Christian & Amanda

Sandra Ruch was professional and warm and exceeded our expectations. She gently walked us through all the decisions and choices that we had, she helped make our ceremony personable and unique. We would recommend her to anyone. Christian & Amanda September 2019

Tell it to me like a story

Caroline Boye was my best friend. She died on December 14, 2010. Caroline and I spoke every day on the phone for many years. She would say, “tell it to me like a story” and I would then tell her all about my day.  Caroline was my greatest champion. She believed I could do anything. I believe she was pivotal in who I am today. Caroline would be very pleased if she were here today.  

Caroline grew up in Kingston, Ontario.  I never knew her age but I suspect she was 20 years older than me. Her parents were lovely – I met them a few times but I knew them through the eyes of Caroline’s daughter, Wade.  Wade adored her grandparents, Blanche and Lester (Nana & Poppy).  They were solid and “normal”. Caroline must have really surprised them when she left for Mexico after graduation to study and become a flamenco dancer.  She was beautiful. She looked like Elizabeth Taylor.

I met Caroline in the early 90’s.  I had just started selling African clothing and crafts with my Sudanese husband, Hassan. I was selling in outdoor markets and from my home.  Caroline called me one day and she wanted to see what I had. She was opening a consignment store for plus size women and wanted some pieces to accent the store.  She bought a piece of mudcloth from me and had it made into this beautiful piece.

Mud cloth transformed to a duster

Caroline brought adventure and fun and beauty into my life when times were pretty tough.  She took me to restaurants that I could not have afforded. She would have me drive her to Detroit or Buffalo for shopping adventures.  She would pay the gas, lunch and usually a little treat. She would shop all the plus size stores, the wig shops and more. Once she asked me to paint 2 unfinished canes with an African motif.  I had never painted anything in my life but she believed I could and I did and they were great. She used them as a prop in her shop. She encouraged me to be a plus size model.

Her daughter wrote her obituary, “Caroline will be remembered as a vibrant, eccentric person, known for loving all things cultural and beautiful “over the top“ jewellery, make-up, nails, and knock-out wardrobe, especially animal print. With this in mind, please honor her memory by dawning something of this style to her memorial service”.  I wore a wig in her honour. Caroline had many wigs and wore a different one every day.

Caroline dressed me.  She pushed my limits and she made me feel beautiful.  Caroline believed voluptuous, full figure were beautiful – she wanted us to dress with big jewellery and colourful, flowy clothes.  She inspired so many women. Her store was more than a place for clothing. Womyn came in to shop but stayed to talk. Caroline suffered with depression and was not able to work from time to time.  She would hand her store over to another woman who was between jobs. Once it was my sister – another time it was me. We grew in this store and we found the willpower to recreate and go back into the “real” world. Her store was magick.  Caroline was magick.

Caroline also taught me so much about spirituality. She introduced me to her guru -known as the blue man. His name was Christopher. Christopher travelled around North America teaching chanting, tuning fork healing, healthy eating, sexual healing and more. Caroline told me she knew him first in her dreams. His teachings helped me to develop as a healer. At my ordination this summer I felt Caroline’s presence and I remembered Christopher.

I have many good friends today.  I am blessed. I will miss Caroline forever – “tell it to me like a story”.  She inspired this website and my calling to inspire women to live life large. Tell me about your best friend and tell it to me like a story.

Christian and Amanda

Christian & Amanda

Sandra Ruch was professional and warm and exceeded our expectations. She gently walked us through all the decisions and choices that we had, she helped make our ceremony personable and unique. We would recommend her to anyone. Christian & Amanda September 2019

Are you where you want to be?

The most common thing that people say to me is Wow! You’ve done so many things that I need a timeline to follow it all! Well, part of it is because I am 63 years of age and I’ve been working since I was 16. The other critical part is that I am easily bored and very curious. I also have had some very awful employers at times and I just couldn’t tolerate it. I look back at the many things I have done and I see it as my education.

