Social Justice

At Congregation Shir Libeynu we believe strongly that we have a responsibility for Tikkun Olam, “Repairing the World.” As is commanded in the Torah, Tzedek tzedek tirdof, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” (Deuteronomy 16:20) We believe that all Jews have an imperative to do the work of justice and equity, both locally and globally.

We strive to respond to the needs of our community in many ways. These include partnering with social justice organizations for education and action, a tzedakah (lit. righteousness) or charity component to our B’Mitzvah program and chesed (lit. loving kindness) volunteers who support members of our community during illness and bereavement.

These are some of the organizations that we have supported in the past, or continue to support:

 

Below are some of our recent statements in support of social justice.

Support to No Silence on Race

Statement from Congregation Shir Libeynu in Support of No Silence on Race

June 18, 2021

Congregation Shir Libeynu is Toronto’s first LGBTQ+-inclusive synagogue, established 25 years ago. From the beginning, our goal has been to create services that welcome and represent all diverse communities, and interfaith individuals, couples and families.

We are a progressive, egalitarian congregation, unaffiliated with any particular stream of Judaism. Our mission is to celebrate and experience joyfully all aspects of Jewish life and spirituality within an environment of inclusion, innovation and intellectual challenge.

In keeping with our historical foundation and our mission, Congregation Shir Libeynu stands with all individuals and organizations committed to social justice and to eliminating racism and injustice against Black people, Indigenous peoples and other racialized peoples across Canada and internationally.

When we see injustice, we try to speak out and offer support as allies and progressive Jews. Most recently, for example, we affirmed our congregation’s commitment to social justice
for Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all Indigenous peoples across Canada. We joined with the United Jewish People’s Order and other organizations in demanding full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations regarding the burial grounds of residential school children.

We recognize that racism is systemic within our society and is inherent within our organizations, institutions and within the Jewish community. We understand that eliminating racism within our congregation and within the Jewish community demands an ongoing commitment to anti- racism work. We support No Silence on Race and other progressive organizations in working toward the creation of an anti-racist, inclusive and equitable Jewish community.

As we are a small congregation, run by volunteers, with part-time staff, we have been focussing our efforts on the first two pillars (i.e. allyship and education), as they are most relevant to the size and nature of our organization. Over the past year, we have sought out opportunities to deepen our understanding of racism and anti-racism through presentations (e.g. by No Silence on Race and Tema Smith), a book club focussed on anti-racism, and partnerships with other downtown congregations, such as the Danforth Jewish Circle, to provide our members with additional learning opportunities (e.g. an upcoming panel discussion on why Jewish communities should support defunding the police). The teacher of our B’nei Mitzvah program has also developed a curriculum that imparts to our young members the great diversity of the Jewish community.

In the coming year (fall 2021 – fall 2022), we commit to three specific actions, based on No Silence on Race’s first three pillars:

  • Our spiritual leader and members of the Board of Directors will develop personal plans to work toward becoming stronger allies in the creation of more inclusive and equitable Jewish spaces. We will then offer guidance and support to inspire the members of our congregation to develop similar plans.
  • We will continue to provide, and to partner with other organizations to offer, our members anti-racism/anti-oppression education programming led by Black Jews, Jews of Colour or People of Colour, and will seek out opportunities for more in-depth, specific learning for the congregation’s leaders.
  • We will offer our members education programming on the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the violence and legacies of colonialism, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s findings and Calls to Action.

We look forward to undertaking other actions as we continue to learn and grow.

Thank you to No Silence on Race for your leadership and for challenging Jewish organizations to be more intentional in committing to anti-racism work.

Sincerely,

Cantor Cheryl Wunch,
Spiritual Leader Board of Directors
Congregation Shir Libeynu

Standing with Indigenous Communities

Cantor Wunch and the Board of Directors sent the following email to Chief M. Jason Louie, Lower Kootenay Band, on June 30, 2021 and a similar letter expressing our sadness and solidarity to Chief Cadmus Delorme, Cowessess First Nation, on June 24, 2021:

We are writing to you to express our deep sadness at the discovery of the unmarked graves at the former residential school site. We cannot begin to imagine the pain that the people in your community are feeling.

