by Hannah Silver
(AJNews) – A welcome and well needed dose of community as we struggle through these dark and difficult days, both Calgary Jewish Federation and Jewish Federation of Edmonton gathered community on the evening of October 9, in an incredible, overwhelming display of love, support, and solidarity for Israel.
Although the event was organized in just over 24 hours, Beth Tzedec Congregation’s sanctuary was full with over 1,000 people in attendance, many of whom wore blue and white or IDF t-shirts, and proudly waved Israeli flags.
A similar gathering took place in Edmonton at Beth Israel Synagogue; community members and allys joined together to mourn and grieve following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 where over 1300 people were brutally murdered and 200 people were abducted.
The Calgary community heard messages from federal, provincial, and municipal politicians, including powerful words from Shuv Mujumdar, Member of Parliament for Calgary Heritage, Minister Tanya Fir of Arts, Culture, and Status of Women, and Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek. They each reassured us that we are not alone, and all representatives displayed strong allyship. Several prayers were led by members of Calgary’s Jewish community, including representatives of local organizations with a focus on supporting Israel. Calgary Jewish Federation’s president Lisa Libin emceed the evening, sharing her own thoughts, as well as reading a letter penned by former Calgarian living in Israel, Kinneret Ozeri (Carla Girvitz). Jared Shore, past co-president of Federation and current CIJA board member, eloquently and convincingly inspired us to be proud, active Jews in the face of such hate and terror.
As she poured out her heart, former IDF lone-soldier Hannah Carnat-Gronnerud put it beautifully, “Our joy, our happiness, and our literal survival depends on our strength, not on others’ hate. And we have proven to ourselves and to the world that our strength will always survive. It is not a question but the answer.”
Federation CEO Adam Silver, who has been working around the clock to ensure the safety of our community, shared a touching message of hope and solidarity. He praised the responsiveness and cooperation of Calgary Police Service (CPS) and shared several ways that we as individuals can help Israel by donating to the Calgary Jewish Federation Israel Emergency Fund, Canadian Magen David Adom, JNF Canada, Canadian Hadassah WIZO, Na’amat Canada, and buying Israel Bonds.
In Edmonton, over 500 community members and allies gathered together in solidarity for Israel at Beth Israel. The gathering was primarily a time for prayer and unity among community members and agencies. It was not political in nature and although some dignitaries were in attendance, they were not invited to address the crowd. Their presence sent a message of solidarity with the community. “Tonight we gathered as a community at Beth Israel to show unwavering support for Israel. Thank you to all who attended, including rabbis, politicians, dignitaries, and Edmonton Police Service chief of police,” stated Jewish Federation of Edmonton on Facebook.
Former President of Jewish Federation of Edmonton Steven Shafir emceed the event and CEO Stacey Leavitt-Wright spoke passionately about the need for solidarity. EPS Chief Dale McFee addressed the gathering, reassuring the Jewish community that they are not in isolation here in Edmonton and that extra security would be provided around the places where Jewish people congregate.
On October 14 the community came together for an outdoor Havdallah service, with all of the synagogues participating. Again, the message was for solidarity and safety.
All of the events concluded with the singing of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, meaning “The Hope.” In a time of so many feelings of despair, let the resilience and humanity of our people in Israel, and the displays of Klal Israel and Ahavat Israel by our community alongside so many others around the world give us strength and hope; the Jewish spirit that has forever sustained us is our secret weapon.
If you or someone you know experiences any form of antisemitic hate and/or needs support, please report it to both the CPS non-emergency line and Calgary Jewish Federation. In Edmonton, please report it to the EPS non-emergency line and Jewish Federation of Edmonton.
Calgary Jewish Federation has joined Jewish Federations of North America and launched The Blue Ribbon Campaign, which symbolizes support and solidarity for the safe return of the hostages taken by Hamas. Wearing a ribbon publicly unites people of all religions, races, nationalities, ethnicities, ages, and generations and demonstrates for the people of Israel that they are not alone, and that good people across the globe are with them and their families during this dark time. Get your ribbon today at the Paperny Family Calgary JCC.
Many in Jewish Alberta are asking how you can help Israel right now. Both Edmonton and Calgary Federations have set up an Israel Emergency Fund that you can donate to directly. The Jewish Federation system is on the ground in Israel and assessing the immediate needs of the terror victims. This funding will go to Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA, which will disperse the funds accordingly.
In Edmonton, please donate what you can at: https://ow.ly/bbc150PVmPr
In Calgary, please donate what you can at: jewishcalgary.crowdchange.co/35645
Hannah Silver is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter. This article was written with files from AJNews in Edmonton.