Every Two Weeks
In this Newsletter:

 . Chanukah Celebration Wednesday, December 16
. Great Miracles Happen Here: Offerings from Rabbi Lithwick & Others
. Make a Difference: Volunteer with Shir Libeynu
. Original Writings from Members Ronna Bloom & Jonathan Silin
. Queer text study

Light in a Dark Season
There’s a Hebrew Chanukah song, “Banu choshech l’garesh, kolachd hu or v’esh, kolachd hu or katan, v’ kulanu or eitan.” We will overcome the dark, each of us a tiny spark, but together we are a mighty flame and united we are strong.

Today, December 6th, is a dark day in our history. We remember the murder of 14 young women at Polytechnique Montréal in 1989 and continue to struggle against gender-based violence and all forms of violence.
We are also blessed with many ways to honour and cherish the light that will lead us though the darkness in this season of light, starting with Dawali, then Chanukah, the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa. The miracle of Chanukah is that a small light lasted for eight days—enough time to cleanse the spirit, rededicate the Temple, and give thanks for what we have, what we have managed to do and rededicate ourselves to lighting the way ahead.

In Rabbi Dara Lithwick’s words, “This Chanukah we honour those whose light has shone throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the helpers who despite the tohu and bohu, the chaos and confusion, trauma, fear and disinformation have served and continue to serve, illuminating our communities by their commitment and caring.”

We are each of us a tiny flame, but when we come together we can accomplish a great deal; we can light the darkness.

Board of Directors
Important dates for your calendar:
  • Chanukah singalong: Wednesday, December 16, 7:00 pm
  • Memorial Service for Annette Salem: Sunday, December 13, 2:00 pm
  • Annual General Meeting: Sunday, December 20, 11:00 am — Information coming Friday, December 11.
  • Presentation and performance by Daniela Gesundheit: Sunday, December 20, following the AGM — Information coming Friday, December 11.
Join Rabbi Dara Lithwick and the Board of Directors to celebrate Chanukah on Wednesday, December 16 at 7:00 pm for about half an hour. Let’s light up our Zoom windows with our chanukiahs, show off our latkes and sing our hearts out. Email to let us know your favourite Chanukah songs: slboard@shirlibeynu.ca. Invite all the children in your lives!
Shalom! On the evening of December 10th we will be welcoming in the first night of Chanukah by lighting candles and reciting blessings over light and miracles, then and now. Unlike in years past, though, due to the pandemic we won’t be gathering together in community to bless and sing and fress over latkes and sufganiot and more. Instead, we may shine our Chanukah lights through our Zoom windows as well as through the windows in our homes.

Over the past weeks I have been honoured to collaborate with a wonderful group of clergy, liturgists, poets and artists to create a collection from Bayit* titled “Great Miracles Happen Here: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Chanukah.” 

I hope that these offerings can add to your celebration of Chanukah especially in these times, and I look forward to celebrating Chanukah together on Zoom on December 16th. In advance of our gathering, what are your favourite Chanukah songs and traditions that you may wish to share? 

Finally, Chanukah is literally a holiday of rededication. By returning to and reclaiming the Temple, the Maccabees recommitted themselves to the values that they held dear. This year especially, with all that has happened, Chanukah invites us to rededicate ourselves to the core values that make Shir Libeynu so special, for example to the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. As set out elsewhere in this newsletter and on the Shir Libeynu website, there are so many ways to get involved to bring ever more light to our community and to our world. 

Chag urim sameach! 
R’ Dara Lithwick (she, her, hers)

* Our high holiday slides were adapted from materials provided by Bayit.
There are so many ways to make a difference, have fun and get to know other Shir Libeynu members. Get in touch with us to discuss these great volunteer opportunities: slboard@shirlibeynu.ca.

Join the Board of Directors. At our AGM on December 20, we will be proposing to expand the board. We could especially use new directors with communications, policy or fundraising skills and experience.

Write/edit this biweekly newsletter. This is a wonderful, creative opportunity for someone who has great writing skills and would enjoy working with the board, members and our administrator to keep our congregation informed and connected.
Join the Social Action Committee and contribute to Shir Libeynu’s anti-racism and other social justice initiatives. Thank you to everyone who attended our presentation by No Silence on Race on November 22.

Participate musically in our services. If you are interested, please get in touch with Paula Wolfson, our Shabbat Chazzan: paula@paulawolfson.com.
Two of our members, Ronna Bloom and Jonathan Silin, have submitted original writings to share with the congregation. While very different—one a poem, one an essay—they are both timely, reflecting on our hearts and lives during the pandemic. 
Dear Heart,
This is not a normal time,
so forgive yourself
for not being normal.
You never were.
Now you have a good reason
and company.
Ronna Bloom, March 13, 2020

Ronna Bloom is the author of six books of poetry. Her most recent book,The More (Pedlar Press, 2017) was longlisted for the City of Toronto Book Award. Her poems have been recorded by the CNIB and translated into Spanish, Bangla, and Chinese. Ronna created the Poet in Residence programme at Sinai Health and is currently Poet in Community to the University of Toronto. She runs workshops on poetry, spontaneity, and awareness through writing. www.ronnabloom.com

Schools, Covid-19 and Jewish Time
Jonathan Silin

As an early childhood educator who has spent more than 50 years in schools, I have never been more daunted than by the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. I listen as families, teachers and public health officials weigh the risks and advantages of face-to-face, hybrid, and online instruction. I read what sociologists and economists write about the long-term impact of school closures on the larger social fabric as well as on the mental health of individuals.

Yet I find the language used to describe the impact of Covid-19 on education troubling. In June, parents fretted about the failed quality of online instruction that purportedly caused their children to lose up to three months of education. During the summer, policy makers began to ask if children from poorer, underserved communities would ever be able to catch up. Over the fall, newspaper headlines proclaimed that delayed school openings cost children anywhere from a few days to many weeks of critical curriculum.
Like everyone I worry about these questions of lost time. There is no arguing with Arundhati Roy’s observation made early in the pandemic that the disproportionate impact on poor and marginalized people has made it a portal into vast social inequities around the world. I also know that the assumption underlying talk of lost time, time as a limited resource, a quantifiable entity that can be squandered or well spent, does not coincide with my experience of how children learn and grow…

Click here to continue reading:

Jonathan Silin, EdD, is the author of four books including Early Childhood, Aging and the Life Cycle: Mapping Common Ground. He is a member of Shir Libeynu, former chair of the Education Committee. jsilin@optonline.net, www.jonathansilin.com
Queer Text Study
Hosted by the MNjcc and Cara Gold
Thursday, December 10, 7 pm
Join the next instalment of Queer Text Study with Rabbi Becca Walker for the first night of Chanukah. Plan for a session all about queering the Chanukah story. Click here to register: 
Congregation Shir Libeynu