Monday, 27 June 2022

Jewish groups protest, praise U.S. Supreme Court's affirmation of high school football coach's right to lead post-game prayers


This has been a bad month in the United States for those who promote the idea of "Judeo-Christian" values, as recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have provoked responses that make it obvious that Judeo values are not necessarily Christian values. In 1962, Jewish organizations were opposed to mandated prayer as part of the public school day (see post below), resulting in the Supreme Court decision in Engel v. Vitale. In 2022, Jewish organizations are opposing voluntary prayer on the school grounds after football games, following another Supreme Court decision, 60 years and 2 days after the earlier ruling. As reported by Ron Kampeas of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 27, 2022 (links in original):

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Seattle-area football coach who lost his job after leading prayers on the field following his team’s victories, in a decision that could have ramifications for Jews in public schools and the military.

A number of Jewish groups say the 6-3 ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton, issued Monday, could roll back church-state separations that have protected schoolchildren from religious coercion for decades.

“This is a significant change in how we approach prayer in public schools, and one that will have a negative impact in particular on students of marginalized faiths and non-religious students,” said Rachel Robbins, the chairwoman of the Anti-Defamation League’s Civil Rights Committee. The ADL, which joined a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the school district, said it was “deeply disturbed” by the decision.

The expressions of concern came despite reassurances by Justice Neil Gorsuch that the ruling was in line with a famous 1992 Supreme Court decision in favor of a Rhode Island Jewish family who objected to clergy leading prayer at their children’s public school.

Writing for the court’s conservative majority, Gorsuch quoted from that decision, Lee v. Weisman, in which the court held “that religious beliefs and religious expression are too precious to be either proscribed or prescribed by the State.” The ruling Monday in favor of Joseph Kennedy, an assistant coach in the Bremerton, Washington, school district, Gorsuch wrote, similarly protects First Amendment religious freedoms.

Jewish groups were not buying it.

“The Court’s see-no-evil approach to the coach’s prayer will encourage those who seek to proselytize within the public schools to do so with the Court’s blessing,” said Marc Stern, the chief legal officer of the American Jewish Committee, which had joined a friend-of-the-court brief on the side of the school district.

“That is no advance for religious liberty,” Stern added.

The Bremerton case centered on the activities of Kennedy, who started out by praying alone at the 50-yard line and did not call on others to join him. But soon after, students and others started joining Kennedy in prayer, alarming the school district. It proposed alternatives, including allowing him to pray after the game, but he declined and continued to pray to increased media attention. The school district decided not to renew his contract.

The court concluded, essentially, that by preventing a Christian high school coach from praying, the school district had violated his civil rights no less than had it forced other children to pray.

“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance,” Gorsuch said, emphasizing that Kennedy had not explicitly urged students to join him in prayer.

“It seems clear to us that Mr. Kennedy has demonstrated that his speech was private speech, not government speech,” Gorsuch wrote. “This case looks very different from those in which this Court has found prayer involving public school students to be problematically coercive,” he said, specifically citing Lee v. Weisman.

Lee v. Weisman involved a Baptist clergyman who said at a 1986 middle school graduation ceremony in Providence, “Please rise and praise Jesus for the accomplishments of these children today.”

Merith Weisman’s parents, Vivian, the assistant executive director at the local Jewish Community Center, and Daniel, a social work professor, were unnerved, and the prayer triggered a series of events and lawsuits that culminated in the landmark 1992 case.

That decision was 5-4. Antonin Scalia, the late conservative justice whom Gorsuch replaced, said for years it was wrongly decided, and the religious right agreed. President Donald Trump named three conservative justices, and with the new balance of power, the Supreme Court has in recent weeks ticked off a wish list for religious conservatives, from school choice to overturning abortion rights.

The AJC’s Stern said Gorsuch was cherry-picking quotes from the earlier decision to make his own opinion sound less far-reaching than it was.

“There’s a tendency to sanitize a practice, rip it out of its historical roots and look at it in splendid isolation, and so it [appears] not so terrible,” Stern said in an interview.

Kennedy, as an assistant coach, may not have the same power as the principal in the Rhode Island case who invited clergy, Stern said, but the coach still had coercive power over students, and it was disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

“Kids will do anything to get on a coach’s good side and get playing time,” Stern said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the liberal minority in the dissent, made a similar point, illustrating it with a photo of students surrounding Kennedy in prayer.

“Several parents reached out to the District saying that their children had participated in Kennedy’s prayers solely to avoid separating themselves from the rest of the team,” Sotomayor wrote. “No [Bremerton High School] students appeared to pray on the field after Kennedy’s suspension.”

The National Council of Jewish Women, also a signatory to a friend-of-the-court brief, said the latest decision was one in a series that eroded church-state separations, citing among others the recent decision directing the state of Maine to pay for religious schooling for students for whom reaching public schools is arduous.

“No student should have to choose between their religious freedom and being part of school activities,” Jody Rabhan, the group’s chief policy officer, said in a statement. “But today’s ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton could force children enrolled in public schools to do just that.”

Mikey Weinstein, the Jewish veteran who leads the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which advocates for religion-state separations in the military, said the ruling will undercut his years-long efforts to remove Christian prayers from military academy athletic events.

The decision “will serve to utterly and expeditiously destroy the precious wall separating church and state in our country and especially the U.S. military,” he said.
For once, I hope Mikey "Whine"stein is correct, in his assertion that the Supreme Court's ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District will undercut his anti-Christian efforts. Go here to see the text of the Court's ruling.

June 28, 2022 update: In contrast to liberal Jewish organizations, an Orthodox Jewish group is praising the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. As reported by Ron Kampeas of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 28, 2022 (links in original):

WASHINGTON — Agudath Israel of America praised the reversal of a judicial standard that came about as a result of a Supreme Court ruling backing a public high school football coach who prayed on the fifty-yard line.

Abba Cohen, the Washington director for the haredi Orthodox umbrella body, said the group was pleased that Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the decision for the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, did away with a decades-old standard for assessing whether a government authority violated church-state standards.

Cohen clarified later that this did not mean his organization was praising the entire ruling. “Agudath Israel has long expressed concern about and opposition to denominational public prayer and the proselytization in schools,” he said.

The “Lemon test,” stemming from the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman decision, assesses whether a government action advances or inhibits religion. Orthodox groups have long said the test was overly restrictive.

“Rather than offering protection, ‘Lemon’ too often resulted in Establishment Clause hostility toward religion, which itself is constitutionally prohibited,” Cohen said. “The First Amendment is stronger with its demise.”

Gorsuch in his decision said the Lemon test should be superseded by more recent traditions that refer to “historical practices and understandings.”

“The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike,” Gorsuch wrote.

Monday’s ruling backed Joseph Kennedy, an assistant coach in the Seattle area who was let go from his job because he would not stop on-field prayers. The coach asserted, and the Court majority agreed, that his prayers were “private,” even though his players would join in. Jewish civil rights groups said the ruling put at risk a 1992 ruling banning clergy from praying in schools. That ruling, which the groups said protected children from proselytizers, was spurred by Jewish parents in Rhode Island.

The Orthodox Union, the umbrella body for Modern Orthodox groups and synagogues, declined to comment on Gorsuch’s decision, named Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), said he had mixed feelings about the ruling. Chabad has advocated for years for moments of silence in public schools, seeing them as a means for reflection and promoting more considered behavior.

But Shemtov said the coach’s Christian prayer was not quite the same. “A parochial prayer can present some real problems while a moment of silence is all but unassailable,” Shemtov said in an interview. A moment of silence “gives each individual the right to worship in the privacy of their own mind even in the presence of others.”

Saturday, 25 June 2022

60 years ago--The U.S. Supreme Court, in Engel v. Vitale, prohibits mandated prayer in public schools


When Americans think of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that had the effect of removing God from public schools, the name that comes to mind is Madalyn Murray O'Hair, founder of American Atheists, who filed suit on behalf of her son Bill Murray, who was in a public school system that mandated Bible-reading. Her case, Murray v. Curlett, was folded into Abington School District v. Schempp, in which Edward Schempp, a Unitarian Universalist and a resident of Abington Township, Pennsylvania, filed suit against the Abington School District in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to prohibit the enforcement of a Pennsylvania law that required at least 10 verses of the Bible to be read without comment at the beginning of each public school day. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled 8-1 on June 17, 1963 in favour of the plaintiff, concluding that public schools cannot sponsor Bible readings and recitations of the Lord's Prayer under the clause in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, stating that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

The Court, in Abington School District v. Schempp, upheld its ruling from a year earlier in a related case. On June 25, 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Engel v. Vitale, ruled by a 6-1 margin that the state cannot hold prayers in public schools, even if it is not required and not tied to a particular religion. As reported by Justia (bold in original):

Justia Opinion Summary and Annotations

Annotation

Primary Holding

The state cannot hold prayers in public schools, even if it is not required and not tied to a particular religion.

Facts

The state board of regents in New York wrote a voluntary prayer to Almighty God that was intended to open each school day. A group of organizations joined forces in challenging the prayer, including families and institutions dedicated to the Jewish faith. They claimed that this violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but the New York Court of Appeals rejected their arguments. While nearly half of the state governors in the U.S. contributed to an amicus brief asking the Court to uphold this finding that the prayer was constitutional, several national Jewish organizations submitting opposing briefs seeking its invalidation.

