A message from Adam Silver, CEO Calgary Jewish Federation

Calgary Jewish Federation CEO Adam Silver

By Adam Silver

(Calgary) – Israel and its people continue to be top of mind for most of us, either directly or indirectly through the anti-Zionism form of antisemitism we are experiencing and seeing everywhere we look – in-person, in the news, or via social media. Twice since October 7, I have traveled to Israel to bear witness to the devastation, and to see the resilience of our sisters and brothers there. I have had the privilege to bring love and support to our displaced regional partners from Etzba Hagalil (the Galilee Panhandle) now living throughout the country, and I am amazed at how average citizens have unified to accomplish incredible things together during these very challenging days.

The theme of our recent Coast to Coast mission was “Real People, Real Stories” and it lived up to its name. Our group, comprised of volunteers and professionals of Federations from Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and our national partners at Jewish Federations of Canada – United Israel Appeal, spent four packed days engaging with people impacted by the war. The majority of our time was allocated to discussion, meals, and joint projects with some of the 100,000 Israelis who have been displaced from the northern borders, and have been living away from their homes for five months as Hezbollah remains a significant threat.

There are many stories to share, but one that stands out took place at the academic and research anchor in our partnership region, Tel Hai College (soon to be designated as a university). A leadership volunteer from Ottawa and co-chair of our partnership group, Barbara Crook, wrote a meaningful piece in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin about mental health first aid, and she has given me permission to share edited excerpts.

“Dr. Tamar Shlezinger’s phone rang the morning of October 7, as sirens blared in the north of Israel and the country was just beginning to understand the scope of the horrors of the Hamas terror attacks in the south.

She learned that Michael and Amelia Idan, nine and six, were alone in a tiny closet in the safe room of their house in Kibbutz Kfar Aza. Their parents had been murdered before their eyes. Their four-year-old sister, Avigail, was missing.

They were paralyzed with fear.

Although she was hours away from the Gaza Envelope and the children were strangers to her, Dr. Shlezinger, who teaches in the Social Work department of Tel-Hai College, sprang into action. As a volunteer with Israel’s United Hatzalah emergency medical services who had also received training in mental health first aid at Tel-Hai, she knew she had to communicate with the older child and give him a sense of control over a horrific situation.

“You are doing the right thing for you and your sister,” she told Michael in the first moments of their phone call. “You are in the right place, staying in the safe room.

“Are you holding your sister’s hand? That’s a good thing to do as well. And I will wait with you until someone comes to help you.”

Dr. Shlezinger was true to her word. She stayed on the phone with Michael and Amelia for 12 hours, until an Israeli soldier rescued the children.

Avigail had been kidnapped but was released in November. The children are being raised by their aunt and uncle.

Dr. Shlezinger’s first actions with the children – cognitive communication and giving them a sense of control – are three of the “6 Cs” of the innovative mental health first aid protocol developed by her colleague, Dr. Moshe Farchi, head of Tel-Hai’s Social Work department and founder of its Stress, Trauma, and Resilience Studies track. The protocol, which is used throughout Israel, also calls for challenge, commitment, and continuity, all of which she applied that day.”

This story is one of many that demonstrate the resilience we observed and felt throughout our mission and meetings. While we know the road ahead is long – both in Gaza and in addressing the Hezbollah threat in the north – we think of the future, of a time beyond the current threats.

We remain steadfast in supporting the people of Israel and in combating antisemitism and anti-Zionism in all its forms here in Calgary and abroad, and we rededicate to the journey ahead. Am Yisrael Chai!

Adam Silver
CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation

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