Statements from our Movement

Presented by MERCAZ-Canada

The following letters, essays, speeches and statements have been presented by MERCAZ-Canada.

Rabbi Sean Gorman and I attended a Mercaz-Olami conference in Israel from February 1 to 11, 2024. More on that event later, you might find this interesting.

Stan Greenspan

While I was at the airport in Israel on February 11 waiting for our flight home, my friend Steve wrote:

“If there is any objective to Rafa, it looks like pilling on.  I could not on a good day explain it.È

And put out an olive branch a joint Israel Saudi investment in Gaza to offer young people hope rather than what’s happening.”

I had to answer. Steve is a political strategist and advertising person whom I have known for around 30 years or so. We are not always on the same side of the political fence, but that has never gotten in the way of our friendship.

Here’s my response:

One hundred and sixty hostages still remain in Hamas hands. This war could end today if Hamas unconditionally surrendered, the way real wars end.

The people here in Israel are not in the mood to let Hamas rebuild and come back, and they will unless they, Hamas, are totally defeated or they surrender.

As to the Saudis, the Egyptians and the Americans, nobody is putting pressure on Israel in anything more than a theatric way.

There’s also the fact that in less than 30 days Ramadan starts, and that’s usually the start of intifadas and wars.

Israel is in the middle of the still live threat of Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom take their orders from Tehran.

I’m on my way home today from 10 days here. I have never seen the entire country united in the way it is now. They, the Israeli people, have had enough of missile attacks, broken ceasefires and terror attacks. They are more than willing to proceed to the end, and it seems that the western world, with the exception of Canada, understands.

Piling on? No. Removing the threat is more like it. Completely removing them is unfortunately the only way this will end.

You saw the videos. I saw the results live. I’ve met with hostage family members. It’s not simple, but it is.

Remove Hamas 100%.


Steve wrote back that he appreciated my point of view and wrote: “They need to say it as clearly as you”

I think we all need to say it clearly.

Both of the recognized world wars ended in the total surrender of the aggressors. Total surrender.

Both Germany and Japan have emerged as among the staunchest democracies, and leaders in our Western civilization. Germany is acknowledged as being Israel’s closest ally at this point in time. They understand the conflict and understand the philosophic difference between terrorists and a democratic state.

Who would have thought that 85 years ago, the greatest enemy of the Jewish people would become our greatest friend?

Unlike the USA, Canada, the UK, and others, states have begun to equivocate and expect Israel to “do as I say, not as I do.”

Germany has been steadfast in its friendship and support.

Look how the USA pounded Afghanistan and Iraq for over 20 years, carpet bombing without distinction of civilians or combatants. Many tens of thousands of civilians were killed, but of course, the Gaza Health Authority was not there to provide statistics, reported without question by the media.

Has anyone asked what the ratio of combatants to civilians has been in their numbers?

Look at how Canada imposed the draconian Emergencies Act, which a court ruled as unreasonable and violated the Charter, on a group of mostly peaceful protestors, going as far as seizing, without trial, bank accounts and property.

Canada’s Indigenous population has a very long and continuing history of government abuse of their treaty rights, by a government that believes more in virtue signaling than action when it comes to its own policies.

Look how the UK, which actually occupies Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and many more territories around the world, and now threatens to recognize a Palestinian state that has never existed, and could have, had the UK not encouraged, supported, and sent “military advisors” to the Jordanians in 1948, to overturn the UN Partition Plan.

Russia has invaded Ukraine, a country that gave up its nuclear arsenal in the promise of “forever” peace.

China has invaded Tibet, threatens Taiwan, and crushed the democracy that was Hong Kong, despite promises not to do so.

Iran controls Lebanon, Iraq, and Lebanon. Iran is the leading exporter of terror and crushes women’s rights and democracy at home.

There are many more examples of those who “know better” and are” just being honest brokers” of “world peace,” just not at home.


Yes. Clear up your own backyard before you tell others what to do.

I find it incredibly ironic that the USA and Canada, countries that occupy 100% of the land of indigenous people, would complain about the one indigenous population that is rebuilding its land, a land that has been continuously populated by the Jewish people for over 3500 years and having been invaded, occupied and subjugated from 70 CE to 1948.

