The Reform Jewish Community of Canada is pleased to offer our community content, congregational programming, and links on the important topic of Reconciliation.
The vision for this work is guided by the fundamental belief that as Jewish people it is our responsibility to engage as co-creators of local and global communities where our actions are aligned with our values of relationship, fairness, and human dignity.
We believe that we are moving towards this vision when:
we learn to listen closely to all people by paying attention to individual stories
we engage the hearts and minds of Canadians to take positive action in their communities and model best practices to do so
our work supports healthy communities
we commit to respect, responsibility, and reciprocity when we build relationships
we take responsibility for our own learning
we rigorously pursue the development of a truthful understanding of the past in order to make informed choices about the future
we enter into conversations led by our values and remain open to the values of others
we build trust and connections among people
consider the meaning of the similarities and differences among individuals and societies in the past and present
we engage youth
consider the different histories and contexts of treaties and Indigenous experiences across Canada
we prioritize partnership and relationship
we are authentic
This work is intended to support Reform Jewish Communities across Canada. As such, it is important that the approaches suggested here are anchored in Jewish thought.
Value of Human Life
“Anyone who destroys one soul the verse ascribes them blame as if they destroyed an entire world. And conversely, anyone who sustains one soul the verse ascribes them credit as if they sustained an entire world. “ - Mishnah Sanhedrin 4
“Since all humanity descended from one person, each and every person is obligated to say: The world was created for me, as one person can be the source of all humanity, and recognize the significance of his actions.” - Mishnah Sanhedrin 4
To punish children for the faults of their parents is less dreadful than to tolerate impunity when the stranger is injured. Let passersby know this: in Israel, princes die a horrible death because strangers were injured by the sovereign. The respect for the stranger and the sanctification of the name of the Eternal are strangely equivalent. - Emmanuel Levinas, Nine Talmudic Reading, " Toward the Other," p. 27
Peace Among People
“One person will not say to another: My father, i.e., progenitor, is greater than your father. “- Mishnah Sanhedrin 4
“When a person stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme Holy One stamped all people with the mold of the first human, and not one of them is similar to another.” - Mishnah Sanhedrin 4
God gathered the dust [of the first human] from the four corners of the world - red, black, white and green. Red is the blood, black is the innards and green for the body. Why from the four corners of the earth? So that if one comes from the east to the west and arrives at the end of his life as he nears departing from the world, it will not be said to him, "This land is not the dust of your body, it's of mine. Go back to where you were created." Rather, every place that a person walks, from there she was created and from there she will return." - Yalkut Shimoni, Genesis 1:13
It is important to note that there is diversity within Jewish approaches to this work and so, congregations should review the suggested principles outlined and consider the extent to which they are aligned with these.
Similarly, the narratives and principles that energize and inform this work in Jewish communities must be seen as only a part of the conversation when this work brings us into relationship with others. If we are to take seriously the claim that we should value others in the way that we value ourselves “Ve’ahavta L’reyacha Camocha”, we need to ensure that we listen to are respect the narratives and principles that are held by anyone we are in relationship with.
We also need to consider Jewish worldviews that come from texts as well as historical and cultural experiences. An investigation into concepts like human responsibility to the rest of living and non-living aspects of creation, Indigeneity, Diaspora, and Diversity are all important work in considering the extent to which our beliefs and biases contribute to or detract from our ability to connect with others.
Three domains of Tikkun (Repair)
In order to best achieve the vision for an equitable world for all people, we can imagine three important levels of work.
1 - Individual
2 - Interpersonal / Intercultural
3 - Communal/National/Social
In this document, we strive to offer tools to support positive growth and development at each level. We include resources for individual learning, suggestions and strategies for interpersonal engagement and intercultural dialogue, and goals for broader social and community action.
Each congregation and community should consider for itself how we can best support the growth and development of individuals and communities in ways that help ensure equitable outcomes for all people.
Suggestions for Turning Principles to Practices
Other Resources and Congregational Programming
• Remembering, Honouring, Learning: An Indigenous and Jewish Memorial
Holy Blossom Temple recently held a memorial to the Indigenous children of the residential school system. Rabbi Splansky and Cantor Rosen, together with our invited Indigenous Elder, volunteers and staff from the Anishnawbe Health Foundation, will be leading this commemoration. This event will be an interactive healing ceremony, guided by Elder Catherine Brooks (bio below). Elder Catherine will be joined by First Nations dancers Nicole Leveck and her daughters Nazarene Pope and Indiana Cada, along with her partner Drummer and Singer Isaiah Cada. Through song, prayer, dance and storytelling, the memorial will be inspirational and educational. It will also help us develop durable partnerships that reflect our shared generational trauma, spirituality and hope. To watch the service, CLICK HERE.
• Rabbi Grushcow Sermon on residential schools and reconciliation
Rabbi Grushcow of Temple Emanu-El-Beth-Sholom in Montreal Quebec has made her Kol Nidre sermon available in both English and French to read. As well, the sermon was recorded so there is the option to watch it. Check back here for a resource page that Rabbi Grushcow and her affiliates are putting together.
• Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples: Not Just for Governments
Watch the video recording from a recent Lunch Together conversation with Deborah Corber, titled, “Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples: Not Just for Governments”
This program is brought to you from Temple Emanu-El-Beth-Sholom in Montreal Quebec.
• Collective Repentance: A Jewish lens on Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
By: Assistant Rabbi of Temple Shalom in Vancouver BC. Rabbi Carey Brown has made her Yom Kippur Sermon on the subject of Reconciliation available in both written and video format.