Opinions

Majority

Hugo Lafayette Black (Author)
Earl Warren
William Orville Douglas
Tom C. Clark
John Marshall Harlan II
William Joseph Brennan, Jr.

Relying on historical analysis, Black emphasized the significance of separating church from state and identified a school prayer as a religious activity, no matter its specific wording. As a result, the state of New York had used its power to promote a certain set of religious beliefs by encouraging children to comply with its own. Black was not persuaded that the general wording of the prayer and the fact that the prayer was voluntary were enough to insulate it from the First Amendment. He observed that not every religion recognizes a God, so some are necessarily excluded even with this wording.

Concurrence

William Orville Douglas (Author)

Dissent

Potter Stewart (Author)

Recused

Byron Raymond White (Author)
Felix Frankfurter

Case Commentary

While students theoretically could have opted out of participating in the prayer, the majority and proponents of its decision recognized that children are unlikely to choose not to engage in a teacher-led activity. The outcome might be different if the case had involved an educational institution with adult students.

The Court's general antipathy toward prayer in schools would be extended by later decisions that struck down clergy-led prayers at graduation ceremonies, student-led prayers at football games, and time set aside during the school day for prayer or meditation.

U.S. Supreme Court
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)
Engel v. Vitale

No. 468

Argued April 3, 1962

Decided June 25, 1962

370 U.S. 421


Syllabus

Because of the prohibition of the First Amendment against the enactment of any law "respecting an establishment of religion," which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, state officials may not compose an official state prayer and require that it be recited in the public schools of the State at the beginning of each school day -- even if the prayer is denominationally neutral and pupils who wish to do so may remain silent or be excused from the room while the prayer is being recited. Pp. 370 U.S. 422-436.

10 N.Y.2d 174, 176 N.E.2d 579, reversed.

Page 370 U.S. 422

In 1951 and again in 1955, the Board of Regents of New York adopted a resolution calling for reading the following nondemoninational prayer in classrooms to begin the school day:

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.

The plaintiffs, residents of North Hempstead, New York, were parents Steven Engel, Monroe Lerner, Lenore Lyons, Dan Lichtenstein and Larry Ross. Mr. Engel, who was Jewish, was named the lead plaintiff because his name came first in alphabetical order. The American Civil Liberties Union (surprise!) aided the plaintiffs, who lost in the Supreme Court of New York (1959); Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division (1960); and Court of Appeals of New York (1961). However, the highest court in the nation reversed the New York rulings. Roman Catholic writer Paul A. Fisher, in his book Behind the Lodge Door (1994, pp. 161-162), argued that the Supreme Court's anti-religious rulings during the post-World War II era came at a time when the Court was dominated by Freemasons. According to Mr. Fisher:

The truth is, prayer and Bible reading were integral to the "Protestant" public school system in the United States until the Supreme Court's Engel decision in 1962 and its Schempp ruling in 1963-a period when Masons dominated the Court by a six-to-three ratio.

The U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp were heavily criticized by Christians and other American at the time, and have been accused of playing a major role in changing the country for the worse, and no longer being "a nation under God." The critics turned out to be right.

Those who like to use the phrase "Judeo-Christian" may be surprised to learn that not only did the plaintiffs have a disproportionate number of Jewish-sounding names, but in appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, they were joined by the American Jewish Committee, the Synagogue Council of America, and the American Ethical Union, each of whom submitted briefs urging the Supreme Court to reverse the New York rulings (which is an example of why this blogger no longer uses the phrase "Judeo-Christian"--Judeo values are not Christian values). While Madalyn Murray O'Hair is still remembered for her role in removing mandated Bible-reading from public schools, the role of Jews in the case that removed mandated prayer from public schools has been airbrushed from history. To quote Sherlock Holmes out of context, "Most singular! Most remarkable!!"

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Archaeology and biblical history items, July 2021-June 2022

This blogger has been negligent in recent months in posting items related to archaeology and biblical history. I don't feel like posting entire items, but the reader may find the full articles by clicking on the links below.

Largest Ritual Bath from Temple Period has Just Been Uncovered Under Temple Mount (July 8, 2021)

In response to archaeological discoveries proving Jewish presence in the city, Hamas accuses Israel of ‘falsifying’ Jerusalem’s history (July 16, 2021)

New Dead Sea Scroll Study Suggests Essenes Held Annual “Covenant Renewal Ceremony” at Qumran (August 31, 2021)

Jerusalem: Archaeologists Discover Temple Period ‘Cheat-Weight’ Proving Accuracy of Bible (September 2, 2021)

New Study Confirms Location and Cause of Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: Heavenly Fire (September 24, 2021)

Ancient Hebrew document could reveal why Dead Sea Scrolls were placed in Qumran (September 30, 2021)

Actual Location of Mount Sinai Discovered, Researchers Now Claim (October 3, 2021)

Gilgamesh Tablet Returned to Iraq on Anniversary of Torah Reading of Noah (October 5, 2021)

2700-Year-Old Toilet from First Temple Period Unearthed in Jerusalem (October 5, 2021)

12,000-Year-Old Fishing Techniques Uncovered in Archaeological Dig in Northern Israel (October 7, 2021)

World's Biggest Wine Factory from 1,500 Years Ago Discovered in Central Israel (October 11, 2021)

Israeli archaeologists discover first evidence of Crusader encampments in Holy Land (October 19, 2021)

Ancient Crusader Encampment Discovered for First Time in Galilee (October 20, 2021)

Rare Biblical ‘Balm of Gilead’ Engraving Found on 2,000-Year-Old Seal in Jerusalem (October 21, 2021)

Archaeologists Find More Clues to Solve the Mystery of Bethseda (October 25, 2021)

Spectacular Ancient Gold Ring Unearthed in an Excavation in Yavne (November 2, 2021)

Jacob's Stone Altar of Beit El Discovered in the City of David (November 19, 2021)

For First Time: Building from Time of Sanhedrin Uncovered (November 29, 2021)

Hasmonean Sling Stone Discovered in the Hebron Hills (November 29, 2021)

Oil Lamp from Hasmonean Period Found in City of David (November 30, 2021)

Archaeologists Discover Second Ancient Synagogue on the Shores of Sea of Galilee (December 12, 2021)

Ancient underwater treasures, including Christian artifact, discovered off Israel’s coast (December 23, 2021)

Israeli Researcher Unearth First Ever Bronze Age Victims of Volcanic Eruption Discovered After 3,500 Years (December 30, 2021)

Ancient Toilet from First Temple Era Reveals: Poor Sanitary Conditions Caused Jerusalem's Elite to Suffer Diseases (January 4, 2022)

Clay Seals from First Temple Treasury Discovered in Rubble from Temple Mount (January 10, 2022)

Ancient Egyptians were Consumers of Successful Copper Industry in Arabah Region, Say Tel Aviv University Archaeologists (January 10, 2022)

Ice-Age Remains Near the Kinneret Show Ancient Residents Thrived as Ice Melted Rather than Starving to Death (January 26, 2022)

Ancient Hebrew Amulet Unearthed at Altar of Joshua (January 27, 2022)

Fifth-century Byzantine church unveiled in the Gaza Strip (January 27, 2022)

Prehistoric Human Vertebra Discovered in the Jordan Valley Tells the Story of Prehistoric Migrations from Africa (February 2, 2022)

Evidence of ‘biblical giants’ found in northern Israel (February 15, 2022)

Ship sunk 3,200 years ago near Caesarea reveals unknown ancient trade links (February 21, 2022)

River Prophesied by Ezekiel Accidentally Discovered in Jerusalem (February 22, 2022)

American tourist discovers ancient jug in the Judean Desert – by accident (March 9, 2022)

Turkey Returns Ancient Siloam Inscription Describing Hezekiah's Tunnel (March 11, 2022)

Report: Turkey has agreed to return to Israel an ancient Hebrew inscription bearing direct evidence of biblical accounts, Jewish connection to Jerusalem (March 13, 2022)

Iranian Jews Bought Tomb of Queen Esther and Mordechai, Israel's National Library Reveals (March 13, 2022)

Italians Shocked to Discover Phonecian Harbor is Actually a pool, Temple to Baal (March 20, 2022)

Ancient Curse Amulet Discovered from Mount Ebal (March 25, 2022)

Archaeologists believe they found the oldest Hebrew text in Israel – including the name of God (March 25, 2022)

Archaeological site with Christian mosaic to take the place of Israeli prison (March 30, 2022)

Archaeologists Reveal: Wine from Second Temple was Flavored with Vanilla (April 4, 2022)

Israel’s archaeological findings continue to prove the Bible’s authenticity (April 4, 2022)

Hamas Discovers Ancient Canaanite Idol ‘Anat’; Thinks it “Proves Palestinian History in the Land” (April 27, 2022)

Mesopotamian City Built Five Centuries After Abraham Discovered Under Tigris River (June 1, 2022)

Archaeological Find Reveals Proof of Conversion to Judaism After Roman Invasion of Jerusalem (June 2, 2022)

Ancient Jewish Bath Discovered While Building Controversial Western Wall Elevator (June 3, 2022)

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Extrabiblical Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'Omer involves mysticism

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Isaiah 29:13

I must admit I'd never heard of this holiday until yesterday; it's not one of the Jewish holidays commanded by God in Leviticus 23, and isn't mentioned in the New Testament, mainly because it has later origins. Its practices resemble those of Roman Catholic saints' days more than the observances commanded by God. As reported by Mendel Super of Chabad.org, May 17, 2022:

Jewish communities around the world will gather in backyards, streets, parks, and even cemeteries to celebrate Jewish pride, unity, and even mysticism, beginning on the evening of May 18 and lasting until sundown on May 19.

