July 2023 / Av 5783
From our Executive Director
We are in that time period. It is the Three Weeks, a period of semi-mourning on the Jewish calendar. Weddings do not take place. We avoid live entertainment. As we enter the month of Av, those stringencies increase, with many avoiding haircuts, as well as the consumption of meat and wine.
On the 9th of Av, we commemorate the destruction of the Beit Mikdash, the Temple that stood on the Temple Mount until the Romans destroyed it.
Most of us have heard the story connected to the destruction. A man in Jerusalem wishes to hold a party and to invite his friend Kamtza. His servant comes back with Bar Kamtza, whom the nameless host does not like. After much back and forth in which Bar Kamtza offers to pay for the entire party if he is allowed to attend, the host throws him out on his ear, embarrassing the man before the community. Throughout this event, the Rabbis of the day were there and said nothing.
Dayyeinu – that would have been sufficient. Refusal to avoid public embarrassment and the silent acquiescence of the community leadership should be enough to force us to ask whether we truly deserve a Beit Mikdash. But there is more.
Bar Kamtza goes to the Roman authorities and advises them that the Jewish community is preparing to rebel. To prove the point, he suggests that the Romans send a sacrifice. While it was common practice to offer sacrifices for the local regent, Bar Kamtza knows that they will not, as he damages the sacrifice in such a way that it cannot be offered.
And again, dayyeinu – that would have been enough. We have now added spite to the whole affair. There is still more.
“So what shall we do?” This is the question facing the leadership now? Perhaps they should kill Bar Kamtza? Perhaps they should offer the sacrifice anyway. Rabbi Zekhariah ben Avkolas rejects those options. From this, Rabbi Yohanan says that “ענוותנותו של רבי זכריה בן אבקולס החריבו את ביתנו ושרפה את היכלינו והגליתנו מארצנו – the exactitude of Rabbi Zekhariah ben Avkolas destroyed our Temple, burned it down, and exiled us from our land.”
We have public humiliation, failure of community leadership, and spite all in one event. Punctuating those problems is the mindset of one person, unable to look at the many layers of issue and find a way through the challenges.
What do we learn? We learn that there must be limits, even on matters (especially on matters!) that are deeply personal. We learn that we must speak up. We learn that we must avoid painting ourselves into corners, even when we may be right.
These are the failures of the 9th of Av. The continuing tragedy of that day is not the failure to rebuild. Rather, it is our clear insistence in maintaining those failures.
We remember that the afternoon of the 9th of Av is no longer about mourning. It is now about comfort. Let us find that comfort, creating and maintaining a reality where we try not to shut down others, but instead in which we can talk to each other.
From our President
WC Fields, one of the great comedic actors of the 20th century, opined in a proposed epitaph for himself that he'd rather be in Philadelphia. While the circumstances weren't quite so dire, we had a similar choice: Where would we like to spend Canada Day? On the lake, or in Philadelphia? This year, Philadelphia won.
Over the Canada Day weekend, I was joined by a large delegation of Canadians at the FJMC International Convention in Philadelphia. Through a grant from the WZO and KKL, the FJMC initiated an “Israel Programme” for the first time ever.
We were joined by Dr Yizhar Hess, WZO Vice Chair, Rakefet Ginsberg, CEO of Masorti in Israel and Gadi Perl, Vice Chair of KKL/JNF. We spoke to the 400 men and women in attendance and began to talk about how to transmit a positive view of Israel to all of our members, both in MERCAZ and in the FJMC. We were joined by MERCAZ-USA board member, Barbara Rosenau, who spoke to the membership about the US organization.
Rabbi/Hazzan Jeffery Myers of Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, also joined us. He spoke to us about the ongoing trial that was still taking place over the murder of eleven of his congregants in 2017.
You have probably encountered friends and family who are less positive about Israel than they had previously been, especially with the current government and it’s less than diverse agenda.
Gadi and I had a conversation with one young man who had basically sworn off any positive action were Israel was concerned. We spoke to him, and others, explaining that while we may disagree with the actions of the Netanyahu government, we must continue to support our very vibrant communities throughout Israel and the world. Our communities do not receive government funding and are not part of the government in any way. Let us hope that the current crisis will be resolved and we can have peace in the land.
If you need our help, do not hesitate to contact us.
There are many people who will say that "there is no need for a Masorti Kotel, it is never used.”
With T’sha b’Av next week, the photos are evidence to the fact that it is indeed used and that OUR Kotel needs to be enlarged!
This is the only location where men & women can join together for prayer at the Kotel. It is used not only by the Masorti (Conservative) and Reform movements, but also by a significant number of Orthodox people who want to be together as a family at the Kotel.
The Masorti Movement is now sponsoring Kabbalat Shabbat each week at the Masorti Kotel.
It is not an easy place to fin. There are few if any directions or signs, and for much of the time no security.
One day recently, I received a FaceTime call with my daughter, Jessie, who was at a conference in Jerusalem, and could not find the entrance. It’s pretty much unmarked and she was probably less than 20 metres away. Through the video call, I was able to direct her to the proper spot.
Please make plans to visit our Kotel the next time you are in Jerusalem. I find that it is always a much more enjoyable place to visit than the other spots.
Rakefet Ginsberg, CEO Masorti in Israel wrote about the Kabbalat Shabbat each week:
It is so moving in the last few weeks to host hundreds of Jews for Kabbalat Shabbat at the Egalitarian Kotel. Unfortunately, the site is too small to hold everybody and hundreds are left outside.
We are honored to be the ones to arrange everyone's prayer needs at the Kotel and continue to strive to enlarge the area for egalitarian prayer.
