Member Contributions

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Cantor Litvack’s Prayer for Ukraine

Prayer for Ukraine

Almighty God, we pray for the safety of our Jewish brothers and sisters in Ukraine, for their President, Volodymyr Zelensky, and for all people affected by the conflict. We pray for the security of the country, and for all the neighbouring countries that have opened their borders to provide humanitarian corridors and safe passage for evacuees. We pray for a peaceful resolution; we pray that those affected have the strength and resources to make it through this trying time.

We pray for the day when “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.” May these words of the Prophet Isaiah come true in our day—in this very hour.

Source of Goodness, strengthen the hands of those who pursue peace, not war. Bring harmony where there is hostility, relief where there is pain, and hope where there is despair.

May God who makes peace in high places make peace for all on earth.

And let us all say Amen.

Cantor Leon Litvack
Shabbat Hagadol
9 April/8 Nisan 2022

Cantor Litvack’s ‘Thought for the Day’ (April 6th, 2022)

Thought for the Day

6 April 2022

            I’m currently preparing for my services, to mark the Jewish festival of Passover, which begins next week. Its most outstanding feature is the retelling of the story of the Exodus: one of the greatest narratives of hope in the literature of the world. Its themes include the experiencing of suffering under a powerful oppressor; we mark this by eating bitter herbs, and tasting salt water, as a symbol of the tears shed by our ancestors. We also experience the quest for freedom of thought and action, symbolised by children’s asking such poignant questions as “Why at this time do we eat unleaved bread?” and the adults’ responding that “we had to leave Egypt in a hurry, and so the dough didn’t have time to rise”. Here we’re acting out the experience of liberation from tyranny; by a series of object lessons we’re reminded that living a life of freedom has its cost.

            My favourite part of the ritual Passover meal, called a Seder, is opening the door for Elijah the Prophet, who will, we trust, announce our final redemption, and the advent of the Messiah. It’s a stirring experience, particularly for children, who hope to see the miraculous apparition of Elijah’s entering, and drinking from the special cup that has been set aside for him. When I was a child, I can remember that when this moment arrived, my dad used to shake the table, to give the appearance that Elijah had come, and had indeed drunk the wine.  The passage from the Book of Psalms that we recite when this is happening is poignant; it begins, ‘Pour out Your wrath on the nations that don’t acknowledge you, for they have devoured Jacob and have laid waste his habitation’. You can appreciate the symbolism here: persecution of the people of Jacob in times past have made them cautious about opening their doors to people who don’t recognise God’s grace.

            This past week I’ve seen photos in the news, of doors in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha torn off their hinges, as the invaders wreak havoc and leave unimaginable destruction in their wake. People of all religions and none are afraid to open their doors, and have retreated to basements and other places of shelter, often in dire circumstances. In the coming days I shall be thinking about those suffering the humiliations and deprivations of war, and as I open my door, I’ll bear in mind not only the hope that Elijah will appear, but also how fortunate I am to have the freedom to welcome in all who wish to enter.

           

Cantor Litvack’s ‘Thought for the Day’ (March 30th, 2022)

Thought for the Day

30 March 2022

            You’ve probably never heard of Medzhybisz, a small town in western Ukraine, half-way between Kyiv and Lviv. For Jewish people it’s one of the most important religious sites in the country, because it was the birthplace of the Chassidic movement, founded in the eighteenth century by a charismatic figure called the Ba’al Shem Tov, or ‘Master of the Good Name’.  This Rabbi loved the common people, and emphasised joy as a central component of religious experience. He valued singing and dancing while at prayer, in order to achieve a higher level of devotion; these principles continue to influence Jewish worship today. Many fable-like stories were passed down about him, and I can remember my father’s recounting some of these wonderful tales to me when I was a child.

            My favourite one concerns a man wishing to take his son, who couldn’t speak or read, to the Master’s synagogue, to experience the holy atmosphere. As the prayers progressed, the Master heard a strange whistling noise coming from the congregation; the prayers stopped dead: no one could imagine why the solemn atmosphere was interrupted. The service recommenced, and the whistling was heard again. This time the Master kept a sharp lookout, and saw that the noise was coming from the boy who couldn’t speak; he went over, and quickly understood what was happening: the boy was praying, even though he couldn’t enunciate words. The Rabbi then said to his followers: “This boy, through his whistling, has lifted our prayers to the Almighty much higher than we all could through our words. A fire was kindled in him, and he used the only language he knew, to reach God. It’s because of him that our prayers will be answered.”