The festive day, known as Lag BaOmer—the 33rd day of the Omer count, which concludes with the holiday of Shavuot—marks the passing of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar, and also commemorates the end of a plague that affected the students of Rabbi Akiva. The reason for the plague was a lack of respect for one another among the students, and so the day is marked by celebrating Jewish unity.

While in the northern hemisphere, it’s a spring holiday, in New Zealand—the first Jewish community to usher in the festivities—the trees are shedding their leaves. Chabad-Lubavitch of Auckland, New Zealand, will gather in the evening for a traditional bonfire and barbecue, complete with inflatable entertainment and face-painting for the children.

“It’s the perfect time to come together and celebrate our proud Jewish community,” says Rabbi Mendel Hecht, co-director of Chabad of New Zealand with his wife, Esther. “As the first community to begin all Jewish holidays, we’ll show everyone how it’s done!”

Even in California, it’s not quite warm yet. In Mammoth Lakes, an alpine town in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, it was still snowing last week. But Chabad of Mammoth Lakes has plowed ahead with two Lag BaOmer events—one on the nearby Convict Lake, the other 40 miles away in Bishop, Calif., where Rabbi Yisrael and Mushky Gordon, co-directors of Chabad of Mammoth Lakes, commute regularly, offering Torah classes and holiday programming to the dozens of Jews in the nearby town. Community members will bring their boats and kayaks for a family fun day on the lake, with the kosher barbecue and s’mores provided.

In Israel, many thousands of pilgrims gather at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. In New York, many visit the resting place of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, and his predecessor, the Sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, N.Y., known as the Ohel. The Rebbe taught that the graves of all sages are connected, and those unable to make it to Israel can still use the auspicious day to pray at the graves of a local sage.

In Krakow, Poland, the Jewish community has the custom of visiting the grave of Rabbi Moshe Isserles (1529-1572), the great Ashkenazic codifier of Jewish tradition, who passed away on Lag Ba’Omer and is buried in Krakow. For centuries, Jews have visited his gravesite on this day and the custom lives on, says Rabbi Eliezer Gurary, director of Chabad of Krakow, who will be visiting the tomb with his community—and refugees from Ukraine currently living in Krakow “Tradition says that visiting the grave of Rabbi Isserles is like going to Rabbi Shimon’s tomb on Mount Meron,” explains Gurary.

For some communities, the celebration of Jewish unity takes on special meaning with war raging in Ukraine. Berlin is one of the many Jewish communities around Europe that has taken in refugees, including an entire orphanage from Odessa, Ukraine. Longtime residents and new refugees will mingle at Chabad of Berlin’s Lag Ba’Omer parade, which is expected to see more than 600 people participate.

The Odessa contingent is led by Chaya Wolff, co-director of Chabad of Odessa since its inception in 1992, while her husband, Rabbi Avraham Wolff, has stayed back in Ukraine. His community will gather on Lag Ba’Omer for a bonfire, barbecue and a Chassidic farbrengen, not allowing the threat of war to stop them.

Wolff says the merit of the great sage will protect his community: “The Talmud says that one can rely on Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in pressing times. There is no time more pressing than this. May his merit protect us and all the people of Ukraine on this holy day.”

In occupied Kherson, his brother, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Wolff, director of Chabad of Kherson, is similarly determined to celebrate the day with joy, extreme hardship and sorrow notwithstanding, saying “with God’s help, we will celebrate like we do every year.”
As reported by The Israel Bible, May 18, 2022 (links in original):

Lag Ba’Omer is the 33rd day of the 49-day count between Passover, when a barley wave offering was presented in the Temple, and the holiday of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), when an offering of two loaves of wheat bread was brought in the Temple. It is celebrated with bonfires and joyous celebrations which take place across Israel.

Classified as a minor holiday, acts normally forbidden on the Sabbath and holidays are permitted on Lag Ba’Omer. The name of the holiday is derived from its position in the counting of the Omer since ‘Lag’ is spelled with the two Hebrew letters lamed (ל) and gimel (ג), which in gematria (Hebrew numerology) equal 33.

Jews are commanded to count the days in this period orally:

And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering—the day after the Shabbat—you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete. You must count until the day after the seventh week—fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to Hashem. Leviticus 23:14-15

Lag BaOmer is a bright spark of joy in the period of the Omer, which is generally a period of lessened joy when weddings and other celebrations are forbidden. The period of austerity commemorates the deaths of 24,000 students of the 2nd-century Mishnaic sage Rabbi Akiva, who, some believe, died fighting the Romans during the Bar Kochba rebellion (132-136 C.E.). After the tragic death of his students, only five remained—one of whom was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

According to the Talmud (Yevamot 62b), the students died from a plague because they disrespected one another, in violation of Rabbi Akiva’s principle teaching that “loving each other like oneself is a great principle in the Torah.” The death of the students is believed to have ceased on Lag B’Omer.

Ironically, Lag Ba’Omer is a celebration commemorating the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a Jewish sage from the second century known by the acronym Rashbi who, according to tradition, wrote the Zohar, the basis of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). Normally, the passing of tzaddikim (holy men) is a source of sadness but, before passing away, Rashbi instructed his students to remember his passing as a day of joy. According to the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai revealed the deepest secrets of Kabbalah on the day of his death, turning Lag Ba’Omer into a celebration of light coming into the world. His grave is located near the city of Safed, which is historically a capital for Kabbalistic studies.

Many Jews celebrate the day with bonfires and barbecues. Most Israeli schools are closed on Lag Ba’Omer. Historically, Mount Meron, the burial place of the Rashbi located near Tzfat (Safed), has been the focus of a mass pilgrimage with up to 250,000 people who would spend the night singing, praying and celebrating at the gravesite of the Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Tragically, in 2021, 100,000 people were in attendance when a stampede took place. Forty-five men and boys at the event were killed, and about 150 were injured, dozens of them critically, making it the deadliest civil disaster in the history of the State of Israel.
I somehow missed this news story, as reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Israel365 News, April 30, 2021 (links in original):

At least 44 people were killed and over 150 injured on the holiday of Lag Ba’Omer on Thursday night at a mass gathering turned tragedy as people stampeded The tragedy took place shortly after midnight an estimated 100,000 people were at the event. An additional 100,000 were expected to arrive Friday morning but the site was closed by police. It is still unclear what led to the panic with some reports of a bleachers collapse initiating the rush. Police reported large numbers of people at a concert slipping and falling onto people below them (see video).

The Magen David Adom rescue service said 38 people were killed at the scene while they treated18 people in serious condition, 2 who were moderately hurt, and 80 who were lightly injured. Ziv hospital in Tzfat later reported that six of the wounded died from their injuries and the Health Ministry confirmed that the total death toll stood at 44. The IDF, which sent its elite 669 rescue team to the site, said a roof had collapsed. MDA spokesman Zaki Heller told the Ynet news site that the deaths were caused by severe overcrowding.

There is a Hasidic tradition (called Halaka) to give three-year-old boys their first haircut at Meron on Lag Ba’Omer so many small children were at the gathering. Many were separated from the parents in the panic.

“Unfortunately we found small children being trampled there, and we performed resuscitations on children. We managed to save some of them,” United Hatzalah founder Eli Beer said to IDF Army Radio.



ZAKA, an organization of voluntary community emergency response teams, has taken upon itself one of the holiest Jewish tasks; caring for a dead body, referred to as chesed shel meet (true loving kindness). David Rose, the director of ZAKA, reported that ZAKA teams worked through the night to ensure their holy work was carried out to the best of their abilities but their job became even more difficult. Jewish tradition requires burial as soon as possible after death so many, if not all, of those killed will be buried before the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday.

Mobile telephone systems became overloaded and were not working. Zaka search and rescue set up an online Google doc form to check on missing persons. They will try to locate any missing person reported via the system.

Aviva Spiegel, a resident of Tsfat who was at the event, released an audio in which she described her experience:

“Whatever they say in the media that the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) were pushing and trampling, that they were like animals, hopefully, the media won’t, I want to tell you that when the sirens started blaring, I saw Hatzala workers running, and I saw men pumping chests, giving CPR,” Spiegel said. “What I saw was a nation that was so united. There is the story of death but the real story is the … thousands of people who were davening (praying) for them…Everyone was saying Tehillim (psalms). The heart of the nation is pure. Even though were dealt a huge blow. We were crying out for our brothers and sisters. And this is what brings geula (redemption). We pray for each other, and give tzedaka (charity).”

Last night’s event was one of the worst peacetime tragedies in Israel’s history, alongside the Carmel forest fire in 2010 in which 44 people lost their lives. The event has always been one of the most challenging for police and emergency and an estimated 5,000 policemen were deployed.



The public is requested to pray for the wounded as well as the many people who were traumatized by the event.

