Dear Friends,
Two weeks ago, my Board colleague Alice Retik eloquently expressed thoughts on diversity and inclusion when she wrote: “we are a diverse community with many different abilities and experiences. It is this diversity that makes our community strong and allows us to thrive and grow.”

As role models, parents are likely the biggest Jewish influence on most kids even though in some instances we might prefer to outsource that Jewish inspiration to our Hebrew teachers! And while the studies are clear that the more Jewish education a person has, the more likely they are to live Jewishly, the reality is that if parents are “into the Jewish stuff,” there is a strong chance our kids will actively live Jewishly. Layered on that is community. Human beings are social creatures. We like to belong to groups giving us the identity and companionship that we crave. Building community helps us feel connected to other Jews and makes the practice of Judaism more joyful.

From the very early stages of my Jewish education, I was taught at Jewish day school that one of the most important responsibilities we have as Jews is the obligation to honour our parents. Honouring reaches deeper, and demands more of us than simply respecting. And so regardless of one’s level of commitment and observance, I believe there are many forms of Jewish status and legitimacy. 
On a more personal level, I would describe my overall Jewish heritage as one of “traditional” Jewish values. That said, at a young age, I experienced significant diversity in my own family – a stepfather (Murray) who became a Jew by choice and my late stepmother of blessed memory (Julie) who also became a Jew by choice and supported my father (Jack) and our family in our Jewish journey. No two individuals in my life demonstrated such purity of their intentions, having chosen to become part of the Jewish people in order to raise their “adopted” children as Jews. And once they emerged from the mikveh, they became Jews in every way.

In my later years, I began to realize the immensity of my stepfather’s and stepmother’s sacrifices to enunciate the family importance of our culture and religion, and to throw their energy into giving my sisters and me a Jewish heritage. Today as I reflect, I also believe that they are among the very reasons that I am so committed to being Jewish and why I fell in love with being a Jew so fiercely. Tomorrow, my mother Bea and stepfather Murray celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Thank you, mom and dad, for these decades of love and for your lifetime of encouragement and support to live my life Jewishly, and to hopefully be a role model for acceptance of diversity in practicing our faith.

I believe it’s fair to say that historically there were limited opportunities for those with diverse backgrounds to embrace Jewish rituals and find communal engagement. Many were forced to decide between their love, their diversity and their faith. Thankfully, much has changed, though more change is still needed.  

We always have a choice. We can react to our community’s shifting demography (race, gender, interfaith, multicultural, family structure) with fear, or we can react with love and curiosity all the while continuing our deep investment in the Jewish past, present, and future coupled with recognizing that passing on our heritage is really, really important. Staying and living Jewishly used to be almost automatic but is no longer. The world has changed. Today, living Jewishly is essentially a lifestyle choice. 
We have similar choices within the broader society to help create the reality we desire and it starts with exercising our democratic right to vote in the Ontario Provincial Election on June 2.

In Canada, we are privileged to be given this choice, one that others have fought and even died for. Democracy involves many choices – whether or not to vote, how informed we want to be in making this decision, and whether or not we want to make a difference by becoming involved in the political process. If you’d like to volunteer and help the campaign of your choice, please contact CJPAC here, or by email, to learn how you can get engaged and make a difference.

To help you make an informed decision, Federation is hosting separate roundtables with candidates from the major political parties next week. Please register here for all or one of the roundtables. Following these sessions, we will provide full coverage in the Ottawa Jewish E-Bulletin.  

For more background on election issues, visit CIJA's Election Hub here.
Each of us can make a difference – in the electoral process and how we make others feel. 

Shabbat Shalom,
Ian