Shabbat Shalom, Rakefet
In Our Homes
Couscous aux Sept Legumes - A Recipe for the Nine Days
Being vegetarian, we find a lot of the variety in our diet comes from cuisines from around the world. We love Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, and most other “ethnic” foods. We also like to cook traditional Jewish foods, and due to the extent of the diaspora, we can often find Jewish foods from these distant lands and cultures. Like Jewish music, Jewish food borrows heavily from the surrounding culture, but it always maintains something of its own identity. Religious dietary laws have a huge impact on ingredient use and food combinations, so there will be no Veal Parmigiana or seafood dishes. Jewish cuisine also keeps an eye on the Sabbath, and slow-cooked stews (cholents) are common, since they can provide a hot and filling meal without the need to cook on Shabbat.
One dish we have come to enjoy is Couscous aux Sept Legumes, a traditional Moroccan dish. It's a wonderful centrepiece to a Mediterranean or Sephardi-based meal, and once the chopping is finished, the stew itself comes together in moments.
This is a lovely and flexible meal. It is essentially vegan, and therefore pareve, but for dairy meals it's lovely to have a bowl of feta cheese for diners to add or not as they prefer. And while the traditional couscous is made from wheat, it tastes delicious over cooked quinoa, in case you want a change or wish to avoid gluten. You can serve it alone as a simpler meal, or with an array of salads, breads, and dips on the side, and it's even more delicious with a helping of tfaya, that rich and flavourful garnish made with deeply caramelised onions and dried fruits.
If you're looking to expand your meatless repertoire, or if you're running low on ideas for the final Nine Days before Tisha b'Av, give this a try.
Feel free to add your own favourite vegetables to the mix, or replace any that you don’t have or llike, and if the total doesn't add up to seven, I promise not to tell.
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 small turnips, peeled and quartered
- 1 medium yellow onion, quartered and separated into layers
- 1 large carrot, peeled, cut in half cross-wise, and quartered length-wise
- 1 small fennel bulb, cut into strips lengthwise
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 teaspoons each ground cumin, paprika, and sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
- 2 cups water
- 1 can diced tomatoes with liquid
- 1 large or 2 small zucchini, halved cross-wise and quartered lengthwise
- 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 handful fresh chopped parsley
- Prepare the vegetables.
- Add everything except the zucchini, chickpeas, and parsley to a large pot or Dutch oven.
- Heat over medium-high until the liquid starts to boil. It might seem there’s not enough liquid at first. The vegetables will release some liquid. Don’t worry yet.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about an hour, until the vegetables are mostly soft but not mushy. Add more water if necessary.
- Optional: Turn off heat and let sit for a few hours.
- Half an hour before serving, bring back to a gentle boil. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until they are soft.
- Serve over couscous.
- 1 ½ cups uncooked couscous
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon butter or oil
- ½ tsp salt
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the salt.
- Remove from heat. Add the couscous, cover with a well-fitting lid, and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the butter and stir in. Fluff with a fork.
Spread the couscous over a large platter. Arrange the vegetables from the stew in a decorative fashion in the centre of the couscous, mounding it high. Pour some of the remaining broth over the vegetables. Decorate it with any or all of the following:
- Freshly steamed bright green peas
- Roasted slivered almonds
- Feta cheese
- Hot sauce / harissa
- Tfaya (recipe to follow)
- ½ kg / 1 pound onions, very thinly sliced
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 large pinch salt
- Pinch saffron, optional
- ¼ cup water
- 1 to 2 teaspoons orange blossom water or rose water, optional
- Peel the onions and slice them thinly. Add the onions to a medium-sized pot or pan with all the remaining ingredients except for the orange or rose water. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce heat at once to low, just hot enough to keep the mixture at a very low boil. Cook until the onions are very soft and a lovely deep brown. You may need to add more water to keep it from drying out. This can take well over an hour, so plan this step for when you are at home, with enough time to peek into the pot every twenty minutes or so.
- When the onions are beautifully soft and a delicious rich brown uncover and continue to cook on higher heat until the consistency is thick like a syrup. Remove from heat and add the orange blossom or rose water, if desired. Set aside until ready to serve.
- This reheats well, so it can be made ahead of time.
In Our Communities
Shabbat at The Beach Summer Series
On Friday, June 30th, Beth Tikvah Congregation in Richmond, BC, brought the community together for a memorable Shabbat BBQ at Garry Point Park. Sponsored by the generous Sadoff family in honour of Ross Sadoff's birthday, and under the leadership of Rabbi Tendler, the event drew around 100 attendees.
Our next Shabbat at The Beach is August 4th at Garry Point Park.
Beth Tikvah 50th Anniversary Gala Save the Date:
Save the Date for a Night of Gourmet Delights, Captivating Entertainment, and celebration of 50 amazing years! See you November 25th, 2024!
Strathcona Historic Walking Tour:
Join us on August 20th for a guided tour of Strathcona! Discover the rich history of Vancouver’s early Jewish community by exploring the neighbourhood that they once called home. Meet the men and women who made a new home here, started businesses and laid the foundations of a tight-knit community.
Tisha B'Av Reading of Eicha with Cantor Leslie Emery
At Shaarey Zedek in Winnipeg, join Cantor Leslie Emery for Eicha at two times, live and streamed on YouTube and Facebook.
1. Thursday, 27 July, 2023 • 9 Av 5783
7:30 AM - 9:00 AM ~ Temple Shalom Sanctuary
2. Thursday, 27 July, 2023 • 9 Av 5783
10:00 AM - 10:30 AM ~ Asper JCC Across from Schmoozer's
You can read more of what MERCAZ and Masorti are doing at our website:
You can contribute to our efforts by joining MERCAZ-Canada and by donating to the Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism.
Membership is only $18 a year for adults, $9 for youth up to age 25.
mercaz.ca/join-mercaz at the bottom of the page
Donations to CFMJ are eligible for a tax receipt.