The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
(In Photo: Helen Poizner, left and Sandy Levy, far right, pictured with Kim Wheatley, centre, Indigenous Cultural Consultant.)
I thought there would be interest in this story about Eabametoong, a remote Indigenous community, written by my brother Ken Caplan who has been the force behind this project.
The National Social Action Committee (NSAC) of the CCRJ was the incubator for this undertaking and we have been involved with the endeavor since its inception. There is quite a back-story to how it all came about, beginning with the Resolution on First Nations brought to the URJ Biennial in 2013 by my colleague Fran Isaacs, Temple Har Zion member and myself.
Since that time, we have worked diligently, to educate our members by providing information sessions on First Nations' history and current issues and actively promoting community wide initiatives.
Two years ago, Jennifer Dockstator, a member of Shaarei Beth El, in Oakville heard Rabbi Stephen Wise speak of our focus on First Nations. Jennifer contacted our CCRJ office to say she was involved in a project pursuing economic development for an Indigenous, fly-in northern community. She wondered whether some retired Jewish businessmen might consider brainstorming to come up with innovative job creation solutions for the reserve. A chance conversation with my brother brought about a meeting around our CCRJ board table with Ken, several of his colleagues and our team, resulting two years later in the Northern Cultural Showcase Adventure.
In another bit of serendipity, we discovered that a young woman named Sarah Diamond, daughter of Nina Diamond, co-chair of Temple Emanu-El’s Social Action Committee, was teaching elementary school in that same reserve. Ken was able to visit with Sarah and bring care packages from her mom during his several trips north to Eabametoong, (called Fort Hope in English). During these visits Ken and Jennifer offered seminars to the community in preparation of travelers for a Cultural Tourism experience. Temple Emanu-El’s SAC was the first to hear all the news about this great northern adventure by Sarah, Jennifer and Ken!
Sarah has her own informative story to tell in the radio documentary below: The Fort Hope education of Sarah Diamond
Another interesting development that occurred as a result of this initiative was the first ever twinning of a northern fly-in community and a southern Ontario Municipality. Again, a chance conversation between Ken and the CEO of Markham, Ontario, a small city north-east of Toronto resulted in the signing of a Cultural Collaboration Agreement, which Sandy Levy, Coordinator CCRJ Programming & Administration and I were privileged to attend at Markham City Hall.
In May 2017, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, and two other Councilors visited this remote northern Ontario community of Eabametoong First Nation. This was their first visit to the community since signing a Cultural Collaboration Agreement in January. The purpose of their visit was to formally acknowledge their new relationship in Eabametoong First Nation territory and meet with community members to explore how the relationship could be developed in a mutually beneficial and respectful way.
NSAC/CCRJ has watched with interest as this project developed from the initial brainstorming in 2015 to the recent weekend when band members welcomed the first cultural tourism visitors! We are pleased to hear there are plans for another showcase to take place later this summer and look forward to our continued involvement in this exciting undertaking. We hope to promote the concept of the remarkable Markham-Eabametoong twinning project to congregations across the country as it has the potential for replication by any Canadian municipality wishing to develop a relationship with an Indigenous community.
I know you will enjoy reading Ken’s whole report, which contains some great photos of the many people involved with this venture.