|Ulpan students - by Masa Israel|
Parents instilled the Yiddish concept of mitzveh to teach their children that it was a good deed to help the fledgling Jewish nation, while reinforcing the Hebrew concept that it was a mitzvah – a Jewish commandment – to stand in support of Jewish heritage. For the teen that travelled to Israel, that trip was an unforgettable rite of passage. For Israel, it was the umbilical cord that assured its connection with the Diaspora and continued support from future generations.
These days we still send our kids to Israel and we still contribute to its economy. But we have found other ways as well to stay in touch with our cultural birthplace, methods that suggest that for today’s generation, it isn’t just obligation or mitzvah that motivates our identity. It’s something more personal and intrinsic to how we see ourselves as Jews here in the Diaspora.
|Marina Maximilian Blumin, Yom Ha'atzmaut in Vancouver*|
At Yom Ha’atzmaut we fill theatres to hear Israeli singers tell us about their homeland. Performers like the Israeli singer Marina Maximilian Blumin, who paid a visit to Vancouver, Canada on April 25 and has performed across North America, provide us with an up close understanding of what it is like to live on the Jewish frontier, to experience its diversity, and to appreciate musical trends that are not always heard through western media.
Marina Maximilian Blumin singing "Confession"*
We attend forums on Israeli political topics and we vocalize our support for Israel in the way we vote, the candidates we elect and the initiatives we inspire. But we also show our support by bolstering less known celebrities, particularly those who help Israel’s first responders.
Singers like Ritasue Charlestein, who has been recognized in Israel for her support of injured service members, have until recently, remain largely unknown in the Diaspora. A member of the Israel Medical Corps who provides support to veterans and active soldiers through songs and acts of compassion, she provides North American Jews with an unusual and much needed glimpse into the challenges, tragedies and triumphs that Israeli soldiers often face on the front line. Her performances have been modest to this point, but continue to gain attention in Jewish communities across the U.S. and Canada.
Ritasue Charlestein with Adam
North American Jews may not use Hebrew in our day-to-day interactions, and some of us may feel self conscious about attending a religious service that is completely in Hebrew, but we don’t have a problem packing a theatre for a night of Israeli music. We wouldn’t think twice about listening to the moving accounts of a first-hand witness interspersed with the Hebrew language and Israeli music.
|Marina Maximilian Blumin*|
We watch Marina Maximilian Blumin create her artistry on stage, and find solace and reassurance in its beauty and uplifting power. Israel’s success is confirmed for us each time we find ourselves swept away by the words and songs of its contemporary journey.
For North American Jews, the connection with Israel is much more than an obligation, a mitzvah, or an act of observance. It serves as an affirmation that our lives as Jews, however secular, or however religious in observance, are what define our humanity.
Thanks to Jennifer Houghton and the Jewish Federation of Vancouver for use of the above images.
Appreciation is also extended to Ritasue Charlestein for the opportunity to attend her presentation.