I have visited Vancouver’s Jewish Community Centre countless times over the last few years, reading poetry in their art gallery at various events. It’s always a special time for me, being hosted in a space that brings together a faith group that is different from my own. At a recent poetry reading, I stumbled upon an Israeli folk dancing class and it totally moved me. The music was beautiful and so were the movements. I was pinned to my place, remembering my friend’s bat mitzvah from years ago, and considering new ideas that came to me in that spot.
I wrote about the experience and my musings in my monthly column for Peace Arch News. As a writer, it’s my job to show my readers a different perspective. And because I am trying to build bridges by doing such, I like to show how we can transcend our own experiences and meet others’ in theirs. Music is an easy bridge. It exists in every culture. It creates our memories and most of us even have a soundtrack that accompanies the different eras of our lives.
Shortly after this piece was published, my editor emailed me and said a woman named Nona Malki asked to be in touch with me. I emailed her back and it turns out she is the President of the Vancouver Israeli Dance Society. She was gracious and so appreciative of me sharing my experience that she even offered me complimentary dance lessons! I love how writing always reaches the intended audience whether we purposely arrange for that to happen or not. There’s definitely something magical about music and words; both can be used to bring people together.
You can read my full piece in Peace Arch News – I’d love to know if you have had an experience where music has crossed over from another culture into your life.
This past August, a group of white nationalists and Nazis took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia to spew their messages of hate. Yelling “Jews will not replace us!” and other profanities, they came forward with torches, swastikas…everything but the hoods their predecessors wore. The Charlottesville rally also drew Canadians down south to participate in this horrific weekend.
It’s a scary time in the United States right now and all eyes are on them: a president who doesn’t hide his bigotry, a lack of gun laws to keep its citizens safe, police brutality, a complete disregard for black lives and disdain for brown-skinned people.
As a columnist, it’s important that I know what is happening in the world and then share my Canadian perspective with my readers. I look at what is happening in the United States and I ask myself and my readers, “What does this mean for us in Canada? How does this relate to Canadian society? What can we learn from this situation? What must we be aware of in our own backyard?”
Peace Arch News readers are a mixed group of people and I love that. There are those whose families have been in Canada for generations and who, rightly, feel they belong here. And there are those who are brand new or first generation Canadians and also, rightly, feel they belong here. I love writing to this mixed community; my goal is to build a bridge between groups who feel different from each other and show them that, where it matters, we really are more similar than not.
Talking about race relations and nationalism can sometimes be nerve-wracking. There is the risk of offending people and making people angry. But there is also the hope of showing people a new way of looking at things and that’s what keeps me speaking up.
In my response to the Charlottesville rally, I tried to lay it all on the line clearly. We have a problem with prejudice in our own backyard.