May is Jewish Heritage Month – an important time to celebrate the rich and vibrant history, culture and diversity of Judaism and the Jewish community. Formally established by Parliament in 2018, Jewish Heritage Month also recognizes the significant societal contributions made by Jewish community members across Canada – including many critical advancements in healthcare and health equity.
The Jewish community has a longstanding history of advocacy for health equity and access to culturally safe care, partially born out of the response to the discrimination experienced by Jewish immigrants both as patients and providers. Here at Women’s, we are proud to have an incredible community of Jewish staff, physicians and learners who have continued to build on this legacy of breaking down barriers to inclusive care – like Dr. Minnie Cohen, who began her career at Women’s in 1919 and overcame adversity to become the first female Jewish doctor to practice in Toronto.
In the coming weeks, we look forward to celebrating the many achievements of the Jewish community as we mark Jewish Heritage Month together for the first time. We will have a host of activities designed to honour, celebrate and learn about Jewish heritage.
Carrying Testimony: A presentation from WCH’s Dr. Karen Devon about her father’s experience as a Holocaust Survivor
Over the past 20 years, bearing witness to the Holocaust through Survivor testimony has played an integral role in Holocaust education for students and adults alike. Through Carrying Testimony, descendants of Holocaust Survivors share their families’ personal histories with students and workplaces using their own voices and first-hand video testimony from the Survivor.
For Jewish Heritage Month, WCH’s Dr. Karen Devon, Surgeon, shared the story of her father, Morris Devon, and his experience as a Holocaust survivor. If you weren’t able to attend the presentation, you can watch it here:
Celebrating Shavuot – Atrium Booth
WCH’s Jewish Heritage Month celebration ended with a Shavuot celebration in the Peter Gilgan Atrium! #TeamWCH members of the Jewish community helped hand out kosher blintzes to staff and patients while musicians from the Toronto Klezmer Society played traditional Klezmer music.
The Jewish community in the Diaspora is full of rich diversity, customs, traditions and cultures from across the world, and is built upon communities and families of differing denominations and observances. From culturally Jewish people and Orthodox Jews to Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, being Jewish looks different depending who you ask. Read more to learn about some of the many Jewish customs observed worldwide and some of the major denominations of Judaism in Canada.
One of the mitzvahs – good deeds – that Jewish people around the world hold close to their heart is called Tzedakah, a Hebrew word meaning “justice” or “righteousness”. Tzedakah is a responsibility of all Jews to help those in need, through acts of service, tangible goods or financial donations. This Jewish Heritage Month, you can also join the Jewish community in the mitzvah of Tzedakah and help people in vulnerable populations, including Jewish people and families.
Jewish Heritage Month Spotlights
For Jewish Heritage Month, we got to know some of #TeamWCH’s Jewish community members who talked about their Jewish identity and how it has shaped their lives.
The connection Dr. Batya Grundland, Family Physician and Clinician Teacher, Department of Family Medicine, has to Jewish values are a big part of what informs her work in healthcare and how she interacts with patients. Read more about Dr. Grundland’s connection to her Jewish heritage and some her favourite things about Jewish culture.
Sam Pender, Communications Coordinator, Strategic Communications, has a strong connection to her Jewishness that informs much of her everyday life and helps expand the EDI lens in her work. Read more about what she loves about the Jewish culture and community.