• Truth & Reconciliation – Shared Narratives of Hardships, United Hope for Healing
On the surface, the collective narratives of the Jewish people and the Indigenous people differ greatly. However, both peoples share commonalities in their commitment to peoplehood, spirituality and investment in the land. Further, both nations have suffered unspeakable hardships in their histories and today face the challenges of holding this troubled past close and identifying a pathway forward. This journey of healing can be fostered in tandem. Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg, a grandchild of Holocaust Survivors and Kim Wheatley, Anishinaabe (Ojibway) band member of Shawanaga First Nation, will reflect on their shared conversations as keepers of their families’ stories. They will each speak to the importance of documenting past histories internally within their respective communities, and externally with their neighbouring communities, as a means to build bridges and to heal wounds of the past.
Virtual Presentation via Zoom by Kim Wheatley (an Anishinaabe (Ojibway) band member of Shawanaga First Nation Reserve located in the Georgian Bay region of Ontario) and Rabbi Mikelberg – Shared Narratives of Hardships, United Hope for Healing
Rabbi Dara Lithwick writes about attending the Reconciliation ceremony on Parliamentary Hill September 30th. In this meaningful and informative article, Rabbi Lithwick reflects on the responsibility to make reconciliation a way of life and how Judaism plays a role.
• Other Links, Books and Resources
NCTR teacher resource library: NCTR Public
Documentary: Without Words (2015) imdb.com
Jules Koostachin: Without Words Director - Q&A (YouTube)
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation resources:
They Came for the Children (short history and experience booklet): https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2012/cvrc-trcc/IR4-4-2012-eng.pd
TRC’s Calls to Action: calls_to_action_english2.pdf (gov.bc.ca)
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
PARENTAL RESOURCES (can find at Goodminds.com)
“Stolen words”by Melanie Florence – Kindergarten to Gr. 2
“ The Orange Shirt Story” by Phyllis Webstad – Grades 3-5
Please check back often as we are constantly updating this page. Do you have an event, program or link you would like to share on the topic of Reconciliation? Click HERE to contact us.
Listen closely and pay attention to individual stories
Ensure that the work includes many opportunities for sharing stories
Feature storytelling with elders and knowledge-keepers. Requires learning about people in and out of our communities
Enter into conversations acknowledging our values and being open to the values of others. Are we expressing ideas as individuals or as representatives?
Create a group agreement about how we engage in difficult conversations
Develop statements of values of the committee. Clarifications. Communicate it.
Consider the importance of both the similarities and differences among individuals and communities.
Since compare and contrast has the potential to set us up for an ‘us and them’ format, let’s consider recognizing one of the teachings of the medicine wheel (all cultures and races being equal on the same human team) as a thread running through our work, while respectfully acknowledging our commonalities, differences, and current status of our life conditions.
Discussions about shared ideas/concepts. Land, Language, Culture, Peoplehood.
Prioritize respect and reciprocity in relationships
In thinking about authentic allyship, consider how histories of individuals and communities are woven together
Ensuring that we understand that trust must be earned, not assumed. Allyship is never a given.
Take responsibility for learning in our communities.
Curating resources for communities to learn. Easy access to resources.
Prioritizing sustained learning.
Ensure that we consider using language that is inclusive for all people. (How might we reconsider “us” and “them”)
We could take a 3rd person perspective; ‘in the Jewish perspective’, ‘in the Indigenous perspective’. Trying to avoid a binary. Avoid essentializing.
Using preferred language. Respecting original languages. Reflect on meanings and contexts. Being attentive to history that we bring.
Model through our actions not just words
Establish benchmarks to track progress on implementing calls to action
Exploring the ways in which language is taught and supported. How are languages present or not in classrooms?
Anchor our work in meaningful community contexts
Identify and consider Jewish texts that inform our approaches
Build trust and connections among people
As individuals we can be role models by committing to an individual action to further this principle.
Support healthy communities
Engage the hearts and minds of others
Engage youth, and consider contexts across Canada
Essays written by Indigenous botanist and poet Robin Wall Kimmerer. Beautiful insights about nature, the interconnection between all living things, and an Indigenous scientis’s dual identity.
Speaker from First Nations University (Regina)
Indigenous Canada Course
Native Canadian Centre, 3 hour and full day. Historical information, Q&A, Treaties, Land Rights, 60s scoop
OISE's Aboriginal Peoples Curricula Database
Treaty Interpretation in the Age of Restoule
The Blanket Exercise is based on using Indigenous methodologies and the goal is to build understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada by walking through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance.
Everyone is actively involved as they step onto blankets that represent the land, and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis peoples. By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy.
CBC Doc called Becoming Nakuset about an Indigenous woman adopted by a Jewish family in the Sixties Scoop
3 films on Inuit experience. Award winning Angry Inuk re impact of seal hunt boycott and Arctic Defenders re: impact of colonialism on the Inuit; Arctic sovereignty. Kikkik about the1950's famine in the Canadian Arctic.
Kikkik, an Inuk woman who killed a man in self defense who had to leave 2 of her 5 children on the tundra. She was tried for murder and criminal negligence and subsequently acquitted
Great article on “Reconciliation as Window Dressing
The Blanket Exercise
This link explains this powerful experiential education about Indigineous history.
National Film Board’s We Were Children is free on CBC Gem Caution contains concerning content.
This 2012 heartwrenching documentary features 2 residential school survivors telling their actual life stories - also played out by actors. This movie depicts the truth within ‘truth and reconciliation.
2003 CBC Massey Lecture Series “The Truth About Stories” by Thomas King.
This lecture series offers important insights into historical and contemporary Indigenous experiences in Canada.