Jews are indigenous to Judea. It’s not the “West Bank” a Jordanian invention during their occupation.

Judea. Israel.

Where the Jews are native people.

PS, today, the Times of Israel wrote about "Houthi bypass: Quietly, goods forge overland path to Israel via Saudi Arabia, Jordan"

There are many, many wheels turning, and much that is not reported in our Canadian news.

Stan Greenspan

July 26, 2023

Global Masorti/Conservative Representatives in the Zionist Movement appalled by Netanyahu’s capitulation to extremists and the passage of anti-democratic legislation


JTS Statement on the Outpouring of Concern for Israeli Democracy

There are circumstances in which societal confrontations touch on the very foundations on which those societies are built. Such is the case with respect to the debate raging in Israel today, which has fueled a wave of protests that yesterday brought the country to a halt, and which have at least put on hold the precipitous passage of major judicial reforms.
This is no ordinary political disagreement. What is unfolding in Israeli society today is a struggle about the basic principles of Zionism. Zionism aspired to achieve the secure conditions under which all members of the Jewish people could express their Jewishness freely and without fear, and through that freedom bring about renewal and a flourishing of Jewish life and culture. It aspired, as well, to create a country rooted in democracy and protective of the rights and free expression of all its inhabitants.
Democracy was not incidental to the Zionist program; it was among the prime guarantors that all citizens could be engaged players in the envisioned Jewish society. The 1948 Declaration of Independence said that the State of Israel would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex, [and] guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.” And what democracy demands were laid out as clearly as possible by none other than the revisionist Zionist leader Zev Jabotinsky: “It is an incorrect view which states that government supported by the majority is democracy… . Even a government of majority rule can negate freedom; and where there are no guarantees for freedom of the individual, there can be no democracy.” Jabotinsky continues, saying “the aim of democracy is to guarantee that the minority too has an influence on matters of state policy.”
The majoritarianism that Jabotinsky flagged as inimical to democracy is exactly what is being proposed today and what is motivating Israelis to pour into the streets.
As for the appointment of judges, it should be noted that an independent judiciary is foundational to Jewish views of a stable democratic polity. When the Torah spoke of the appointment of judges, it did not imagine people beholden to an appointing power. Instead, it stressed wisdom, knowledge of the common person, and imperviousness to corruption. And the great Jacob ben Asher, composer of the comprehensive 14thcentury code of law known as the Tur, wrote very simply that the need for a judiciary is critical because without it, whoever has the power will rule simply by virtue of that power.
If a duly elected majority, which controls both the executive and legislature, also appoints the judiciary and can override any of its decisions, that majority is in a position to run roughshod over minority rights, and thus foil the aspirations of Zionism and the democracy it envisioned building. This is a powerful motivation fueling the demonstrations throughout Israel.
When the prayer for the State of Israel is recited in synagogues, it asks that “the hands of those who defend our Land be strengthened.” This is rightly understood to include all those who don uniforms to protect the state from attacks from without and terrorism within. But there are today even more people whose peaceful but forceful protests are defending the State of Israel and Zionism itself. We should recognize that they, too, are included in this prayer. May their safety be secured, and may their patriotic efforts on behalf of the citizens of Israel and the character of the Jewish State prevail.

Worldwide Conservative/Masorti Leadership Statement


Worldwide Conservative/Masorti Leadership Statement on legislation that threatens Israel's democratic character

Sunday, February 19th, 2023

Since Israel's founding, the Conservative/Masorti movement around the world has been a major force in standing up for Israel when its safety, stability, and well-being come under threat. It is out of grave concern and our deep devotion to Medinat Yisrael that we are making our voices heard regarding the package of legal reforms proposed by Israel's new government.

Alarm regarding these reforms is being expressed by large segments of Israeli society, including the legal and business communities, academia, Masorti communities, and hundreds of thousands of protesters in Israel's streets. Among the most worrying elements is the so-called “override clause” which would enable a simple majority of the Knesset to overrule Supreme Court decisions. This would eviscerate the already fragile balance of power between the branches of Israel's government.

