Gabriola artist Elizabeth Shefrin’s hand-embroidered piece The Ten Plagues depicts the punishments inflicted upon the ancient Egyptians for the pharaoh’s refusal to free Jewish slaves, as told in the Old Testament Book of Exodus. From Feb. 7 to 9, You’ve Got a Friend: A Festival of Jewish and Gabriolish Art, Words and Music comes to the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre. (Photo courtesy Elizabeth Shefrin)

Jewish-themed art festival comes to Gabriola after anti-Semitic graffiti incident

You’ve Got a Friend: A Festival of Jewish and Gabriolish Art, Words and Music happening Feb. 7-9

When anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered at Camp Miriam on Gabriola Island in late December, it didn’t take long for the local community to rally in support of the Jewish children’s summer camp.

“The island took this very, very seriously and people really wanted to get out there,” said Elizabeth Shefrin, a Gabriola artist and member of the island’s “small” Jewish community. “There were offers to come and clean up the mess and then within a couple of days people had held a candlelight vigil.”

It was during that vigil on Jan. 2 that Shefrin announced that she, along with her husband, folk singer Bob Bossin, and fellow artist Heather Cameron were organizing an event to celebrate Jewish culture and the way that Jews and non-Jews – and by extension any two groups that have differences – can work together.

“You don’t want to focus on the graffiti, you don’t want to focus on the bad incident that’s happened and give undue attention to it, but you want to sort of use it to move on to somewhere more positive and hopeful,” Shefrin said. “And so I got the idea of organizing an art show.”

The event took shape quickly and soon grew from art show to a weekend-long festival of art, music and literature. They named it You’ve Got a Friend after the Carole King song sung at the Jan. 2 candlelight vigil.

“We started out with an art show and then we thought we’d have some music with it … and then we decided to have a reading and so on and it grew and grew and people are just so supportive and keen to participate and keen to be part of it,” Shefrin said.

You’ve Got a Friend: A Festival of Jewish and Gabriolish Art, Words and Music, takes place at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre and Roxy Theatre from Feb. 7 to 9, beginning with an opening reception and traditional Sabbath candle-lighting ceremony on Friday night.

The art will be on display all weekend long, with a concert, Oy!, taking place at the Roxy on Saturday and Sunday night and a poetry and memoir reading, Nu?, happening on Sunday afternoon. Also on Saturday will be an acknowledgment of Tu B’shvat, a Jewish holiday analogous to Arbour Day.

Shefrin calls the event “a sharing of Jewish culture,” and that while not all the artists are Jewish, all the work is “Jewish-themed.” She said the poetry describes “the beauty and the vulnerability of Jewish culture” and Bossin said the concert reflects “the diversity of Jewish culture.”

“It’s an opportunity for people who aren’t Jewish – who I think of as allies – for the allies to see a little bit more than they sometimes are familiar with,” Shefrin said. It’s for the Jews to notice that we have allies and that there’s a partnership there that everyone benefits from.”

WHAT’S ON … You’ve Got a Friend: A Festival of Jewish and Gabriolish Art, Words and Music comes to the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre, 476 South Rd., from Friday, Feb. 7 to Sunday, Feb. 9. Art gallery open on Feb. 7 from 6 to 9 p.m., Feb. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tu B’shvat observance on Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. Nu? poetry and memoir reading on Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. Oy! concert at the Roxy Theatre, 377 Berry Point Rd., on Feb. 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. Admission by $15 suggested donation.

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