Thanking Canada, seventy years later

On November 29, 1947, Canada was one of 33 countries that voted yes to United Nations Resolution 181, also known as the Partition Plan, which led to the establishment of the modern state of Israel. All around the world, people listened to this historic vote via live radio broadcast. What followed, according to the black and white video footage I have watched, was jubilation and dancing in the streets.

While I would have loved to have been around for that momentous occasion, I was born in Toronto much later, in 1974. The state of Israel has always existed for me as a safe haven and Jewish homeland. In many ways, Yom Haatzmaut is like a Yom Tov, a moment to pause and thank God and chant Hallel.  But in addition to thanking God for finally enabling the Zionist dream to come true in 1948, there were humans who enabled this miracle. And this week, some of those humans were thanked.

As a parent to a toddler, much of my day is spent reminding my daughter to say thank you. Even as adults, we often forget to say those two words. Inasmuch, saying thank you is the basis of who we are as Jews. We begin every morning by saying “Modeh Ani” and we thank God for enabling us to wake up each day.  

Earlier this week, I was honored to be invited as part of a small delegation to meet with the Canadian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Marc-Andre Blanchard.  As a Canadian Zionist who lives in New York, it would be meaningful to discuss anything with this Ambassador.  But the goal of this meeting was hakarat hatov, to thank him, for Canada’s role in voting yes 70 years ago in Lake Success. Saying thank you to the Ambassador was extremely humbling. Participation in that meeting was not something I ever dreamt I would do.  Sitting in that room adorned with maple leafs and other Canadiana, listening to the Ambassador speak passionately about Israel, I remained in awe that I truly was there.  I never imagined an opportunity whereby both my Canadian patriotism and my ardent Zionism would converge in such a tremendous fashion. Canada is my home and Israel is my homeland. This meeting was a chance to express my gratitude and love towards the two very different countries who molded me into a woman who is committed to social justice and a Jewish national homeland.

Sitting in on that meeting reminded me of our forefather Jacob in this week’s Torah portion Vayishlach. Jacob says: קָטֹ֜נְתִּי מִכֹּ֤ל החֲסָדִים֙ וּמִכָּל־הָ֣אֱמֶ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשִׂ֖יתָ אֶת־עַבְדֶּ֑ךָ׃ I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant.

Sometimes unexpected opportunities come our way, and all we can do is say thank you and “katonti”, I am not worthy.  Jacob reminds us to acknowledge the blessings in our life and not to take anything for granted. I have only gratitude for the men and women who fought with their lives, their savvy and their diplomatic expertise that led to the establishment of the state of Israel. 

About the Author
Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin is the spiritual leader of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in New York City, a member of the Rabbis Without Borders network, and the national Co Chair of Rabbis Against Gun Violence.