Mini-festival celebrates inclusivity

Alexander Varty

Submitted Article

Wednesday, January 29 2020

The vandalizing in late 2019 of Gabriola’s Camp Miriam, a summer camp for Jewish teens and pre-teens, came as no surprise to fabric artist Sima Elizabeth Shefrin. And neither did our community’s open-hearted response to the desecration.

“I think it’s sign of the times,” says the fabric artist, citing the rise of right-wing nationalist movements worldwide. “But the part that was surprising was that this was on Gabriola, because we rightfully pride ourselves on being a  community where we look after each other. When there’s a crisis somewhere else, people who normally don’t get along drop all that and work together, so it’s easy to think that bad things aren’t ever going to happen here. But of course they do, just like everywhere else.”

Gabriola has already rallied to Camp Miriam’s support with a well-attended candlelit vigil. And what was originally intended as a supportive display of Jewish-themed art at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre has blossomed into You’ve Got a Friend, a mini-festival designed to celebrate inclusivity.

Initially suggested by textile artist Heather Cameron, who is not Jewish but who has occasionally incorporated Jewish themes into her work, the gallery show now encompasses include a klezmer concert—organized by Shefrin’s partner, Bob Bossin—and a poetry [poetry-and-memoir] reading, all happening on the weekend of February 7 to 9. The concert takes place at the Roxy on February 8, with the poetry reading closing the Arts and Heritage Centre art show the following afternoon. For more information, visit

“Every day there are new surprises,” Shefrin says. “Somebody’s donated a little bit of money, or somebody’s offered to do something, and Bob’s having a great time putting together the band.”

It’s an opportunity, she adds, “for the non-Jewish people on the island to learn something about Jewish culture, and for the Jews on the island to know that people are with us.”

You’ve Got a Friend now even extends beyond consciousness-raising. The events will be documented for Camp Miriam’s educational programs and for the Gabriola Museum, while any money raised will be donated to the island’s refugee-support organization, SAGA.

“So many Jews over the years have been refugees,” Shefrin notes. “So giving to SAGA, which is sponsoring refugee families here, seems like a very appropriate use of any profits that we end up with.”