We are a small, progressive synagogue in downtown Toronto. While we are far away, our hearts are with you. We want to stand with you at this difficult time and affirm our congregation’s commitment to allyship with and social justice for the Ktunaxa Nation and all Indigenous Peoples across Canada.

We will continue to educate ourselves on the terrible residential school legacy, speak out against injustices that continue to be perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples, and join with others in our community to demand full implementation of the TRC recommendations.

We mourn with you for the lives lost. We say in our prayer services the words “Oseh shalom bimromav” – May The One who makes peace in the heavens teach us how to make peace with one another here on earth, and may all those who mourn find comfort. Please know that our thoughts and hearts are with you, and if there are more concrete action steps that we can take that would be helpful to and supportive of you, we are ready to serve as we can.

With deep respect and love,

Cantor Cheryl Wunch, Spiritual Leader
Board of Directors
Congregation Shir Libeynu

Cantor Wunch and the Board of Directors sent the following message to members on June 3, 2021:

In light of the recent discovery of the bodies of 215 children on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, we want to share this powerful statement from the Toronto Board of Rabbis with you (read it here) and affirm our congregation’s commitment to allyship with and social justice for Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all Indigenous Peoples across Canada.

We also join with the United Jewish People’s Order who “urge our community members, and people across Canada, to act in solidarity with residential school survivors. Demand full implementation, before the end of 2021, of the six crucial TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] recommendations regarding the burial grounds of all the disappeared IRS [Indian Residential School] children.” To view their full statement, please go to: https://www.winchevskycentre.org/post/missing-indigenous-children-undocumented-burials.

We are also sharing the following resources for anyone who would like to learn more or get involved:

http://www.trc.ca/about-us/trc-findings.html

https://www.irsss.ca

https://downiewenjack.ca

https://www.facinghistory.org/stolen-lives-indigenous-peoples-canada-and-indian-residential-schools

https://oncanadaproject.ca/settlerstakeaction

We join together in compassion as we mourn for the lives lost. Oseh shalom bimromav – May The One who makes peace in the heavens teach us how to make peace with one another here on earth, and may all those who mourn find comfort.

Standing Up Against Anti-Muslim Hate

Cantor Wunch and the Board of Directors sent the following message to members on June 8, 2021:

In light of the recent violent attack in London, Ontario we are adding our voices to the statement released by the London Jewish Community. (https://www.facebook.com/jewishlondon)

We wish to express our sincere condolences to the family and community of the four people who were murdered in such a senseless and horrific act of premeditated violence and hate. We pray for the full recovery of the young boy who survived and for the healing of the community.

We join with people across the province and country in mourning the losses of Salman Afzaal, Madiah Salman, Yumna Salman and the family’s grandmother. May their memories be a blessing.

We stand with the London Jewish Community in speaking out against anti-Muslim hate. “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” May we join together to continue to stand up against all forms of hatred, bigotry and violence.

We remain persistent in our prayer for peace for all people.

Cantor Cheryl Wunch, Spiritual Leader
Board of Directors
Congregation Shir Libeynu

Virtual Vigil Against Violence Between Jews and Palestinians

Congregation was proud to be a community partner for the Virtual Vigil Against Violence Between Jews and Palestinians on May 20, 2021

“This was a moving and important moment for all of us to be together — with over 600 registrants, and 370 attendees from many countries, cities, and organizations, including Members of Parliament Iqra Kalid and Ya’ara Saks. We gathered in order to mourn together, to be seen together, and to take action together.”

Recording: Here is the link to the recording.

Learn more about the event organizers:

If there is an organization or initiative that you would like us to consider for a future project or partnership, please let us know.

We are always looking for volunteers to help with social justice initiatives. If you feel driven to share some of your time, please reach out to us at slboard@shirlibeynu.ca.