Weakening Israel's highly-regarded judicial system would undermine the message we have proudly and successfully promoted for decades around the world that Israel is both a Jewish AND a democratic state. With the mounting global disapproval of the proposed plan, moving forward risks serious economic, diplomatic and strategic consequences.

What can be done? We believe that now is the time to identify a better path forward that guarantees the rights of all Israelis and preserves the State of Israel as the Jewish and democratic nation-state of the Jewish people around the world. In the words of Israel's President Isaac Herzog, "dramatic reform, when done quickly without negotiation, rouses opposition and deep concerns among the public... the absence of dialogue is tearing us apart from within.... This powder keg is about to explode. This is an emergency." It is in this spirit that we support the President’s call for freezing the entire legislative process in the Knesset and holding a dialogue between the government and opposition under his auspices.

We understand the extraordinary nature of a call by a global movement representing more than two million Diaspora Jews regarding an internal matter of the State of Israel. But our love for Israel compels us to action, just as it has in every past crisis the State of Israel has faced.

We call on all Jews worldwide to join us in making our voices heard at this historic juncture for Israel and the Jewish people as a whole. We are standing for and will always stand for a strong, vibrant and democratic State of Israel. Israel's future, resilience, and unity depend on it remaining Yehudit v'Democratit B'Dibur Echad - Jewish and democratic in one.


MERCAZ Olami - The Rabbinical Assembly - Masorti Olami - Women's League for Conservative Judaism - Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs - MERCAZ Canada - Cantors Assembly - The Jewish Theological Seminary – NAASE: North American Association of Synagogue Executives - Seminario Rabínico - Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center - MERCAZ USA - Jewish Educators Assembly - Masorti Israel - The Schechter Institutes

Rabbinical Assembly Condemns Swastikas and Other Hate Symbols on Display at Canadian Protest

Wednesday February 2, 2022

In response to the use of swastikas, and in one instance a Confederate flag, during the "Freedom Convoy" protests against coronavirus vaccine mandates outside the Canadian Parliament, the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the international association of Conservative movement rabbis, issued the following statement:

We are outraged and disgusted by the preponderance of swastikas, and even a Confederate flag, displayed during the so-called 'Freedom Convoy' protests in Ottawa. The use of antisemitic symbols and white nationalist imagery - at a purportedly 'peaceful' protest - is entirely unacceptable, especially in the nation’s capital.

As the international body of Conservative and Masorti rabbis, we condemn these dangerous acts of hatred and call on lawmakers to reject such hateful ideology, particularly the members of Canada's Parliament who have thus far embraced the protestors and their cause.

We also wish to express our deep gratitude to the overwhelming numbers of Canadian citizens, lawmakers, mayors, premiers and law enforcement personnel who have worked ceaselessly in defense of Canadian values and the security of Canada’s Jewish community. The Jewish community of Canada knows it is not alone in its fight against hate. “

Let us repeat, as many in our community have been obligated to since the onset of the virus: there is absolutely no comparison between taking necessary public health and safety measures amidst a global pandemic and the genocide inflicted by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. Such dishonest justifications in the name of individual liberty, specifically in a period of rising continental and international antisemitism, will only embolden others seeking to sow hate and raises even more serious concerns within Canada’s Jewish community for its safety and future.


Na'aseh V'Nishma, Yom Kippur 5782 - Rabbi Jennifer Gorman

Shanah tovah.

I began writing this while listening to a daf yomi podcast. I was preparing to finish Masechet Shabbat, almost an entire year behind in my daily studies. I could look at this as a tremendous setback. A year behind, how could I possibly catch up? Or, I could focus on the joy of completing a masechet of Talmud.

It is the season of the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, the beginning of a new year. Everything in front of us is new. Given the difficulties of the past two years, it would be easy to turn in on ourselves, to wonder how we can possibly move forward.

