Opinion

Modah Ani

Modah Ani. Those were the first two Hebrew words I learned this summer when I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. I never expected that the Miles Nadal JCC’s Queer Jewish Incubator would impact me so deeply. They’ve helped me fill the metaphorical hole in my heart that’s been growing since childhood. Throughout my…

The LGBT Logs

JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) is a nonprofit organization based in the United States that aims to support and empower LGBTQ+ Jewish youth with a special focus on teenagers and young adults from Orthodox, Hasidic, Sephardic and Mizrahi communities.  As the nonprofit says, “JQY fights to ensure the emotional and physical health and safety of this…

For Jews, Life Begins at Birth

I was shocked when I first noticed a photograph of Dr. Henry Morgentaler on my grandfather’s wall in his Floridian condo. Why did my conservative grandfather have a newspaper cutout of the famed physician who furthered abortion rights in Canada?  “I didn’t realize you were such a fan, zaide!” I exclaimed. “No, no,” he responded,…

The Torah of Intersectionality

When legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” 30 years ago, she was responding to cases like that of Emma DeGraffenreid, who sued General Motors in 1976. DeGraffenreid and other Black women employed at the company argued that the auto manufacturer’s segregation of the workforce by race and gender was discriminatory, but the court…

In sacred texts, we belong

The other day a friend asked, “If your sacred text requires you to struggle, why don’t you just . . . get a better sacred text? You could write one—a text that was antiracist, trans affirming, pro-LGBTQ+, and did not make you struggle to find those things. What is the value of being part of…

Leaving Babylon

Founded in 2001 by former Jewish refugees from Libya and Egypt, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) was launched as a grassroots initiative to educate and engage Jewish institutional leaders, policymakers, Jewish college students, and members of the general public to the unknown personal and collective stories of the one million…

Ukrainian Jewish Encounter: more important than ever

Ukrainians and Jews have lived side-by-side on the territory of modern-day Ukraine for nearly two millennia. Separately and together, they have woven a tapestry that has left an indelible mark on Ukraine’s cultural, linguistic, and historical legacy. This cross-cultural legacy has remained largely unknown to the international community and is often seen through the prism…

A new home for the LGBTQ+ Jewish community in Toronto

LGBTQ+ at the J, based at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, is the heart of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ Jewish community. Launched in 2018, the initiative provides queer Jews opportunities to gather and thrive. We aim for the full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ Jews across Jewish institutions and in Jewish life.  But the work is…

Reading Braiding Sweetgrass in a shmita year

At the start of 5782, my hevruta study partner and I decided to begin a course through the education platform ProjectZug on shmita laws. The laws ask us to take only what we need and let the land and animals rest to preserve agriculture. As Jews, we are told to follow these obscure agricultural and…

Don’t rest on the laurels of Jews from history

Like most Jewish children, I was taught about the Holocaust at an early age. But I always felt far removed from this part of history. Growing up in the ‘90s and 2000s, the ‘40s felt like ancient history. But, antisemitism is alive and well in North America and cannot be ignored.  Even as I grapple…

Repair our world

A person brought an objection against his next door neighbour for building an outhouse in his backyard. He objected to the unpleasant smell severely limiting his enjoyment of his garden. The neighbour insisted that he was free to build his outhouse as it was on his property. The court decided that he was free to…

The way we are

I will never forget the first time I saw the film The Way We Were.  Barbra Streisand’s curly, unruly hair felt like my curly, unruly hair. Her large facial features felt like my large facial features. Her exuberant laugh reminded me of many Jewish women in my life. But what struck me the most was…

The Millennial Mitzvah

At the heart of Jewish life is the strange concept of “mitzvah.” It’s a category that compiles what many might view as good deeds, like giving charity (Deuteronomy 15:11), alongside behavioural traits such as acting with love (Leviticus 19:18),and civic norms including a prohibition on withholding wages (Leviticus 19:13). Mitzvahs range from sensible guidance, like…

Laughing through life hand-in-hand

“Humour is the shortest road from one person to another.” —Georges Wolinski   I first met my husband on a blind date set up by my cousin and a mutual friend. I was told he was tall, South African, highly intelligent and a very special person. It was Passover and Easter weekend, so nothing seemed…

Expanding our systems with love

People are often surprised when they learn my undergraduate degree is a Bachelors of Science in Engineering Science. They puzzle over how it connects to my work as a rabbi, yet the question I think about most in my rabbinate comes directly from engineering: how are people defining their system?  How you define your system…