            In Medzhybisz today, you’ll find the tomb of this Master, and various sites devoted to his memory, including the very synagogue where this incident took place. It’s a place of pilgrimage, particularly for this Rabbi’s adherents; they consider this small Ukrainian town their spiritual home. I know many people of all faiths who have derived great satisfaction from their religious pilgrimages to places made famous by charismatic figures; this points to our wish to get as close to a spiritual centre as possible. In the present circumstances in Ukraine, such considerations are way down the list, given the need to preserve life and freedom. Let’s hope that Medzhybisz and its inhabitants survive this conflict, and that, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.”

           

BIC President’s Community Update

Dear Friends,

      We hope that this message finds you and your family in great health, and good spirits. The past two years of the pandemic have been unprecedented in our lifetime. It has certainly affected us all. This includes gathering with our friends and family.  Everyday activities we have taken for granted are now a bit more challenging.

     These limitations also include community gatherings at our beloved Beth Israel Synagogue. The building still remains closed out of concern for the well-being of our Congregation. Until recently the COVID numbers were trending positively, and we were hoping to reopen the shul this month. The emergence of the Omicron variant has delayed these plans. We look forward to gathering at the Synagogue when it is safe to do so.

    On a very positive note our community continues to be vibrant and very active despite the pandemic. Thanks to Dan Houpt for continuing to run regular Kabbalat Shabbat services.  Kudos to our Cantor Leon Litvack for leading services and his deep caring for us. We have also held a number of additional events which included Jewish holidays such as Purim, Passover and the High Holy Days, many with a kids and youth participation component. All of these have been well attended.

   Our Outreach and Events Committee has continued to be very active in reaching out to individuals in our community, and also developing the framework of many of our events. One of their accomplishments has been developing an education program and curriculum for the Youth who live here. This is extremely important as the number of young people in our community is at the highest numbers we have seen in many years!

   Our partnership with our friends at the Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough (UFP) continues to grow and evolve. After years of dialogue we have recently developed and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This important document details how we will jointly manage and share the Synagogue. It also assures that the UFP will be with us for many years into the future. This is great news as the rental income we receive from the UFP is critical to our long-term fiscal health.

   In addition to revenue, the UFP bring many resources and much energy to the management of the building. Through this collaborative effort we have upgraded Beth Israel Synagogue into a fully accessible building in the past year. An elevator was installed between floors, to assist those with mobility issues. A new fully accessible washroom was constructed in the basement, and doors and entrances to the shul were modified to be fully accessible to all with mobility issues. Funds for these improvements to the synagogue came from a Federal Government Accessibility Grant with the balance of the costs shared by the UFP and BIS communities.

   The future of our community is very bright. Thanks to your commitment our membership numbers at Beth Israel is at the highest level in the 35 years I have been a member. This is a testament to the hard work of many individuals, and to the will of our community itself.

   I speak for everyone when I say that we look forward to having the pandemic behind us, and to gathering again at the Synagogue. We look forward to another strong year of programming. Lastly if there is anything on your mind which may assist our community, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Be well.

Larry Gillman

President Beth Israel Synagogue

 

The BIC Kids’ Crew Recording of ‘A Hamilton Hannukah’! 

Below is the full recording of this memorable Kids’ Crew event!

Here are the lyrics:

A Hamilton Hannukah

Lyrics by Six13

I tell the tale of those before me

And of their victory in the fight

And now our children tell the story

They tell the story of the lights

We’ll add another one each night

Light a light to freedom, (dum)

They tell the story of…

Dum da da da dum dum dum

ah aaaah

How does a humble ragtag

band full of boys from yeshiva

rise up to triumph

against unbelievable odds

in a battle our people still remember

and celebrate with dreidels

every year around December?

The five pious and loyal sons

of Mattathias stood against bias

Said, you can’t deny us.

You disagree? Try us!

Our God will supply us

with strength to win

and then potato latkes

we will fry us.

For every day

while praying was being

barred and made harder

our ways they tried to change

Antiochus sent his guard out

Inside, our boys knew

not to forget what they were part of

Five brothers and their dad

ready to win or die as martyrs

Then the Greeks came

and Hellenization reigned.

Our people saw our future

drip, dripping down the drain

They entered into the Temple

and the altar they profaned

left a blood stain

our heroes got sick of the pain.

Well, the word spread around

we said, this is insane, man.

We Jews cannot survive

under Antiochus’ reign, man.

Let’s fight back

and send the Greeks right back

from whence they came

And our bravery will win us fame.

Say your name, man!

Judah, Judah Maccabee.

They call me Judah, Judah Maccabee.

And Antiochus says he’s number one.

