroyed me].”  Explains Rabbi Yaakov: The word lulé consists of the same letters as Elul.  Therefore we recite this chapter throughout the month of Elul.

But what is the essential relationship between lulé and Elul?  Lulé means ‘had I not’ and in many ways that’s the attitude we have throughout the month of Elul.  It’s the time of year when we take stock of our behaviour over the past twelve months.  If only I had done that!  If only I had not acted that way!  If only that bad stuff hadn’t happened in my life!  That’s Elul mentality.

But then we enter Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and we are able to put the past behind us.  The light of Rosh Hashanah fills the world.  The salvation of Yom Kippur permeates our lives.  The Almighty shelters us under the canopy of the wings of His Shechina (Divine presence).  It’s time to stop fretting about what we should’ve, could’ve, would’ve done.  It’s time to look to the year ahead and resolve that this year will be awesome, no matter what happened in the past!

Sadly, too many people lead their lives weighed down by shackles of the past.  Maybe it was a relationship breakdown that devastated your life.  Maybe you were fired from a fabulous job.  Maybe your schooling experience wasn’t that great.  You can’t let life’s major setbacks ruin you forever.  If you’re still living with the angst of the past, is that called living?

Believe it or not, I’ve met people in their sixties who still complain about the way their parents brought them up!  They simply can’t let go and get on with their lives.  Even an Elul mentality is only meant to last a month.  Not a lifetime!  This Rosh Hashanah, leave the past behind and take control of your destiny and responsibility for your future!

That’s the blessing of a new arena. The past is behind us.  We’re no longer bogged down by past inadequacies and shortcomings.  We simply look ahead to a bright future.  A future filled with victories and championships!

May the year ahead bring you victories in every facet of your life – health, nachas, and material prosperity!  Shana tova umetukah!

Rabbi Daniel Friedman is the spiritual leader at Beth Israel Synagogue in Edmonton, Alberta.