Camping with Trybal

Friday, September 24 was a gorgeous night in the Ojai Valley wilderness; perfectly straddling the heat of summer and the cool, oncoming fall. Camp Ramah was our home for the weekend; coming from Los Angeles, the absence of traffic noise, light pollution, and the ambient smell of exhaust was noticeable and welcome. I huddled under…

What lockdown taught me about shmita

Although the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was shocking, frightening, and upending, my family and I took great delight in the initial days and weeks of lockdown as we watched the natural world enjoy a break from human consumption and activity. When we were homebound, unable to drive to the grocery store or fly for…

This year, Rosh Hashanah is a time for grieving

The sun did not rise outside my Bay Area home last week. My three-year-old, who usually wakes at dawn, awoke at 9 a.m. confused; pointing to a dark orange sky, obliterated by clouds of smoke from wildfires billowing all over the West Coast.  Come fall, the New Year will once again not be an ordinary…

Make personal health and wellness a priority

The Delta variant brought a fourth wave of the pandemic, but with widespread access to vaccines in Canada we can see the potential to return to a more stable state of existence in the coming months. While this brings a certain sense of excitement and relief, there can also be some anxiety as many of…

High Shpilkes: can antisemitic hostility cost us the High Holidays?

On September 18, 2001, the synagogue’s security guard searched my fuzzy-leopard-print handbag for weapons.  It had been one week since New York was attacked by aerial violence, and it was the first time I ever saw security guards in a synagogue. Usually on Rosh Hashanah, the glass doors were fortified by an old man who…

Self-care tips for everyone

Self-care is a term that has become part of our vocabulary, particularly during these   challenging 15 months. When thinking of self-care, my mind used to resort to bubble baths, candles, and a good book. But I have come to realize, especially as a social worker in the Jewish Family Services of Calgary’s (JFSC) Seniors…

Finding truth in unequivocal holiness

I had two similar experiences that resembled coming out over the past decade or so. One was actually coming out as queer. The other, which happened a few years prior, was when I was finally ready to proclaim my desire to apply to rabbinical school and become a rabbi. Over the course of several years,…

Jewish Enough

Have you ever had an experience where you felt like you weren’t “Jewish enough” or felt inadequate in some Jewish situation? Same, and I want to talk about it. There is a common story many people have shared with me, which takes place on Shabbat. Honestly, I think it may have happened to me as…

A card spread for the in-between days

We are currently in the period of time known as the Omer, a 49-day stretch bridging the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. During this time, our ancestors wandered in the desert after escaping Egypt and leaving slavery behind. This is the liminal time between liberation and revelation*when we received the Torah at Sinai.  This year,…

It can happen to anyone: dispelling the myths around abuse

Please be advised: this story contains difficult and sensitive content and may be triggering for some readers. It’s hard to admit, but I used to believe those who experienced domestic violence (DV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) were from a lower socioeconomic class, or struggled with substance abuse, or grew up as witnesses or victims…

Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada fosters cultural awareness and community empowerment

Since its inception in 1999 the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada (JHCWC) has played a seminal role in documenting, preserving and disseminating information and knowledge on the culture and history of Jews in Western Canada. In addition, through the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre, the JHCWC promotes the awareness and understanding of the…

Hidden Legacy: in the footsteps of the Jews of Sefarad

In 1917, Polish-Portuguese mining engineer Samuel Schwarz “discovered” a community of hidden Jews living in the isolated village of Belmonte, Portugal. According to oral histories, these hidden or “crypto-Jews” believed they were the only Jews left in the world. They were shocked to discover that there were other Jews and Jewish communities besides themselves. The…

The importance of self-care for caregivers

When was the last time you focused on yourself?  If you cannot remember, you might be a caregiver. For many, COVID-19 makes for an uncertain future. For caregivers, the pandemic has heightened feelings of uncertainty.  It is a very human quality to crave certainty, without it, feelings of fear and anxiety may become more frequent.…

The value of praise over thanks

One afternoon, a few years ago, a large, overstuffed mailing envelope arrived in my office. The return address indicated it had come from an elementary school where I had recently spoken. In the audience that day were about 200 eager-eyed young students from Grades 1 through 3. Their teachers invited me to come and share…

Feminist Seders saved my relationship with Judaism

I grew up going to a conservative egalitarian synagogue in Toronto on the High Holidays and occasionally on Shabbat. Women have equal participation to men in the services and I was able to have my Bat Mitzvah reading from the Torah on the bimah. Our prayers included the forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob while also…