But just you wait, just you wait…

I am not throwing gelt in the

pot.
I am not throwing gelt in the

pot.

Yo, I’m straight gimmel-spinnin’

while y’all are nun and shinnin’

And I’m not throwin’ gelt in the pot.

Make the menorah hot.

See, it isn’t all about presents.

‘cause gratitude for miracles

is Chanukah’s essence.

The Maccabees revolted

thwarted Greek plans.

Now a horah we dance

and we fry latkes in pans.

We’re gonna make it hot!

Yeah, we give thanks for being free
Because of the revolt

led by Judah Maccabee.
They defied, do or die.

You and I feel great.
And celebrate, as the lights

we illuminate.

And I am not throwing gelt in the

pot.
I am not throwing gelt in the

pot.

Yo, I’m straight gimmel-spinnin’

while y’all are nun and shinnin’

And I’m not throwin’ gelt in the

pot.

I am not throwing gelt in the

pot.
I am not throwing gelt in the

pot.

Yo, I’m straight gimmel-spinnin’

while y’all are nun and shinnin’

And I’m not throwin’ gelt in the

pot.

Everybody say

Nes gadol
Haya po

(if you’re in Israel)
Haya sham

(if you’re anywhere)

(yeah)

Nes gadol / Light up

candles in the Chanukiah,

Haya po / we remember

Maccabees when we  

Haya sham / Light up

candles in the Chanukiah

Light up, light up

Light up, light up

yeah

And I am not throwing gelt in the
Light up, make the menorah

Pot / hot

I am not throwing gelt in the

We gonna light up, make the menorah

pot/ hot

we gonna light up, light up

make the menorah hot

light up, light up

make the menorah hot

light up

make the menorah hot

light up

Make it hot hot hot

 

Make manorahs hot

Make manorahs hot

And I am not throwing gelt in the—

Dum da da da dum dum

 

Ma’oz Tzur Yeshu’ati

Ma’oz Tzur Yeshu’ati

Ma’oz Tzur Yeshu’ati[ZvB1] 

Lekha na’eh

Lekha na’eh

leshabe’ah

Happy, happy Chanukah

Happy, happy Chanukah

Judah Maccabee

we sing of you (hanukkah)
and the odds you overcame
when we’re playing our dreidel game

Each night

we light those candles’ flames

ohhh

For the victories and miracles

we celebrate

dum da da da dum dum dum

What ya say, boys?
Happy, happy Chanukah!

Bow!!!

Dr. Leon Litvack presents “Thought for the Day”

YiddishCheck out Leon’s BBC broadcast on Friday Nov. 5, one of his regular “Thought for the Day” presentations.

This one is about the importance of Yiddish as a heritage language, and rumour has it that it is one of the best podcasts that Leon has done in this series.  

So, if you are interested in Yiddish, in language in general and in Jewish culture, be sure to check it out:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0b3clk3

 

“Creating Shekev”:  A new novel by Harlan Wall

“SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:
Another baby has been born! In September, my first book was published, called “Forbidden Fruit.” It was a scholarly book. This book, however, is a novel called “Creating Shekey.” It’s a short work of fiction that is, for the most part, written very simply; with limited narrative and plenty of dialogue. I’m very pleased with this short novel because I was able to get out of the way and let the story tell itself (which might be why the story was born earlier than expected). It has taken me many years to learn that “less is often more.”
 
My hope is that this story will engage those who do not read much fiction (if at all). It’s always a special day when a new story is born into the world. I hope you will share my joy. I also hope you will share this news with others. I sure would appreciate your help in promoting the book on your social media page(s) and book-clubs etc. My novel can be purchased easily on Amazon (link below) and at select bookstores. Click on the link to see a description (summary) and sample. My gratitude to G-d, who gave me the strength to push through the pain to write this story.
 
Harlan Wall

 

Dayenu:  New verses from Ziysah von B

Ziysah has masterfully added some verses to the traditional Pesach song.  Here is an excerpt to the introduction to these new verses:

“Every year, we try to think about what miracles we cherish so that no matter how difficult life may be,
we are able to re-focus on gratitude and the abundance of life. This year seems a particularly poignant
time for this lesson. As we have all been struck by sudden and trying changes to our lives, we notice
how steeped we still are in blessings. We are trapped at home only to realize how grateful we are to
have a home. We are separated from our friends and family only to realize how much we value
friendship and care.”

Here is a link to the full set of verses contributed by Ziysah: 

https://jccpeterborough.com/wp-content/uploads/Dayenu-by-ZvB.pdf

 

“On the Grass When I Arrive”.  Cantor Litvack’s New Book.