Lag Ba’Omer is celebrated on the 33rd day of the 49-day counting (seven complete weeks) of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot which culminates in the holiday of Shavuot when an offering of two loaves of wheat bread was brought in the Temple. The name of the holiday is derived from its position in the counting of the Omer since ‘Lag’ is spelled by the two Hebrew letters lamed and gimel, which in gematria (Hebrew numerology) equal 33. Before the pandemic, the minor holiday became a major pilgrimage with an estimated 250,000 Israelis—men, women and children—gathering at the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mount Meron in the Upper Galilee near Tzfat (Safed). The day is associated with the anniversary of the passing (yahrtzeit) of the Mishnaic sage and Kabbalist Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, also known by the acronym “Rashbi.” It is believed that on the day of his passing, he revealed for the first time teachings that constitute a significant portion of the Zohar, the foundational book of Jewish mysticism. Despite being the anniversary of his leaving the world, the Rashbi himself called for this day to be a joyous one and it has become a joyous highlight in the middle of the somber days of the Omer. Most celebrate the day with bonfires and barbecues, making it an attractive celebration to observant and non-observant Jews alike.

The day is also associated with the end of a mourning period, in which 24,000 students of the Mishnaic sage Rabbi Akiva are believed to have died fighting the Romans during the Bar Kochba rebellion (132-136 C.E.). After the tragic death of his students, only five remained—one of whom was bar Yochai. There is another view that the students died from a plague brought about by disrespecting one another, in violation of Rabbi Akiva’s principle teaching of “loving each other like oneself.” The death of the students is believed to have ceased on Lag B’Omer.

As reported by Mr. Berkowitz, May 2, 2021 (bold, links in original):

While the nation of Israel is struggling to cope with its worst peacetime disaster, the death of 45 people killed in a stampede at the Lag Ba’Omer holiday celebrations at Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s gravesite on Mount Meron, it was revealed that the tragic event was predicted in the writings of Rabbi Shimon himself more than 2,000 years ago.

CLUE IN THE ZOHAR: 45 PEOPLE CRUSHED TO DEATH

The reference was made in the section dealing with the section of the Torah Naso on page 144 in the Edra Raba (the great gathering) called HaPartzuf HaElyon (the upper face) from the Zohar, the seminal work of Jewish mysticism authored by Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai who was buried on Mount Meron in 160 CE.

The Edra Raba relates a conversation between Elijah the Prophet and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. There was to be a gathering where Hashem would reveal secrets to the Tzaddikim. Elijah was there but had to leave as Hashem gave him a task. Elijah was sent to rescue Rabbi Hamnunah and his friends who were taken captive in a Roman prison. Elijah pushed down the walls and 45 of the Roman guards were killed. He then saved Rabbi Hamnunah.

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, responded to this remarkable reference.

“It is impossible to fully understand entirely the secrets of the Zohar and now is not the time to place blame,” Rabbi Berger said. “We need to comfort each other and strengthen the nation in this. But even this horrible event is bringing us closer to the redemption.”

“The tragedy happened at the concert when they were singing ‘Ani Maamin’, a song about having complete faith in the coming of the Messiah,” Rabbi Berger said. “The exile began and the Temple was destroyed because of the prevalence of causeless hatred among the Jews. The people who were at the event were all entirely blameless but the tragedy of people trampling each other, people who were forced against their will to harm others, is a clear lesson that we need to increase the love for our fellow man to the point where that is all that remains, love for our fellow man.”

“The crushing avalanche that killed 45 Jews described in the Edra Raba delayed the revelation of deep secrets of the Torah. These secrets will finally be revealed by the Messiah. And the only way to usher in the Messiah is to increase our love for our fellow Jew. Jewish history has shown time after time that hatred among the nation means death for all.”

33: BEYOND HUMAN UNDERSTANDING

Rabbi Eyal Riess, Director of the Tzfat Kabbalah Center, had words of comfort that he posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

“Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said in the book of Zohar: ‘A cry is stuck in my heart on one side, and joy is stuck in my heart on the other side’. Unfortunately, on the illuminating and happy day of Lag Baomer, this terrible disaster happened, specifically at the grave of Rabbi Shimon which has always been known as a place for celebration. Why? What is the explanation? Why is the pain so great?”

Rabbi Riess cited Psalms:

No signs appear for us; there is no longer any Navi; no one among us knows for how long. Psalms 74:9

“We cannot understand why 45 precious souls were taken from us in the middle of the holy day.”

“According to Kabbalah, the counting on the 33rd day of Omer is expressed in Kabbalah as’Hod in Hod’. ‘Hod’ in the doctrine of Kabbalah symbolizes admission and recognition of the hidden and unattainable aspects of God which cannot be perceived by limited human thought.

Rabbi Riess emphasized that such tragic events come from the unattainable aspect of God’s presence in this world and are, therefore, beyond explanation and understanding. For this reason, they are even more holy.

“We will pray for the safety of the wounded and for the uplifting of the souls of the deceased in the disaster, add light in good deeds, and do everything we can to make sure that such disasters do not happen in the future, anywhere and at any May we bring only good news. Amen.”
Traditional bonfire lit for the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’omer on Mount Zion, Jerusalem 25.5.16 (Photo: Elron Zabatani/TPS)

Ultra orthodox Jews dance near a bonfire (Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A Jewish man blows the shofar during the celebrations of Lag Baomer in Meron, May 22, 2019. (Photo by David Cohen/Flash90)

Boyan Grand Rabbi Nachum Dov Brayer speaks during the celebrations of Lag Baomer in Meron,May 22, 2019. (Photo by David Cohen/Flash90)

Jewish men seen during a morning prayer, during the celebrations of Lag Baomer in Meron, May 23, 2019. Lag Baomer (Photo by David Cohen/Flash90)

Although those who celebrate Lag Ba'Omer may cite the Old Testament, its mystical practices and connection to Kabbalah make it clear that Lag Ba'Omer has nothing to do with the God of the Bible, but is the sort of celebration that He condemns.

Monday, 18 April 2022

To deny the Jewish role in the crucifixion of Jesus is to deny the word of God

It's now fashionable in Christian circles to play down or virtually deny Jewish culpability in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Aaron Fruh in Israel365 News, April 13, 2022:

Next week Christians around the globe will spend Good Friday in remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus. As an Evangelical Christian it troubles me the lie the Jews killed Jesus is still believed by many Christians. Since the 2nd century when church father Justin Martyr proclaimed the Jews would collectively as a people bear the responsibility from generation to generation for killing Jesus, the charge of deicide (the murder of God) has been used by Christians to persecute Jews – think of the crusades, pogroms, expulsions, and ultimately the Holocaust. Though an attempt was made in Vatican II in the declaration of Nostra Aetate to put the lie to rest, it still festers like an infected sore. Bad habits are hard to break.

There are several factors in the gospel accounts and in the historical records that have been overlooked by Christians who still hold Jews responsible for killing Jesus. Here are three:

1. The Romans and only the Romans controlled capital punishment

During the time of Jesus, Israel was under the occupation of the Imperial Roman authority and was subjected to the policies of the Roman empire – including relinquishing the ability to pass down capital punishment upon criminals.

2. The Romans were brutal dictators

The Romans were swift and violent against any sign of Jewish uprising – including the hope of a Jewish messiah – and the reality of that threat was ever present. Jesus’ growing popularity among the Jewish people raised the possibility of Roman aggression to a critical level and the Jewish religious leaders were concerned that Rome – if threatened – might not only plunder the nation of Israel but also the holy temple (see John 11:47-48). This fear was realized in the coming years when Rome destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and drove most of the Jews out of Israel.

3. Pilate was not a saint

In some Christian traditions Pilate and his wife are both beautified as saints. Many Christians view Pilate as an innocent victim who was coerced by Jews into ordering the crucifixion of Jesus. By making Pilate a puppet of Jewish leaders, blaming Jews for the death of Jesus becomes more justifiable.

However, far from being a saint, Pilate was a ruthless barbarian who suppressed one Jewish uprising after another with reckless abandon. The Jewish philosopher Philo said this about Pilate’s reign of terror on the Jews: “…the briberies, the insults, the robberies, the outrages and wanton injuries, the executions without trial constantly repeated, the ceaseless and supremely grievous cruelty” (Philo, Embassy to Gaius 10.302).

So, who killed Jesus? According to all gospel accounts, Jesus died on a Roman cross. The fact is that it was Pilate who passed down the sentence of death on Jesus (Luke 23:24) and it was the Roman soldiers who drove the nails in his hands and feet and thrust the spear into his side.

Furthermore, according to Jesus’ own testimony no one could take his life because he gave it willingly, “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). Further still, the entire Christian story of redemption is based on the belief that Jesus’ journey to a Roman cross was in the mind of God before time began declaring that Jesus was, “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). As well, Christian doctrine teaches that God’s purpose in the death of Jesus was to atone for the sin of humanity, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21).

With these facts in mind, why does the lie the Jews killed Jesus still have life? The lie continues to be immortalized by many Christians in order to place Christianity on a higher moral level than Judaism. By blaming Jews for Jesus’ death, Jesus becomes a non-Jew – a Christian in solidarity with other Christians in opposition to Judaism and Jews. The reality is that Jesus was killed by the Roman’s because he was a Jew.