Just a few months ago we celebrated the holiday of Shavuot. Shavuot is a holiday of contradictions. As the day on which we celebrate the giving of the Torah, it should be the highlight of the Shalosh Regalim. Furthermore, it takes almost no preparation. There’s no changing of dishes, no building projects. It’s short, only two days. The weather is always good. It is a holiday for eating ice cream and cheesecake, and Tikkunei Leyl Shavuot, all night study sessions, which encourage children to stay up late and give teens reasons to stay out all night with friends.

Yet, instead of being the most beloved, the day on which we accepted our brit, our covenant with God, it is a bit of a forgotten holiday. Why is this when you consider what I’ve already mentioned? I have a few thoughts on that. It comes when we’re distracted. The school year is winding down. Afternoon Hebrew school students may have even finished their studies for the year. Sometimes it coincides with the May Two-Four weekend. We’re thinking about summer vacations and working in our yards and gardens. We’re focused on all the things we didn’t get done during the long winter, and how much there is to do in the spring. Without building a sukkah or seders and changing dishes, we don’t have to focus and plan days or even weeks in advance. Even in our tradition going back 2000 years, Shavuot contains contradictions.

Midrash teaches that before coming to the Israelites, God offered the Torah to other nations. Each time, the people would say, “Tell us what’s in it.” When God would begin to tell them, they would say, “Oh no. We don’t want to follow those rules.” Over and over this occurred. But, when God came to the Israelites, they, along with Jewish souls past and future, proclaimed, “Na’aseh v’nishmah. We will do [everything you ask, and [later] we will come to understand.”

Midrash also teaches that, after the Israelites complained all the way to Mount Sinai, they too rejected God’s covenant. Camping, as the Torah says, “tachat hahar,” under the mountain, became literal as God lifted Har Sinai above their heads, and threatened to drop it, forever burying our people and ending the covenant made with Avraham and Sarah centuries before.

How can both these truths exist simultaneously? That we accepted Torah wholeheartedly and without reservation while also rejecting it. They can exist because truth is subjective. Midrash is not history. We will never know if Avraham smashed his father’s idols or if Pharaoh placed bowls of gems and glowing coals in front of baby Moshe to see if he was the one prophesied to lead the Israelites. Yet, these are true for us because they inform us about our ancestry. They lead us on the path to being the Jewish People and to fulfilling God’s mission for us in the world.

Our world has had a hard year, more than a year. Throughout it, so many of us have felt sadness and frustration, hope and gratitude, loneliness, compassion, depression, anxiety and more. We have emerged, and we have retreated back. We have, at times literally, stepped into the sun, and then been forced back inside by the dark shadow of covid. This has left us eagerly waiting to embrace others, while, at the same time, scared to move forward.

But for many there were positive moments and lessons. Some families recreated multigenerational homes - grandparents, parents, and children. Flex time and remote work are a reality where they weren’t before. Communities came out to support essential and front line workers. New rituals emerged. The quiet in the world allowed us to see that damage to our environment can be reversed. New bonds and relationships were formed through Zoom, Google, and Teams. These moments contradict our understandable anger, fear, and frustration. It is difficult to embrace the positives when we have loved ones and acquaintances dealing with long covid, where others have lost their health or their lives, where the daily anxiety has taken its toll.

As a result of these continuing contradictions, we are changed. Individuals. Families. Friends. Communities. Cultures. Countries. We are all changed. Whether it is how we use technology or our heightened knowledge of the importance of human contact, from the youngest to the oldest, the generations alive now are forever changed.

We are survivors. We are that people that stood under the threat of a mountain landslide and cried out, “Na’aseh v’nishmah;” We will accept and do this now, and we will come to understand later. We will inhabit these contradictions as they inhabit us. We will accept the words we recited on Rosh Hashanah, Mi yichyeh umi yamoot? Who will live and who will die? Who will LIVE? By fire. By water. By sword or beast. By hunger or thirst. By earthquake or plague. The Unetane Tokef is not merely a list of the ways lives are shortened. It is also a message about how to live. We may live at peace or we may be troubled. We may be serene or disturbed. Some will be brought low while others are raised up.