This new anthology of poetry and prose features contributions by established authors, as well as pieces by newer writers who creatively explore issues of place and belonging. With settings throughout Northern Ireland and beyond, these short works offer fresh perspectives, and attempt to address an essential question: how do we feel about our home, identity, and community?

To learn more about Cantor Litvack’s book have a listen to a recent interview with Kim Lenaghan.

Alpha:  A Poem from Ziysah von B

Alpha Ochigbo was born in the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre in 2013. There were no charges against his mother, Glory Anawa, and no way to deport her.

Since 2006, Canada has imprisoned more than 80,000
migrants without charge or trial.

For more information about Alpha, Glory, and migrant justice,
please visit www.endimmigrationdetention.com.

Alpha

Alpha,

You are eighteen months alive

and every one of your days has played out

on the inside.

They are holding your mother

Glory

indefinitely.

For having the audacity to have the tenacity

to try to get somewhere where you could be free.

Punished for her reverence of the benevolence of this country.

No charges or trial, just monthly bail denial.

They say she can choose freely:

take you as her cellmate

or donate you

to the Children’s Aid Society.

More like Family Separation Anxiety.

This is not the Canada I want you to see.

Were there jail guards at your birth?

Were your first sights of sky striped with bars?

Have you ever felt a snowflake dissipate into your velvet-

warm face?

We marched outside the correctional facility

led by teenagers who know this is far from correct.

My baby, born mere months before you

made that same fearful voyage through narrow passage

he, sliding from womb into water,

you, sliding from womb into

custody.

And now my toddler’s waddling his best

all wool and drumsticks

tiny lips curled so sweetly

round the sounds of protest.

What gives him the right over you to be free?

My grandmother clinging tight to her tate’s coat trim

de-boards a ship, headscarf tied under chin.

Authorities butcher their names, but let their flesh in.

Canada’s open arms revealing only soft palms.

Mere months later, and they would have been smacked back

to the sounds of bombs.

On the eve of war

a thousand Jewish refugees

packaged up and returned

to Germany.

Orchestrated or arbitrary?

Who amongst us will defend the way we pretend to have

earned this free?

What gives us the audacity to claim the veracity

of citizenship to this place?

With genocidal origins that leave us shame-faced.

We gaze at our open arms and see firing arms.
This soft palm just the flipside of a powerful backhand.

Alpha,

My little one is gazing up at the slice of glowing moon
a question in his eyes. You are gazing up
at razor wire.  

You toddlers love with your bodies
trust by scent
senses bursting open to environment.

289 more children of migrants
similarly steeped in steel
weapon-flanked authority
and no eye contact.

Your mother had the audacity to have the tenacity
to try to get somewhere where you could be free.

Only to be held indefinitely.

Punished for her reverence of the benevolence of this country.

I have to imagine we will soon transcend our apathy
and demand your release.

I see you riding the streetcar with Glory
from Kensington Market to Little Italy.

Clinging tight to her coat trim.
Peering off the side of the Island ferry.
Registering for kindergarten.
Joining the diversity.

All those kids standing proud.

God keep our land…

And you, proof of the hypocrisy, singing loud:

Glory and all of us free.

And when they ask if you’re sure that’s how it goes
you just answer:

Definitely.


 Dan`s Song

Like many of you, I was haunted by the images of entire Syrian families braving the waves of the Mediterranean and especially of pictures of children drowned on the beaches of Greece. I wrote the following song “Children on the Beach” to help raise awareness of this issue, and to start a healing process.

Recording of  “Children on the Beach”

Click on link to the recording.

NEW! Click on the link to the music video of “Children on the Beach“.

Lyrics to “Children on the Beach”

Oh what a dream I’ve had, of children on the beach
Of plastic boats and ice-cream floats and loving parents within reach
Seagulls soaring overhead, the smell of summer in the air,
Children digging in the sand, living lives without a care,

Oh how my dream has changed, of children on the beach
Of monster waves and killing shores, and daddy’s hand just out of reach
Vultures soaring overhead, the smell of death is in the air
Children lying on the sand ignored by a world that doesn’t care….

But I dream of a world that is forgiving, that can see the G-d in everyone,
And realizes that we are a family, that we’re all a daughter or a son….

And so I dream my dream, of children on the beach
Happy faces running free, and loving hands within reach
The doves of peace fly overhead, the sounds of joy are all I hear
Children playing on the sand living lives without fear,

And I dream of a world that is forgiving, that can see the G-d in everyone,
And realizes that we are a family, that we’re all a daughter or a son.

Dan Houpt