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FROM TORTILLAS TO TORAH – The Jews of Guatemala

At an evening program hosted by City Shule on December 4, 2017, and co-sponsored by Kulanu Canada, representatives of Adat Israel of Guatemala City talked about their journey to Judaism, showed slides of their small community of recently Reform converted Jews, paid homage to Rabbi Elyse Goldstein who is their spiritual leader and rabbi of Toronto’s City Shule, and engulfed their audience in the love they expressed for Judaism.

Jeannette Orantes, whose husband Moshe Isaiah was the inspired founder of the community, and their daughter Rebecca, recounted the community’s history and shared personal accounts of their religious exploration and study of Judaism. The community had a chance encounter with Rabbi Elyse Goldstein when she was on a voluntour program in that country, about 6 years ago. Their relationship has enabled the community to experience more of Jewish life, to be connected with Kulanu, have rabbis and teachers visit, and to have their youth experience a summer at a Jewish camp in Ontario.

Kulanu Canada helped promote a community wide Pesach Seder for the members of Adat Israel and their guests in 2016, and shares their story here to encourage more support to this small but mighty congregation.

Film night Celebrates Jewish Diversity: Doing Jewish, A Story from Ghana

On November 12, 2017, Kulanu Canada presented the film Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana. The movie is the creation of filmmaker Gabrielle Zilkha, who was in attendance and captivated the nearly 100 people in the audience with both her informational film and her warm and animated personality. The event was co-sponsored with Na’amat Canada and we are appreciative of their partnership.

We learned that the Sefwi Wiawso is a small (and at the same time large) group of committed people that has long identified as Jewish. Gabrielle interviewed everyone from the tribe, from the children to the elders. It was fascinating to hear them pray and sing in Hebrew, and learn how they followed many Jewish traditions before knowing the label “Jewish”. The person about whom the film focused was their community leader, Alex Armah, a dedicated young man whohas very passionately worked to educate his community about Judaism and though this to hold his community together as Jews.

Gabrielle Zilkah

A special feature of the film was Gabrielle’s focus on trying to answer many questions about the Sefwis, about their history, about the possibility of their being one of the lost tribes of Israel, about their potential future and about their inclusion (or exclusion) in the wider Jewish global community.

The search for these answers was poignant and thought-provoking for all who claim to be Jewish.

As Gabrielle so introspectively points out, it is not enough to “be” Jewish, as so many of us in North America claim; it is important to “do” Jewish and carry out, as well as carry forward, the traditions which have existed for thousands of years. Upon whose shoulders will this responsibility lie?

Challah covers from Ghana

Kulanu Canada is determined to help the Sefwi Wiawso to continue to exist on their Jewish terms. To that end, we have been selling their beautiful, colourful, hand made challah covers with funds going back to the community for their guest house.

Thank you to all who attended the evening and have helped us to continue to support this amazing community.

We look forward to seeing you at our next events. Please sign up for ongoing information about future programs and information about the communities we support.

Join us on Nov. 12 for our event “Doing Jewish: A Story From Ghana”

Kulanu Canada & Na’amat Canada Toronto present a film and speaker special for a documentary called Doing Jewish: A Story From Ghana.

Who would expect to find Jews in Ghana? Certainly not filmmaker Gabrielle Zilkha. But when she volunteered to work in Africa, and found herself alone as the Jewish New Year approached, she made a surprising connection with the Jewish Africans she met there. In remote Sefwi Wiawso, Zilkha encounters a group of practising, dedicated and devout Jews.

Gabrielle Zilkha
Filmmaker Gabrielle Zilkha.

Meet Toronto filmmaker Gabrielle Zilka, purchase beautiful Ghanian challah covers, and support an isolated Jewish community by viewing this amazing, award-winning documentary.

Date: Sunday, November 12, 2017
Location: Borochov Cultural Centre, 272 Codsell Ave., Toronto
Time: doors open at 7:15 p.m., film starts at 7:30 p.m., Q&A with filmmaker to follow
Admission: $12.00 (at the door)


For more information, contact Marilyn Herbert at merbert@rogers.com.

If you have used or unused tallitot to donate to the Jews of Ghana, please bring to the event; donations are not tax receiptable but will be very welcome. Kulanu Canada will send them to Ghana.

If you would like to support the community and purchase a handmade, unique challah cover, see the selection. Prices are $36 per cover or two for $60 CDN. Kulanu Canada is a registered Canadian charity and donations are tax receiptable.

Kulanu and Na'amat logos

Celebrating the High Holidays in Suriname

By Jacob Steinberg

Our Torah readers Moriyah and Yehudah Webster and our Hazan (Cantor) Jules (Shul) Donk.

We were delighted to have the Websters as our Torah readers during the High Holidays at the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Suriname. Moriyah and Yehudah, a father and son team, conducted one of the most memorable Rosh Hashanah services I have ever attended. This year we had a “full house”: more than 70 members and some international guests attended the services.

The afternoon Tashlich along the Suriname river was also attended by more than 20 participants.

Tashlich is the ritual performed at a large, natural body of flowing water such as river, lake, sea, or ocean, on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. The ritual is performed with small pieces of bread which are thrown into the water to symbolically cast off our sins. The ceremony includes reading the source passage for the practice, the last verses from the prophet Micah (7:19), “He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities. You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

Continue reading Celebrating the High Holidays in Suriname