Three stories come out of my past week that run with an odd symmetry. Last Friday, I was honoured to offer opening blessings at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ Triennial on behalf of the Winnipeg and Canadian Jewish communities. I spoke about our common heritages of Jews and Ukrainians leaving difficult and often traumatic lives behind for a new country, and especially how we rediscover our profound connections when our homelands are under attack.

Then, on Saturday evening, I saw the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s crazy wonderful play, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, about Romanian Jews leaving terrible hardships behind in 1908, again for a new life in Canada with a single suitcase in hand and without a word of English.

And then, on Sunday, I spent time with an Argentinian family, and yet again I heard about the difficult circumstances that pushed them to leave for Winnipeg in 1998 and 2000, again to an unfamiliar country and a whole set of new beginnings. Altogether, these stories cover a span over 100 years. The stories are different and yet they are the same stories.

These three stories remind me that if we go back far enough, we are all informed by the stories of our ancestors and their arrivals here, and of the great gifts that this new country offered us….and how quickly we can forget our backstories and our gratitude for we have here right in front of us.

While I offered a prayer for peace in Ukraine, the final words of my blessing were directed to us as Canadians, and were drawn from our Reform prayer book:

“And finally, we pray for guidance here in Canada, to become more worthy citizens – people who work together for justice and freedom, tolerance at home and abroad.

Enable each of us to champion the democratic values that make our country a haven for the persecuted and a peacemaker among the nations.

And let us say Amen.”


Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Allan