Why we fight for Nasrin Sotoudeh’s freedom

Although International Women’s Day took place last week on March 8, it shouldn’t be the only time we address notable women who are fighting for women's rights. The National Council of Jewish Women in Canada (NCJWC) endeavours to use this international time of reflection to spotlight Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.   Sotoudeh has devoted…

Getting to know myself through Spilling The Tea

When I was little, I didn’t often think about my mixed Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewish family. I loved partaking in my father’s Moroccan Sephardic traditions and my mother’s German and Hungarian Ashkenazi traditions, and never reflected on my experiences as unique. But they were, and are. I realized this when I started to notice many…

How We Love

To truly love something, we must be in relationship with it; putting in our most valuable resources, such as time and affection. We should begin by acknowledging love is incredibly complex and no two people love in the same way. That being said, we all direct our love through the same three channels:  the love…

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY! (UGH): Natalie Norman’s 14 tips on love

Before you read this, I want you to know that I'm not a dating expert. In fact I have recently started my own journey of learning how to get better at dating via my podcast Red Flags with Natalie Norman. However, I know a few things and honestly I think maybe they can help you…

Justice Ginsburg’s legacy lives on: fighting against Quebec’s Bill-21

In the October edition of Niv, I reflected on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy and what she meant to me as a female Jewish law student. I discussed the important strides she made by working to fight discrimination, and how she overcame sexism and actively combatted it through her legal work. Her dissents forced American…

Oy to the World

I am a Jew who enjoys Christmas. Something I thought would never happen, especially because I always yearned for a Jewish practicing home.  I was raised by very secular parents. When I was a kid, I observed my dad bowing mockingly to the east on Rosh Hashanah. And while I know Jewish food doesn’t make…

Kindness for Chrismukkah

The portmanteau ‘Chrismukkah’ induces shudders for many people. As December approaches, Facebook groups like The Jews are Tired are fraught with frustrated and scathing posts complaining about stuffed Santas wearing tefillin (yes, that’s a thing) and menorah-shaped ornaments. Whether we like it or lump it, navigating the December holiday season is a reality many multifaith…

Religious carols should not be sung in public schools

Judaism is an integral part of my identity, instilling in my life, family togetherness and tzedakah. And while I’m always happy to share information about my religion and culture to others, I would never impose religious traditions on anyone.  Yet, other religious customs have been forced onto me like learning carols that reference Jesus, God…

Teaching students to bear witness

The Holocaust is an indelible stain on human history. There is a duty not only to study the history of the Holocaust but also to remember it, for there is no future without memory. Remembering what happened should rightly awaken the conscience of my students.  To that end I created the Bearing Witness program at…

Lessons from the Kosher Section

My mother looked exhausted as we entered our local No Frills. Even though I was nine years old at the time, I knew her fatigue was the result of a sleepless night followed by a 10-hour shift at a bakery on Bathurst Street. She had her hand on my shoulder steering me through crowds of…

My trip to Poland

 

It’s all in the Journey: reflections on founding ShadowLight

It’s been 75 years since the liberation of the concentration camps and the number of survivors and witnesses is rapidly dwindling. It is crucial to pass on the lessons of the Holocaust to future generations.  Holocaust education is key to making sure we never forget the atrocities the Jewish people experienced. It also teaches us…

Celebrating Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

FROM THE EDITORS We could not stand by ISSUE 2 if it did not pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We dedicate this issue to her and to all the women who have fought and continue to fight for equality. We hope you’ll enjoy reading the different perspectives from female lawyers who celebrate a…

What we can learn when confronting anti-Semitism

We likely have all experienced hearing a close friend say something anti-Semitic. You probably start to do the calculations in your head: is it worth addressing? How exactly do I dissect this comment to reveal the implicit anti-Semitism? Will it make things weird between us? How will others react? What would my zadie—who came to…

Hope in Absence

I struggle with anxiety, but it never comes from what I write. I become anxious at least once a day, but not over what I say. My chest can turn so tight from anxieties’ grip that I can choke on air, but it has never been from the contents of my work. That all changed…

Seeing past "I’m sorry"

There is a well-known Hasidic parable in which a King, after fighting with his son, exiles him from his kingdom. Years later, the King’s heart softens, and he sends his ministers to ask his son to return. The son still resents his father deeply and rejects the invitation.  Upon hearing this, the king tells his…

(Don’t) Take Me to Church

My mother and I were listening to CBC Radio as we drove up Bathurst Street in Toronto to "sit shiva" for my uncle who had recently passed away in June. We turned on the radio and when CBC began their coverage of Premier Doug Ford's press conference, we quickly turned up the volume to hear…