This Good Friday as Christians solemnly remember the canceling of their sins through Jesus’ willing sacrifice may those in Christendom who continue to falsely blame Jews for the death of Jesus make it a time of humble thanksgiving rather than arrogant blame.
For Mr. Fruh to say that "the Jews killed Jesus" is a lie is itself a lie, clearly contradicted by the New Testament. In rebuttal to Mr. Fruh, I cite a previous post of mine, and submit for your approval the following account from the gospel according to Matthew--the gospel account that's most directed toward a Jewish audience--as well as comments by three Jewish leaders of the early Christian church who were either on the scene or in the area at the time:

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.
And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.
And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
Matthew 27:1-25

Peter: But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:...
...Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:...
...Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ...
...But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses...
...Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole...
...The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree...
...And we are witnesses of all things, whih he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree;
Acts 2:14, 23, 36; 3:14-15; 4:11; 5:30; 10:39

Stephen: Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Acts 7:51-52

Paul: For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. I Thessalonians 2:14-16

Of course, it's wrong to accuse the Jews of today of killing Christ, but the role of the Jews of Jesus' day in crucifying Him is a matter of historical record. If some people have a problem with that, then that's their problem. There's nothing in the Bible for which Christians have to apologize.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Evangelical churches in Canada use Covid-19 as an opportunity to team up with unbelievers in promoting an antichrist agenda

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? II Corinthians 6:14

As annoying as the Covid-19 "plandemic" has been, it has served the useful purpose of revealing the advanced state of the apostasy of professing Evangelical Christianity. The material in this post provides an explanation for why Evanjellyfish have been so silent in the face of governmental abuses of power (such as the imprisonment of Christian pastors such as James Coates and Artur Pawlowski). The organization responsible for this project of alleged Christian compassion has been kind enough to publish the names of its partners and supporters, providing ample evidence that they comprise a cage of unclean birds (Revelation 18:2). Submitted for your approval, the following item, as posted by Kristen Parker on the website of the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada, June 10, 2021 (bold, links in original):

Love My Neighbour

A member of an Alliance church has developed a project to enable Canadians to express their appreciation for their COVID-19 vaccine by paying it forward to people in vulnerable populations around the world.

Sara Hildebrand, a member and worship leader at Toronto Alliance Church, is the project coordinator for the Love My Neighbour project “a national movement for global vaccine equity inspired by Millennium Kids and Canadian faith communities.” The project was inspired by Matthew 15, where Jesus feeds 4000 people with only a few loaves of bread and some fish. Hildebrand believes that if we all play a small role, we can make a big difference!

Many Canadians have had the privilege of receiving their first vaccine—and some have even received their second. Over 2 billion vaccines have been administered globally, yet still less than 1% of low-income countries have received their first dose.

Through the Love My Neighbour campaign, Canadians have an incredible opportunity to express their gratitude for the vaccines that we will receive by gifting vaccines to vulnerable populations around the world through UNICEF. Through a $25 donation, you can gift a 2-dose vaccine to a global neighbour. This includes: the vaccine, transport, cold-chain protection, health worker training, and safe disposal of needles and waste.

Love My Neighbour wants to see every Canadian gift a $25 donation to vaccinate another individual. With approximately 38 million Canadians, we would be able to work together to help end the pandemic.

There are ways for cities, businesses, churches, families, teams, friend groups, individuals, and more to get involved with the Love My Neighbour Campaign. People are getting creative, and we encourage you to do the same!

At Toronto Alliance Church the quiz team raised donations for vaccines by running a fundraiser where they quoted all of the verses they’ve memorized in Matthew this year. Eight students and their coaches quoted over 1400 verses on a Sunday afternoon. They raised over $2500, providing over 100 vaccines to individuals in low-income countries.

Mayors are choosing to make their cities a Love My Neighbour city. They are encouraging their residents to get involved. Businesses are making donations on behalf of each of their employees. Churches are creating donation pages and encouraging and inspiring their members to increase their giving. There are classrooms that are learning about social justice who are raising donations and learning about their impact. An engaged couple has asked their guests to donate vaccines instead of give gifts! People across Canada are coming together to ensure that our global neighbours have the opportunity to be vaccinated!

June 11-13 the leaders of the G7 countries will be meeting for the UK G7 Summit. Their conversations will be focused on vaccines, and how we can work together to end the pandemic. Hildebrand is hopeful that Canada will make a commitment to return 10% of our vaccine doses to the global distributor of vaccines, COVAX, beginning now, so they can give them to low-income countries.

Ways to Get Involved:

Make a donation! $25 can change someone’s life.

Send a letter to your MP.

Share about the project with your church, employer, mayor, friends, family, team, or anyone you can think of!
At the time the above item was posted, there was abundant evidence that the "vaccines" were actually harming and killing people rather than helping them, and the evidence for that is greater now than it was then; readers are invited to research this for themselves. Professing Christians are promoting a procedure that is not only not helpful, but is weakening and killing the very neighbours whom they profess to love. Even if the vax weren't harmful, the Love My Neighbour project isn't at all about loving my neighbour in any sense of Christian compassion, but is actually about supporting the United Nations, as one can see after clicking on the links at Love My Neighbour's website. Submitted for your approval (bold, capitals, links in original):

Love My Neighbour

The Project

Join Love My Neighbour, and help UNICEF provide COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people.

Love My Neighbour is a national movement for global vaccine equity, inspired by Millennium Kids and Canadian faith communities, to raise funds to help increase equitable access and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable populations around the world.

Gift a 2-dose vaccine to a global neighbour with your donation of $25 CD, or split the cost with a friend.

This includes vaccines, per-person cost for transport, cold chain protection, health worker training, and safe disposal of needles and waste.

Global vaccination against COVID-19 is the biggest health project in our lifetime - and you can help! Our goal is to supply 38 million vaccines to our neighbours living in lower-income countries – that’s one for each grateful Canadian.

By donating or setting up a fundraiser, you’ll help write the ending of our global pandemic story. Thank you for joining us.
Media Kit

Background Information

Love My Neighbour is the national movement for global vaccine equity, inspired by Millennium Kids and Canadian faith communities. We are collaborating to tackle the biggest health project in our lifetime -- global vaccination against COVID-19 -- by increasing the equitable access and delivery of vaccines to vulnerable populations around the world. Our goal is to supply 38 million additional vaccines to our neighbours living in lower-income countries – that’s one for each grateful Canadian.

WHY

In Canada, we can wait in confidence with gratitude knowing our government has already procured enough vaccines for our entire population. Canadians will be vaccinated in 2021. But we know delayed vaccinations around the world could put everyone at risk of additional COVID variants for years to come. COVAX AMC was designed to supply COVID-19 vaccines to the poorest 92 low and low-middle income countries—more than half the world’s population. But the 1.3 billion COVAX doses planned for 2021 will protect less than 20% of our four billion global neighbours. COVAX AMC’s massive and ambitious vaccination plan will not sufficiently protect four billion living in the developing world, nor end the pandemic in 2021 – they need our help. Every Love My Neighbour donation will increase the number of vaccines delivered to our global family.

HOW

Love My Neighbour is partnering with UNICEF, faith communities, corporations, NGOs, community groups and individuals across the country to reach our goal. We are inviting Canadians to help supply additional vaccines for the world’s most vulnerable people. Every $25 donation helps fund everything needed for UNICEF to deliver a vaccine to people in the world’s hardest-to-reach places. This includes vaccines, per-person cost for transport, cold chain protection, health worker training, and safe disposal of needles and waste. Donations can be made through UNICEF at www.LoveMyNeighbourProject.org

Love My Neighbour is also inviting Canadian businesses to take up our corporate challenge to give one vaccine forward for each employee, and encourage employees to join the movement too.

KEY PLAYERS

COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by CEPI, Gavi and WHO – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries. The Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) was created to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the poorest 92 low- and middle-income countries, as identified by COVAX, throughout 2021.

UNICEF is tasked with the global distribution and administration of the COVID19 vaccines procured by COVAX AMC. UNICEF’s global presence and expertise make UNICEF the only organization capable of delivering the vaccines equitably and on a global scale. Love My Neighbour funds will be used by UNICEF to procure and deliver up to 100 million additional vaccine doses above and beyond those supplied by COVAX.

Love My Neighbour is a Canadian national movement for global vaccine equity inspired by Millennium Kids and diverse faith communities across the nation to increase the number of COVID-19 vaccines distributed quickly and equitably in in low- and middle-income countries around the world. Love My Neighbour’s fundraising and advocacy gives our whole global family access to life-saving prevention measures.

MORE INFORMATION

Visit www.LoveMyNeighbourProject.org to learn more and join the movement for global vaccine equity.
Love My Neighbour Partners with UNICEF to Invite Every Canadian to Gift A Vaccine Forward

92 countries must settle for 20% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021

TORONTO, ON, May 5, 2021 – Love My Neighbour, a national movement for global vaccine equity, announced today in partnership with UNICEF Canada the launch of a project aimed at gifting forward 38-million COVID-19 vaccines to hardest-to-reach vulnerable neighbours living in 92 low- and middle-income countries – that’s one for each grateful Canadian. Inspired by Millennium Kids and Canadian faith communities, the Love My Neighbour project hopes to increase the equitable distribution of vaccines throughout the developing world to help end the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world surpasses one billion administered vaccine doses with only 20-million delivered to African countries, UNICEF has called on high-income countries to consider donating at least 5% of their doses without delay.

One $25 donation funds everything needed for UNICEF to procure and deliver a two-dose vaccine – from the manufacturer to the arms of people in some of the world’s hardest-to-reach places. This includes the per-person cost to transport the vaccines, protect the cold chain, train health workers and safely dispose of waste. The project seeks to fund doses over and above the two billion doses expected from COVAX—the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID19 vaccines— in 2021.

“We hope every Canadian will agree that we can all play a role in ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines are affordable and accessible to all countries. We must be better neighbours,” said Sara Hildebrand, Executive Director of Millennium Kids and Project Coordinator of the Love My Neighbour project. “We want to cross the COVID-19 immunity line side-by-side and write this pandemic ending together.”