This year, let us all choose life. In doing so, we will accept and embrace the contradictions of our world. We will allow ourselves to appreciate the chaos that led us to pray outdoors in this beautiful setting. We will thank God for the blessing of science. We will accept that in a world that is tearing itself apart due to racism, antisemitism, and other prejudices, that we can act for the better. During the past year and a half, people sang on their balconies to amuse neighbours. Graduations, b’nei mitzvah, weddings and even funerals on live stream and Zoom allowed people to attend and participate from around the world. Even as covid separated and isolated us, it also brought us together, making the world smaller, more intimate.

As we move forward into 5782, let us ask…

Who will live in loneliness and who will respond to it?

Who will despair at the state of the world and who will work to make it a better place?

Who will be brought low and who will raise those people up?

We can use our power for good, instead of evil, and influence the world in positive ways. We can raise people up. We can work to heal the environment. We can keep in touch with family and friends, reminding them of their great value in our lives. We can be present and positive for others, and reach out to our loved ones when we need someone to be present and positive for us.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, a colleague and friend wrote a short song for his daughter, who was born right after 9/11/2001. It’s about reaching for hope in the future. I’d like to share it with you. The words are olam hesed yibaneh, about building a world of steadfast lovingkindness. Please join in if you’re comfortable.

Ooo, ooo, [BREATHE] yada die, die, die, die, die (2x)

Olam hesed yibaneh, [BREATHE] yada die, die, die, die, die (4x)

I will build this world from love, [BREATHE] yada die, die, die, die, die.

And you must build this world from love, [BREATHE] yada die, die, die, die, die.

And if we build this world from love, [BREATHE] yada die, die, die, die, die

Then God will build this world from love, [BREATHE] yada die, die, die, die, die

Olam hesed yibaneh, [BREATHE] yada die, die, die, die, die (4x)

Ooo, ooo, [BREATHE] yada die, die, die, die, die (2x)

There was a mountain hanging over our heads. We stepped up. Na’aseh. Now, it’s time we move forward. Nishma.

Shanah tovah u’metukah tikateivu u’tichateimu. May we all be written and sealed for a good and sweet year.

Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, Yom Kippur 5782 / September 15, 2021

Advice for Monday Morning (or A New Year) - Rabbi Jennifer Gorman

About a month ago, a colleague and friend asked a question on social media. “What’s the best advice you’ve received?” In less than a day, there were over 75 unique responses. Some were things we’ve all heard before, “Don't sweat the small stuff, and most everything is small stuff.” Some were from favourite books, “Never spit when on a roller coaster,” and “When your Dad is mad and asks ‘do I look stupid,' don’t answer him!”
There were a surprising number of suggestions connected to hygiene and the toilet. Here are just a few:

  • Floss at least twice a day.
  • Always check for toilet paper before you sit down.
  • Stay in bed as long as possible, unless you have to go to the bathroom.

The list included the requisite advice from celebrities real and fictional. “Always make your bed,” from Admiral Craven, offered in a 2014 graduation speech at University of Texas, Austin. President Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” Kenny Rogers, via one person’s attorney father, "You gotta know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em." And, Mr. Spock’s “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”
This time of year, we talk a lot about teshuvah. We speak of it as repentance, but the word means turning. It’s about examining who we are and deciding who we want to be. How will we turn into this new year so it will be better than the last? How will we live our lives so when faced with situations in which we’ve made wrong decisions, or even decisions we simply don’t like, we will turn in a new direction?
Most of the time, when we speak about teshuvah, we use it as a remedy to het, to sin or wrongdoing. But here too, English limits us. Het is not sin. It is missing the mark. Perhaps we’ve really veered off course, but, perhaps we’re still on target, even if we couldn’t hit the bullseye.
Teshuvah requires that we honestly confront and acknowledge het. What do we think about our actions of the past year, and how do we want to move forward?
Now I realize with all this talk of het and teshuvah, this is beginning to sound like a Yom Kippur sermon. But today is the start of Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Teshuvah.
Rabbi Israel Salanter, often called the father of the mussar or ethical movement, once said,

“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town, so, as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize that the only thing I can change is myself. And suddenly I realize that if, long ago, I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family could have made an impact on our town. The town's impact could have changed the nation, and I could indeed have changed the world."

