A message from Stacey Leavitt-Wright, CEO Jewish Federation of Edmonton

Jewish Federation of Edmonton CEO Stacey Leavitt-Wright

by Stacey Leavitt-Wright

(Edmonton) – Walking through the streets of Tel Aviv in February, I noticed many Purim pop- up stores, with fun and crazy costumes for all ages. To a Canadian eye, it was out of place and seemingly inappropriate. Having just ended a solidarity mission where we visited with Israelis in Sderot, Kfar Azza, with families of hostages, with people uprooted and displaced in the north, it was a striking juxtaposition. How could Israelis, during war, enjoy celebrating Purim?

The answer is the secret to our longevity as a people, to the resilience and courage we encounter repeatedly. Coming together as one people, choosing to celebrate and live full lives, is the Israeli ethos. On the Coast-to-Coast mission, we could visit with people bolstered by our care and supported through the funds we have raised. Even in the most heartbreaking instances, they have the fortitude to continue, and do so with the support of our people. Am echad lev echad – One people, one heart.

The Israelis we met are keenly aware of the issues permeating the diaspora and Canadian Jewry, which seem to multiply daily. They are concerned about how we are facing rising antizionism. While we have not seen the same level of violence on the streets of Edmonton as we have in other provinces, our Federation leadership is vigilant regarding advocacy, security, and issues of antisemitism in schools and on campus. Through our United Jewish Appeal campaign, we ensure that we have an active Hillel to support post-secondary students and our staff continue to support parents when concerns arise, while our advocacy agent, the Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs, addresses national matters that concern us all.

The upcoming Edmonton Jewish Film Festival is an example of how we link our community with one another, with our culture, and with Israel. Proceeds will support a special project to bring teens from Northern Israel to connect with our local teens with some time in Alberta this summer.

While we ensure the continuation of core Jewish Federation services such as the recently relaunched integrated bursary program and work with volunteers to plan programs and events, we will not stop advocating for the release of all hostages and supporting Israel and Israelis. Our Purim heroine Esther united our people before she approached their foe. Years later we are doing the same as a community while we face adversity head on.

Stacey Leavitt-Wright is CEO of Jewish Federation of Edmonton.

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