“Love My Neighbour has built an amazing multi-faith coalition who share a passion and commitment to vaccine equity, and to doing everything they can to bring the world to the other side of COVID-19,” said David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. “UNICEF is so pleased to partner with Love My Neighbour and shares the hope that through this national movement we can help put an end to a pandemic that creates serious threats to children and families around the globe.”

About Love My Neighbour

Love My Neighbour is the national movement for global vaccine equity inspired by Millennium Kids and diverse faith communities to increase the number of COVID-19 vaccines distributed quickly and equitably in low- and middle-income countries, through fundraising and advocacy. Visit lovemyneighbourproject.org to learn more.

About Millennium Kids

MILLENNIUM KIDS creates opportunities for and with Canadian children and youth to help Canada keep its United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals promise to reduce global poverty, inequalities and care for the planet by 2030. Millennium Kids provides tools and amplifies the voices of children and youth to become lifelong active, engaged citizens for the common good—shaping the Canada they will inherit. Visit millenniumkids.ca to learn more.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is the world’s leading humanitarian organization focused on children. We work in the most challenging areas to provide protection, healthcare and immunizations, education, safe water and sanitation and nutrition. As part of the United Nations, our unrivaled reach spans more than 190 countries and territories, ensuring we are on the ground to help the most disadvantaged children. While part of the UN system, UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations to finance our life-saving work. Please visit unicef.ca to learn more.

# # #

Contact:
Melody Lynch
melody@symmetry-pr.com
306.250.7235


Our Team

Project Coordinator

Sara Hildebrand | Founder/Executive Director, Millennium Kids

Executive Advisors

Rabbi Arthur Bielfeld | Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emanu-El, Toronto

Michael Cooke | VP Students (Interim) at St Lawrence College; VP Academic Emeritus at George Brown College, Toronto

Patrick Flanagan | Bandleader; Singer/Songwriter; Social Development Advocate, NB

The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton | Former General Secretary, Canadian Council of Churches

Zul Kassamali | President, National Alliance for the Advancement of Pluralistic Societies; Vice Chair, Canadian Interfaith Conversation; President, Toronto Area Interfaith Council

Commissioner Christine MacMillan | Director, World Evangelical Alliance Global Human Trafficking Network; Chair, Micah Global; Member, United Nations Multi-Faith Council

Communications Team

Tina Kraulis | Strategic Communications & Events

Cynthia Innes | Management Communications Consultant

Emily Williams | Web Design

Alicia Wheatley | Graphic Design

Krystle Moilliet | Graphic Design

Anne Sophie Roy | French Translation

Irene Soquier | French Translation

Melody Lynch | Symmetry PR

Lisa Rusinek | Social Media

Karen Schenk | Iconium Media

Regan Neudorf | Graphic Design

Our Participants

The following faith communities and organizations are participating in LMN in a range of ways--from advocacy efforts, to writing about LMN in digital publications and/or spreading the word to their membership.

Anglican Church of Canada

Canadian Baptist Ministries

Canadian Council of Imams

Canadian Multifaith Federation

Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative

The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada

ERDO (Emergency Relief & Development Overseas)

Faith of Life Network

G20 Interfaith Forum

H4Community

Hamilton Interfaith Peace Group

Human Concern International

International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF)

Intriciti

Islamic Relief Canada

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives | KAIROS: Initiatives oecuméniques Canadiennes pour la justice

La fondation Anne Sophie Musique | Anne Sophie Music Foundation

Mennonite Central Committee Canada

Mennonite World Conference

Millennium Kids | Enfants du millénaire

National Alliance for the Advancement of Pluralistic Societies

National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee

Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation

Penny Appeal Canada

The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada

Presbyterian Church in Canada

Reform Jewish Community of Canada

The Salvation Army Canada

Sayeda Khadija Mosque

SymmetryPR

Toronto Board of Rabbis

Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations-Canada (UOSSM-Canada)

The United Church of Canada

WayBase

World Evangelical Alliance

Our Corporate Donors

Jason Hildebrand Creative Arts

Progressive Contractors Association of Canada

Signpost Music/Steve Bell

In looking at Love My Neighbour's home page, the reader will notice Millennium Kids listed with UNICEF as a partner. This blogger had never heard of Millennium Kids before seeing this, but following the links leaves no doubt that the organization has nothing to do with the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom, but is a project to brainwash children into supporting the agenda of the godless United Nations. If a movement is endorsed by Canadian environmentalist, former geneticist, and professing atheist David Suzuki, it's highly unlikely to be compatible with Christianity.

Millennium Kids

Proudly endorsed by David Suzuki

"Today's children and all future generations will bear the brunt of the consequences of our ecologically destructive actions going on today. Millennium Kids are taking action to press our leaders to think about the kind of legacy we are bequeathing to coming generations. Thank you for your efforts to wake up those who are deciding on your futures." - David Suzuki

About Millennium Kids

Millennium Kids are urging everyone to join them in bold strategic action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Backstory

I first learned about the precursor to the SDGs, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs 2000-2015) in November 2009. I remember my surprise that I had missed nine years of these historic and global anti-poverty goals (though I birthed our four kids since the adoption of the goals in September 2000). I was convinced that if Canadians knew Canada made this incredible promise in 2000 to “spare no effort” to fulfill the MDGs, in collaboration with 188 other nations, we would find a way to keep our promise. I also knew from my own children that school social justice clubs were spreading across our nation as social justice-mindedness increased in our youngest generation.

Justice and advocacy initiatives

Here are some of the creative ways Millennium Kids have increased awareness and advocated for the MDGs / SDGs across Canada:

Broadcast Millennium Kids public service announcements on national television networks

Recorded an MK anthem for our Download and Be Counted! campaign on the iTunes platform

Marked #1000DaysToGo on the MDGs with a student event at the Glenn Gould Studio, CBC Building, Toronto and a twitter campaign in collaboration with organizations in UK and Germany 2013

Delivered Millennium Kids MDG Petition to Parliament 2014 asking the House of Commons to keep Canada’s MDG promise and allocate the promised 0.7% of our Gross National Income to do so

14-yr-old Millennium Kid spoke at the Micah Summit on the MDGs at the UN Headquarters in NYC 2014

Nine MKs were invited to speak to MPs at an Alternative Committee Meeting on Parliament Hill about the urgency of keeping our MDG and 0.7% Official Development Assistance promises in 2015

Hosted a Live Below The Line $1.75 supper at Toronto restaurant The Depaneur to raise awareness of global extreme poverty

Canada-wide #ChalkYourSidewalk “.7%AID” campaign during the international Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia July 2015

Millennium Kids’ Lawn Signs calling 42nd Parliament to take action on poverty and climate

Encouraged children and youth to make handmade Welcome Cards for Syrian newcomer youth coming to Canada 2015-16 (40 MKs from 14 schools delivered 1600+ cards to Minister McCallum at Parliament Dec 9, 2015)

Millennium Kids participated in the United Nations Economic and Social Council Youth Forum 2015 & 2016

Vision & Mission

Vision

Millennium Kids are urging everyone to join them in bold strategic action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (also known as the Global Goals).

Mission

Engaging the next generation to pursue the SDGs with passion.

Empowering youth to be SDG global partners.

Celebrating together our SDG successes.

Objectives

Increase awareness of the SDGs across generations

Catalyze innovative youth participation in fulfilling the SDGs

Mobilize tremendous public support for the SDGs

Celebrate citizen, organizational and government SDG efforts and accomplishments

Values

Hope, celebration, cooperation, generosity, courage, accountability, tenacity, integrity, diversity, equality, acceptance, kindness, and creativity.

Meet Our Director

Sara Hildebrand is the founder and director of Millennium Kids, a youth movement creating opportunities for youth to propel Canada forward to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. She is passionate about encouraging youth to use their voice for justice and the common good in the public sphere. Sara received her JD from the University of Toronto Law School and was called to the Ontario bar in 2000.

She was the national coordinator for the Interfaith Millennium Development Goals Events initiative leading up to the 2010 G8 Summit. This initiative encouraged diverse faith communities to gather together with their Members of Parliament in ridings across Canada to express the urgency of meeting the MDGs by 2015. Sara has also worked as Crown Counsel in the Criminal Law Policy Branch for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. Sara was recently honoured as one of 100 Fantastic Canadian Christian Women Leaders for 2014. Sara lives in Toronto with her husband and four children.

The Sustainable Development Goals

The sustainable development goals as outlined on the United Nations website.

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*

14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the

Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations SDG website.
In February 2022, a convoy of Canadian truckers travelled across the country to Ottawa to protest "vaccine" mandates. The federal regime of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded by invoking the Emergencies Act, basically declaring war on the Canadian people for daring to exercise their God-given and constitutionally-protected rights and freedoms. The move was rescinded a few days later, but the stain remains, and it's increasingly obvious to the country and the rest of the world that Mr. Trudeau's regime is a dictatorship. Despite this, the following letters from Love My Neighbour to the Prime Minister remain on the organization's website as of this posting; they haven't aged well. The perceptive reader will notice that Loving My Neighbour's idea of loving their neighbours involves funding their project with money forcibly taken from their neighbours (i.e., taxpayers); and what's loving about that? I'm not going to mention that the Trudeau regime's idea of supporting global health systems is to support abortion throughout the world.

Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

May 7,2021

SENT VIA EMAIL

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Office of the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Love My Neighbour (LMN) is a Canadian grassroots project founded by Millennium Kids and diverse faith communities to increase the number of COVID-19 vaccines distributed quickly and equitably in lower income countries. LMN has brought together Canadians of diverse faiths from across the country, united in our desire to see all people regardless of nationality, enjoy equitable access to life-saving COVID-19 vaccines. We encourage the Canadian government to join us in care for our neighbours through working for increased access to vaccines globally.

We recognize the efforts of the government to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for priority populations in Canada, as well as international financial support for COVAX. We also believe that Canada can play a greater leadership role to ensure vaccine equity, especially when it comes to prioritizing vaccine access for essential workers and the most vulnerable,around the world and here in Canada.

Canada has currently purchased enough vaccines to vaccinate Canada’s population many times over. Vaccine inequality will only prolong the global pandemic.

We urge the creation and rapid implementation of a re-distribution and donation plan of Canada’s purchased and committed vaccine doses, including doses purchased from COVAX,to COVAX.Following the example of countries like Norway, we urge an immediate minimum 5% donation of Canada’s vaccines to COVAX. The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic must betimely and equitable if it is to be successful.

We also encourage Canadian support for the temporary Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver, presented to the World Trade Organization. This waiver will ensure that trade regulations and licensing do not impede the timely manufacture, distribution, and affordability of vaccines. Canada has maintained that it has not rejected this proposal, and it is studying the impacts of intellectual property regulations on vaccine manufacturing. While we affirm the importance of careful deliberation, we also urge a rapid response. Without the TRIPS waiver, many low-and middle-income countries may not have access to anywhere near sufficient vaccines before 2023, to say nothing of testing or medications for supportive care.

We also encourage Canada to continue to support global health systems strengthening through an increased Official Development Assistance budget, with funding specially designated for community-based health organizations, including those run by women.

Canada can lead the way in ensuring fair access, distribution and administration of the vaccine around the world. We would like to request a meetingwith you or your designate to discuss how we can work together towards achieving the goals outlined in this letter, including the development of a matching fund for any donations made towards the purchase of global vaccines, global vaccine delivery and health support systems.

Signed:

Anglican Church of Canada

Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples

Canadian Baptist Ministries

Canadian Council of Imams

Canadian Multi-faith Federation

Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative

Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada

Congrégation de Notre-Dame

Human Concern International

International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF)

Intriciti

Islamic Relief Canada

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

La fondation Anne Sophie Musique

Mennonite Central Committee

Millennium Kids

National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee

Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation

The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada/ Emergency Relief and Development Overseas

The Presbyterian Church in Canada Primates Fund for World Relief and Development Reform

Jewish Community of Canada

Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations-Canada

The United Church of Canada

Cc:

Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Hon. Karina Gould, Minister of International Cooperation

Hon. Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade

Hon. Patty Hadju, Minister of Health

Hon. Hon. Marco E. L. Mendicino, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Hon. Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Hon. Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Official Opposition

Mr. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democratic Party

M. Yves-François Blanchet, Chef du Bloc Québécois

Ms. Annamie Paul, Leader, Green Party of Canada

Michael Chong, Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs Conservative Party of Canada

Heather McPherson, New Democratic Party Critic for International Development

Jack Harris, Critic for Foreign Affairs New Democratic Party

Stephane Bergeron, Critic for Foreign Affairs Bloc Quebecois

Hon. Raquel Dancho, Official Opposition Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Conservative Party of Canada

Christine Normandin, Bloc Critic for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship

Jenny Kwan, NPD Critic for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship

Tracy Gray, Official Opposition Critic, Export Promotion and Trade, Conservative Party of Canada

Garnett Genuis, Official Opposition Critic, International Development and Human Rights, Conservative Party of Canada

Stéphane Bergeron, Bloc Critic for Foreign Affairs

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay, Bloc Critic for International Trade

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, Bloc Critic for Francophonie and International Cooperation

Daniel Blaikie, NDP Critic for Export Promotion and International Trade
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank You Letter to the PM

December 21, 2021

SENT VIA EMAIL

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Office of the Prime Minister

Hon. Minister Karina Gould

Hon. Minister Harjit Sajjan

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Gould and Minister Sajjan,

Thank you for the creation and support of the generous matching grant for global vaccine access through UNICEF Canada. We are grateful for the chance to demonstrate the compassion and concern Canadians of faith share for our global neighboursand the desire to ensure everyone is able to access life-saving vaccines. Across the country, Canadians held fundraisers, wrote songs, took part in bake sales, decorated pumpkins and sidewalks, buzz cut their hair, swam 7 km across LacSt-Pierre, requested vaccine donations in lieu of wedding and birthday gifts, and collaborated with their Scouts’ group, Girl Guides’ Unit, school, youth group, neighbourhood or faith community, in support of global vaccination efforts. Together with UNICEF Canada, we raised over $9.6 million to help fully vaccinate nearly 4 million people in low-income countries against COVID-19!

We recently learned that our unique partnership between 35 diverse faith organizations, Millennium Kids and UNICEF Canada has garnered the Association of Fundraising Professional’s 2021 Outstanding Foundation or Philanthropic Group Award. Thank you for being part of this award-winning collaborative effort! As we celebrate, we also remember the billions of people who still do not have access to vaccines. With the good news of vaccine approvals for Canadian children, we recognize the growing gap in vaccine access and supply between Canada and our global south neighbours, including kids around the world. And, with Canada’s privileged position comes an increased responsibility to ensure that everyone-adults, youth and children all over the world, have access to their right to a healthy and safe life. The new variant, Omicron, also reveals the need to close the global vaccine gap to keep everyone safe, in Canada and globally.

We would welcome the chance to meet and discuss how we, as faith organizations, can continue to work with the Canadian government to end the pandemic everywhere through a globalplan for equitable global vaccine access. Based on supplies, we could have comprehensive vaccine coverage of the world in 2022, but to do so we need a clear and financed plan that prioritizes the most vulnerable around the world. Canada is uniquely positioned to play a leading role, in multilateral spaces in which we sit, in the creation and implementation of a plan that includes support of the WTO TRIPs waiver on patents, vaccine dose sharing, and global health systems support.

As we have demonstrated through Love My Neighbour, Canadians of faith are eager to support you in your efforts. We look forward to meeting together to discuss how we can continue to work to end the pandemic everywhere, for everyone,in 2022.

Signed

Anglican Church of Canada

Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples

Canadian Baptists Ministries

Canadian Council of Imams

Canadian Multi-faith Federation

Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative

Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada

International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF)

Intriciti

Islamic Relief Canada

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

La foundation Anne Sophie Musique

Mennonite Central Committee

Mennonite World Conference

Millennium Kids

National Association for the Advancement of Pluralistic Societies

National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee

Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation

Primates World Relief and Development Fund

Reform Jewish Community of Canada

Salvation Army Canada

World Evangelical Alliance

cc: David Morley, President, UNICEF Canada
If the reader requires more proof of the unholy fellowships among professing Christians, apostate Christian bodies, non-Christian religions, and government, and that participation in Love My Neighbour by professing Christians is an act of disobedience and evidence of apostasy, the project's Interfaith Resources link provides it. Look carefully at the wide variety of religions involved; the reader may recognize, and may even be shocked, at the names on the list.

Interfaith Resources

Hope, Gratitude and Solidarity

A Message to Canadians from Religious Leaders in Canada in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

In spite of present sufferings, which can seem overwhelming at times, the flames of hope cannot be extinguished.

Let us witness hope to each other and so become beacons of light during these uncertain times.

Canadians are experiencing the devastating impact of COVID-19 in what has become a rapidly evolving crisis. Understandably, this crisis has brought about feelings of anxiety, apprehension and fear. Critical elements of our daily lives are being thrown into uncertainty: health, employment, financial security, recreational activities, as well as our ability to gatheras worshiping communities. In view of these difficulties, we as religious leaders wish to bring forward a message of hope, gratitude and solidarity to all people who call Canada home.

A Message of Hope

We draw hope from a variety of sources: from our religious beliefs, the love of our families, the relationships with friends and the work we do. Each of these, and others as well, provides rays of hope to our daily lives. Likewise, hope provides courage to face the burdens we bear and the ability to look onwards toward the dawning of a new day. In spite of present sufferings, which can seem overwhelming at times, the flames of hope cannot be extinguished. Love, which gives life its fullest meaning, continues to seek out the common good in spite of individual difficulties. Acts of kindness can bring us closer in spirit, despite the requirements of physical distancing. Let us witness hope to each other and so become beacons of light during these uncertain times.

Canada has gone through several difficult and painful experiences in its history. When current and former generations have responded to these challenges, many were empowered by unwavering hope as well as human and spiritual resilience. For religious believers, this hope takes on a special and unique dimension. It assures us of the caring embrace of the Creator, a sacred relationship sustained by prayer, and which flows into our human relationships whereby we care for one another and bear each other’s burden. Yet, hope brings for everyone a promise of renewal, even in the midst of human suffering. Hope assures us that this affliction too shall pass.

We draw hope from a variety of sources: from our religious beliefs, the love of our families, the relationships with friends and the work we do. Each of these, and others as well, provides rays of hope to our daily lives.