When we do teshuvah, we hope that when faced with the same situation, we will act and react differently. Part of being able to act differently comes from not finding ourselves in the same situation again because we, through the act of teshuvah, have changed.
How do we get there? We could follow some more of that good advice given to my friend, Rabbi Raysh Weiss.

  • Remember that very few decisions are irrevocable.
  • Rav Sean’s favourite - greet every person with a smile, phrased as rub sunshine on your face.
  • Read or watch something, every day, that will make you laugh.
  • It’s okay to take it easy.
  • Pick your battles.
  • Don't reply to the email.
  • Let good enough be good enough, and finished is better than perfect, or, in other words, don't let perfect be the enemy of good.
  • If it’s not on fire or running into traffic, it can wait ten minutes for your response - Rav Sean’s and my version of this is “an emergency involves blood, death, or the threat thereof.” (That led to some interesting bedtime conversations with the kids, specifically Jesse, who wanted to know if a tree made a hole in the roof would that be an emergency. The answer is yes.)
  • Don’t read the comments, which aligns nicely with, take care of yourself, and be yourself. It's who you do best!
    Walk in like you own the joint.
  • Your life is in the hands of any fool who makes you lose your temper.
  • Drop subjects you don’t enjoy or do well. It’s okay to close some doors.

One piece of advice I heard was given in reference to marriage, and not to me personally. It's one of the best pieces of advice I've heard. It’s also particularly apropos just now- Just because you're having a bad year, doesn't mean your marriage, job, situation, or life is bad. I think this goes well with gam zeh ya’avr, this too shall pass. I've thought of these often during the pandemic. They give me hope. Having hope is important.
Those who know me well know I am an eternal optimist, but during the past few years, it’s been hard to hold on to optimism. But hope is a different thing. Hope is not optimism. Hope is aspiration. It is a dream combined with inclination.
Hope is people in Tel Aviv going outside en mass to sing Mah Nishtanah so no one should feel completely alone for Pesach during covid.
It is remembering, on this 20th anniversary, the civilians who went to ground zero after 9/11 to help, and the first responders who never gave up. It is the first responders and front line and essential workers who have continued to work throughout Covid.
Hope is the Arab lumber company who delivered all the lumber needed after arson destroyed much of Kehillat Moriah, the Masorti synagogue in Haifa, and then refused to take payment.
It is people rushing to the sites of the apartment collapse in Surfside and the earthquakes in Haiti to try to save their neighbours and others they didn’t know.
Hope is Israel being reestablished after 1800 years.
Hope is what raises our eyes to look for the helpers in the darkest of times. And hope is listening for the still, small voice of the Divine, even when our ears are ringing and our minds in chaos.
Hope is where the Yamim Noraim take us. It is Avraham’s ram in the thicket. It is Hagar’s well, and it is Hannah’s prayer. Hope is people returning to shul and to outdoor services. It is finding new ways to keep Judaism alive even in the darkest times, and then to do it again. Hope is the belief that, despite how optimistic or pessimistic we may feel, our community will survive.
Hope is sending a request out into the world for a Monday morning pick-me-up and hoping that colleagues and friends will rise to the challenge, no matter how small. And so, I will finish with the following pieces of advice…

  • Never try to baptize a cat.
  • Don’t eat yellow snow.
  • Regarding food, if it’s “bad” for you physically, it’s probably good for your soul.
  • Don’t back down just cause they laugh at you.
  • Always check for pebbles before putting on your shoes.
  • You can't fix crazy so don't waste your time trying.
  • Pay yourself first. This I learned from my father.
  • When someone has suffered a loss, your job isn’t to try to make them feel better — just be with them.
  • Perspective is different from every angle, learn to see others’ aka multiple things can be true at once.
    And finally,
  • Just call it Tuesday until you have your coffee and davened, it doesn’t hurt as much.

So Shanah Tovah and happy Tuesday. Here’s hoping that 5782 will be ever-improving. May we all have a year of increasing health and happiness, contentment and peace.

Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, Rosh Hashannah 5782 / September 7, 2021