Jewish Identity

Posted by kmintzberg
The clubs, councils and organizations people take part in shape their community, their personal identity and their connection to others. Sociologically, some scholars believe Jewish people seem to have a “cultural predisposition for community” that was “externally reinforced for Jewish communities in the Diaspora by anti-Semitism, which forced them to look after their own and fostered a tradition of self governance.”
 
Introduction
“Becoming a (wo)man”
Israel
Philanthropic Organizations
Summer Camps
Youth Groups
Country Clubs
Introduction

Introduction



The clubs, councils and organizations people take part in shape their community, their personal identity and their connection to others. Sociologically, some scholars believe Jewish people seem to have a “cultural predisposition for community” that was “externally reinforced for Jewish communities in the Diaspora by anti-Semitism, which forced them to look after their own and fostered a tradition of self governance.”
Leaders emerge at all levels of the community – from enthusiastic children to corporate professionals.
 
Community leaders plan events, connect individuals, and provide opportunities for others to be involved, following in the footsteps of BC Pioneers. It is the leaders – both lay and professional – who encourage and inspire others to participate in, and maintain cultural and social practices while living in a multicultural, integrated society where keeping up with traditional, cultural practices such as kosher eating or displays of religious affiliation are not the norm.
 
Philanthropic leaders from BC support and sustain a number of organizations that provide help to both Jewish and non-Jewish groups locally, in Israel, and abroad. Philanthropic initiatives like the Diamond Pavilion at Vancouver General Hospital or the Morris J. Wosk centre at SFU, embody the values and beliefs that are a part of Jewish identity, especially that of “healing the world”.
 
 

“Becoming a (wo)man”

“Becoming a (wo)man”



“Becoming a (wo)man”
 
B’nai Mitzvah celebrations are the recognition and marking of a Jewish child reaching the age of maturity and being embraced by the Jewish community as a young adult. Becoming a bar or bat mitzvah means the youth are expected to respond to the challenge of the mitzvot (commandments) and be an active participant in the Community.
 
 
At Congregation Beth Israel, Ba’alat T’fillah Debby Fenson has seen the challenge of engaging students with the incredibly busy schedules common among youth today. Starting about six years ago with the arrival of Rabbi Infeld,Debby has helped to create a new Bar and Bat Mitzvah group program that is more community focused with family sessions being held at different times during Shabbat in order to give everyone the opportunity to experience different Shabbat services and observances. The new program is oriented towards experiential learning and making the students feel at home and comfortable in the Beth Israel community in order to get them more actively engaged in their learning, and hopefully develop a stronger connection with Jewish peers and community from a young age.

Israel

Israel



Taglit Birthright Israel
 
“Taglit-Birthright Israel offers the gift of a free, 10-day educational trip to Israel for Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26.”
 
Beyond the free trip, what Birthright gives to participants is an opportunity to explore the questions of identity and a personal connection and relationship with Judaism and Israel. The peer-led trip – fully funded by leading Jewish philanthropists, Jewish Federations, and Israeli government dollars – introduces young, Jewish adults to Israel in a concentrated, highly programmed and very social way.
 
Birthright is an intense and extremely meaningful group and individual experience. Since the first Birthright trip 13 years ago, young adults who have participated in the program constitute the first generation in Jewish history that have been given a gift – the gift of their Jewish birthright – of this magnitude;a gift that has faced criticism at times for “perpetuating the idea that this generation of young adults is over-privileged.”
 
However, philanthropists, organizations, and professionals that support Taglit-Birthright – not to mention the multitude of participants – would say this free trip is the starting point for getting young adults actively engaged in the community locally and in Israel, and working towards creating a generation that will become leaders and give back as they grow.
 
Dana Troster, Manager of Young Adult Initiatives at the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, has participated in and led Birthright trips for Canada. For her and for many other Jewish community professionals, Birthright is the “most successful program that has come out of the Jewish community”. The trip offers “wow moments” of personal and cultural exploration, the effects of which last long after the 10 days have ended.
 
Of keen interest today is “what happens on the 11th day” and increasing focus on post-trip programming here in BC, and across the world. Harnessing the energy and passion inspired by the trip to build the Jewish community we want and need here in BC will be important goals moving forward, as well as helping participants to continue to explore and strengthen the bond between themselves and Israel, Jewish peoplehood, and their own Jewish identity.

Philanthropic Organizations: Dollars without borders

Philanthropic Organizations: Dollars without borders



Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, Victoria Chapter
 
The charitable organization that many refer to simply as Hadassah, is made up of two independent organizations: Hadassah and WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization). Canada is the only country in the world where the two separate groups come together to form one powerhouse organization: Canada Hadassah-WIZO (CHW).
 
Hadassah is an international volunteer organization that funds medical initiatives. WIZO works to build social support and infrastructure in Israel. Together Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, founded in 1917, supports initiatives for children, healthcare, and women in Israel. Combined, these two organizations are “an anomaly” driven by the Jewish values of “tikkun olam” (repairing the world) and “tzedakah” (meaning “righteousness”: charity or philanthropy).
 