A Message of Gratitude

During this time of crisis, we as religious leaders wish to offer words of appreciation and gratitude. Health care professionals are providing unfailing and dedicated service under stressful and difficult circumstances. They provide for us a powerful witness of care, expertise and service in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is also the increased risk of exposure to infection along with other hardships being experienced by so many others. For instance, while the rest of society rightly heeds the precautions of physical distancing, many remain at work in grocery stores, pharmacies and factories. Students, the middle-aged, and those close to retirement are fulfilling a variety of essential front-line jobs in the supply chain, ensuring that stores remain open, shelves remain stocked, and goods are delivered so that others can have food, medicines and other essentials for their families and communities. We express a deep appreciation and gratitude for these workers.

Governments across Canada as well as religious leaders are bearing particularly heavy burdens in steering our communities through this calamity. It is comforting to see that in such demanding times, political differences are being set aside to serve the common good. This too is a witness of hope for Canadians. For all these acts of generosity and dedication, let us add our expressions of gratitude for the important work of the diverse leaders of our country.

A Message of Solidarity

We urge all people in Canada to listen and follow attentively the directions of our public health officials and government leaders. We, as religious leaders, pledge to lead by example. We all must act together in confronting this virus. While everyone is vulnerable during this crisis, let us not forget those in our society who, prior to COVID-19, were already vulnerable to health and social ailments. As religious leaders, we raise our collective voices to highlight the necessity for greater attention to the needs of the homeless, the incarcerated, the elderly and those already suffering from social isolation. We remember too those people, especially women and children who face abuse and violence, who are not safe at home and may suffer additional abuse and violence as stress increases. We must never overlook or exclude these groups from our planning, preparedness and response to this pandemic. We are particularly mindful of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, including isolated Northern communities, who were already facing pre-existing challenges and for whom the COVID19 outbreak could prove singularly devastating. Likewise, we need to remember the needs and vulnerabilities of the many refugees and migrant workers who have come to Canada seeking safety and security.

Charitable organizations in Canada will face greater challenges during this time of crisis and will need greater assistance from governments so as to continue their vital work. This is a time for human solidarity. We all need to pull together. It is essential to carry out the practical requirements to limit the spread of this virus. It is also important to maintain a posture of attentive caring towards our neighbour. This includes care and solidarity for the global community who face this crisis with far fewer resources than those accessible to Canada. This is a time for us to draw closer to God.

Religion and spirituality can indeed contribute to building people up, to providing a sense of meaning, inner strength, new horizons and openness of hearts. As religious leaders, we wish to emphasize, especially in times like these, the power and importance of prayer. We earnestly pray for healing, for the continued efforts to relieve human suffering, and for perseverance throughout these challenging times. As history records these moments for our country’s future, let us pray that, in the face of COVID-19, we respond with an abundance of hope, gratitude and solidarity, trusting in the loving and ever merciful God, the source of all hope.

Rev. Kenesha Blake-Newell
Itinerant Elder (Grant AME)
African Methodist Episcopal Church

Farhan Iqbal
Missionary
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada

Rev. Shane B. Janzen
Archbishop
The Anglican Catholic Church of Canada

The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls
Archbishop and Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

Rev. Fr. John Benjamin Vic Paradero, OMHS
Rev. Fr. Jose Mark John Jamili, OMHS
Apostolic Catholic Church of Canada

Rev. Wesley E. Mills
President
Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada, Inc.

His Grace Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan
Primate
Armenian Holy Apostolic Church Diocese of Canada

Mobeen Khaja, O Ont.
President
Association of Progressive Muslims of Canada

Kevin Schular
Executive Director
Baptist General Conference of Canada

Charles Mashinter
Executive Director
Be In Christ Church – Canada

Lee Nicholas-Pattillo
President
Canadian Association for Baptist Freedoms

MGen Guy J.J. Chapdelaine, OMM, CD, QHC
Chaplain General
Canadian Armed Forces

Rev. Dr. Terry G. Smith
Executive Director
Canadian Baptist Ministries

Dr. Peter Reid
Executive Minister
Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada

Rev. Tim McCoy
Executive Minister
Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec

Rev. Rob Ogilvie
Executive Minister
Canadian Baptists of Western Canada

Dr. Adriana Bara
Executive Director
Canadian Centre for Ecumenism

+Richard Gagnon
Archbishop of Winnipeg, President
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Elton Da Silva
National Director
Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches

Rev. Stephen Kendall, President
Pastor Peter Noteboom, General Secretary
The Canadian Council of Churches

Imam Mohamed Refaat Abo Onar
President
Canadian Council of Imams

Nina Karachi-Khaled
President of the National Board
Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Rev. David McGrew
National Director
Canadian Fellowship of Churches and Ministers

Pandit Roopnauth Sharma
President
Canadian Multifaith Federation

Zul Kassamali, Co-chair
Aileen Van Ginkel, Co-chair
Canadian Interfaith Conversation

Rabbi Reuven Poupko
Rabbi Baruch Friedman-Kohl
Rabbi Debra Landsberg
Rabbi Jonathan Infeld
Co-chairs
Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, an affiliate of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

Beverly Shepard
Presiding Clerk
Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Rev. Dr. David Hearn
President
The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada

Rev. Ann Stainton
Moderator
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada

The Rev Dr. Darren Roorda
Canadian Ministries Director
Christian Reformed Church in North America

Elder Michel J. Carter
Elder John N. Craig
Elder James E. Evanson
Elder Michael R. Murray
Area Seventies
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Rev. Dr. Ian Fitzpatrick
National Director
Church of the Nazarene Canada

Kerry Richards
President, Canada East
Community of Christ

Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, CM, Ph.D
Rabbi Emeritus and spiritual leader
Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa

Rev. Dr. David Schrader
National Pastor
Congregational Christian Churches in Canada

Netta Phillet
Coordinator
Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education & Action

H.G. Anba Mina
Bishop Mississauga, Vancouver and Western Canada
H.G. Anba Makar
Bishop of Goshen, Egypt;
Papal Vicar in the Archdiocese of Toronto
H.G Abba Boulos
Bishop of Ottawa, Montreal, and Eastern Canada
The Coptic Orthodox Church in Canada

L.K. (Rev. Fr.) Messale Engeda
Head priest and Administrator
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada

Dr. David P. Lavigne
Bishop
The Evangelical Christian Church in Canada

Bruce J. Clemenger
President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Dr. William Taylor
Executive Director
Evangelical Free Church of Canada

The Rev. Susan C. Johnson
National Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Tim Dyck
Executive Director
Evangelical Mennonite Conference

Rev. Steven F. Jones
National President
The Fellowship of Evangelical
Baptist Churches in Canada

Steve Falkiner
President
Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada

Bill Hall
President
Grace Communion International Canada

Philip Bryant
Executive Director
Grace Fellowship Canada

His Eminence Archbishop Sotirios
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada

Pandit Roopnauth Sharma
President
Hindu Federation of Canada

Rev. Paul McPhail
General Secretary
Independent Assemblies of God International Canada

Dr. Ronald A. Kuipers
President
Institute for Christian Studies

Halil Yurtsever
Intercultural Dialogue Institute

Brian A. Hawes
President
Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy in the Correctional Service of Canada

Imam Ilyas Sidyot
Grand Mosque of Saskatoon
Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) Inc.

Jennifer Henry
Executive Director
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Naj Mankal
President
Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario

Imam Zubair Sidyot
Lethbridge Muslim Association (Alberta)

Belle Jarniewski
President
Manitoba Multifaith Council

Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa
Bishop, Diocese of North America And Europe
Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Doug Klassen
Executive Minister
Mennonite Church Canada

Zul Kassamali
President
National Alliance for the Advancement of Pluralistic Society

Muneeb Nasir
Co-Chair
National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee

His Eminence, Archbishop Irénée
Archbishop of Ottawa and Canada and the Archdiocese of Canada
Orthodox Church in America

Rev. Dr. David R. Wells
General Superintendent
The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada

Rev. Terry W. Snow General Superintendent Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland & Labrador The Rev. Amanda Currie
Moderator
The Presbyterian Church in Canada

Imam Irshad Unia
Prince Albert Muslim Association (Saskatchewan)

The Rev. Marijke Strong
Executive Secretary
Regional Synod of Canada
Reformed Church in America

Pascale Frémond
President
Religions for Peace Canada

Commissioner Floyd J. Tidd
Territorial Commander
The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory

The Most Rev. Zenji Nio
Abbot, Samurai Buddhist Temple & Museum
Tokyo, Japan & Bay Street Corridor, Toronto

Rabbi David Seed
President
Toronto Board of Rabbis

The Most Reverend Lawrence Huculak, O.S.B.M.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg for Ukrainian Catholics in Canada

His Eminence, The Most Rev. Metropolitan Yurij (Kalistchuk)
Archbishop of Winnipeg and the Central Eparchy
Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Rev. David Rowley
General Secretary
The Union of French Baptist Churches in Canada

Rev. Brian K. Magnus
Bishop
The United Brethren Church in Canada

The Right Rev. Richard Bott, Moderator
Nora Sanders, General Secretary
The United Church of Canada

David Ruis
National Director
Vineyard Canada

Pastor Mike Stone
Executive Director
Vision Ministries Canada

Rev. Dr. Eric R. Hallett
District Superintendent, Central Canada District
The Wesleyan Church

Venerable Dr. Bhante Saranapala
West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre

Jaskaran Singh Sandhu
Executive Director
World Sikh Organization of Canada
See also my posts:
American Christians--Is your pastor a hireling of the United States government? (May 3, 2010)

Trudeaupia's Canada's public health officer wants "faith leaders" to promote Covid-19 vaccine acceptance (January 27, 2021)