CHW initiatives are organized and supported almost entirely by volunteers. CHW provides the opportunity for Jewish women from around the world to connect with one another in a meaningful way and gives Jewish Canadian women a channel through which they can focus their humanitarian efforts to improve health and living conditions for people in Israel.
 
The amount of personal time and effort put forth by the women of CHW to improve the lives of strangers half way around the world is the embodiment of Jewish values and feelings of obligation to care for all Jews alike. In Victoria, CHW is supported by other faith-based groups and connects Jewish and non-Jewish women within the community. In Israel, local CHW chapters have founded and continue to support six daycare centers, four technical high schools and two hospitals.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Summer Camps

Summer Camps



HABONIM D’ROR Camp Miriam 
 Since its establishment less than 7 decades ago, Camp Miriam has grown along with the Jewish community and today the camp sees close to 300 campers each season. Although the camp has changed locations and names, its objectives of educating Jewish youth and fostering positive social relationships and the foundation for an active future in the Jewish community locally and with Israel are still at the core of the Camp Miriam experience.
 
The original Camp Miriam was founded in 1948 under the name Camp Kvutsa (Kvutsa means “group”) and was located at Crescent beach in White Rock, BC. The camp was renamed to Camp Miriam in 1951 after Miriam Biderman who was an influential member of the Habonim Dror movement, and moved to Gabriola Island, BC in 1956.
 
Although there are many more non-Jewish camps open to Jewish youth today than there were in the past, Jewish summer camps “profoundly shape [Jewish children’s] identity” and each summer they provide campers “with lifelong friendships, a commitment to Jewish community, and unforgettable memories”
 
Camp Miriam is still very much a similar experience, especially ideologically, to what campers would have appreciated from it in past generations. Unlike so many other Jewish institutions that have evolved their missions over time, Camp Miriam, along with the parents who send their children there, still seek to provide the campers with a place where they can truly enjoy the freedom and fun that only childhood summers allow.
 
Camp Hatikvah YOUNG JUDAEA 
 Jewish summer camps are one venue for informal education, a core component of child and youth development that contribute to a well rounded education, Jewish friendships, and identity. Camp Hatikvah has provided a Jewish and Zionist atmosphere for campers and a beautiful setting on Kalamalka Lake in the Okanagan for the past 57 years. 
 
In recent years, with the generosity of the community, the camp has been able to update many of the camp buildings creating dynamic facilities that support the high caliber programming of this camp, especially in the areas of leadership development, love of Israel, and water sports. Camp Hatikvah, like so many other Jewish camps, strives to endow campers with a “deep love and respect of [Jewish] tradition” and continues to see its relevance in the current era.
 
 

Youth Groups

Youth Groups



United Synagogue Youth – Pacific Northwest Region
 
The importance of getting children involved in the community at a young age is paramount as it is a significant predictor of future involvement and a meaningful way to foster community. In past decades, social-cultural groups like United Synagogue Youth (USY) provided a place for Jewish youth, who were often excluded from many non-Jewish clubs, to integrate their collective Jewish experience together.
 
USY at Congregation Beth Israel has provided after school programs that connect Jewish youth with their peers and build lifelong social connections since 1963. As Mijael Lacher, Director of Youth and Young Adult Outreach at Congregation Beth Israel, puts it: “If today they participate socially, the ritual participation will be the next natural step.”
 
Today, as Jewish youth participate in a variety of secular (non-Jewish) clubs and teams, programs like USY are more important than ever in connecting youth with their Jewish peers and their cultural roots, as well as the community. However, it is becoming increasingly challenging for groups like USY to compete with the jam-packed schedules of the modern youth. Today, cultural youth groups are often taking a back seat to sports teams, school clubs and councils, and other social, recreational, and academic priorities of youth.

Country Clubs

Country Clubs



 
Richmond Country Club
 
In the 1950’s, at a time when Jewish people were excluded from joining the existing private golf and country clubs in Vancouver, the Jewish community went out and started their own.
 
Originally named the Cedarcrest Golf Club, the group of Jewish golfers played on the Public Langara Golf Course. After some time without a permanent home for the club, the group purchased the Gleneagles Golf Course in West Vancouver. From their original home at the Gleneagles Golf Club they expanded and moved to 130 acres along Steveston highway in Richmond. In 1958 the Jewish community constructed an 18-hole golf course and club on the new site. This new club was officially named The Richmond Country Club and is still thriving into the 2000’s with about 70% of their current membership being Jewish.
 
July 2012 marked the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Hadassah-WIZO (CHW) pro-am golf tournament to “raise money for women, children and healthcare in Israel” held at the Richmond Country Club. The CHW golf tournament is the largest single event fundraiser for CHW in Vancouver and continues to ensure help for Israeli people. The long standing partnership between the Richmond Country Club and CHW in organizing this event brings together two organizations started by volunteer community leaders that have supported the BC and international Jewish communities for many years.