I have driven a taxi/airport limousine, managed a large women’s retail store, owned and operated my own import boutique, taught Travel and Tourism, worked as a Travel Consultant, taught Secretarial Sciences, taught Hebrew School, sold Real Estate, worked in a family crisis centre in both Administration and facilitating workshops. I have been an administrator in a Pest Control company, a Maintenance company, an Insurance company and recently for a community art organization. I am an Officiant of Life Cycle Events, Reflexologist and a Doula, a group facilitator and public speaker. Now I am an ordained Kohenet -a Hebrew Priestess. I offer classes in Judaism and prepare youth for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I am also a human rights activist. I have been blessed with opportunity.

I find it very interesting that I was always afraid of taxis. I rarely took one and if I did, I practically held my breath waiting for them to call in my destination. I was certain they were going to kidnap me. Many years later, I was managing a Cruise Centre in London, Ontario when I learned that we had a new airport limousine company. I was fascinated and saw this as a great sideline for me. I was facing my fears and I believe it was this work that prepared me for my future activism. I got my taxi/limousine licence and was soon driving for Checker Limousine. I loved it and did this part time for 4 years. The fifth year, I drove for a taxi company full time. I started driving 12 hours a day and 7 days a week eventually reducing it to 5 days a week. One day I quit. I was afraid I would do this for the rest of my life and not use my experience and talents in any other way.

Luxury sedans operated by Checker Limo await an incoming flight at London Airport, 1991. (London Free Press files)

I can honestly look back at my life and say that I did not miss an opportunity – if I was unhappy then I eventually moved on. My constant advice to others is to evaluate your life and if where you are at, doesn’t serve you then it may be time to move on. At the very least, discover what it is that you are missing and what it is that you want. I encourage you to create a vision board, make lists of what brings you joy, write out your gratitudes and make the changes that you need.

Vision board

Inspiring Front Line Activism- Building Hope for Palestine

By: Tiffany Goskey, August 2, 2012

A couple Tuesdays back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sandra Ruch, an international human rights activist, Coordinator for the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and a member of the Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee .

Sandra Ruch

Since 2004, she has been heavily involved in human rights work, advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people. Her involvement in social justice activities started with helping new immigrants become established in Canada. But, it was her experience in Palestine that sparked her passion for anti-occupation and anti-Zionist activism. Her involvement became very personal as the events she witnessed conflicted with her views of Judaism.

All her life Sandra was a Zionist activist, leader of a Zionist youth group at 13, later as a member of an adult Zionist organization and as a Hebrew Sunday school teacher. After WWII – Israel became the safe place for the Jewish people to reside. She whole heartedly believed in the rhetoric. Essentially, Zionists believe that Israel should be there for the Jewish people – and they don’t see it as a racist statement.

Sandra was born 8 years after Israel became a country and so it made sense to her. She believed that the army was there to protect. As a woman of faith, she thought the Israeli government were following the principles of Judaism: healing the world, acts of loving kindness, and obligations of charity. Additionally, the Ten Commandments are fundamental in Judaism – such as condemning killing. Sandra lived in Palestine for 2 years and witnessed a total disregard for human rights. She saw crimes against humanity; murder and theft by the Israeli army.

Because Sandra saw it personally – she can speak about the things she experienced. She was appalled by the human rights violations and the lack of respect for humanity. It was the catalyst for her work – however, she would fight for anything that disregards human rights and disrespects humanity. She has focused on this area because it is directly related to her personal experience living in Palestine.

Her work and life is now for the Palestinian people. The ones displaced in the diaspora and in Palestine. But, this dedication has created a riff with her siblings as they no longer speak to Sandra. She has lost much of her spiritual family as it has been difficult to find a temple for support. Many Zionists cannot understand why she engages in this type of work. Additionally, the arrest in Greece on the last trip with the Canadian Boat to Gaza could have resulted in jail time for 3 years. These events coupled by Sandra’s 2 year absence have been very trying on her family.

Although, many within the anti-occupation community have become her new brothers and sisters, she acknowledges the sacrifices that must be made in order to continue with her work. She is not afraid to be arrested – but outside of the activist community it is sometimes difficult to understand this level of commitment.

The most important element in whatever you are working on, be it activism or something related to your passion, Sandra believes you should follow your own heart. You must do what you need to do. Live authentically. You can never please everyone – so you must do what you think is right for yourself, and the rest will follow. Sometimes life is not an easy road, but when you overcome the barriers, and stay on the journey, your life will be meaningful and full of hope.

Sandra’s triumphs are in every aspect of her work. These triumphs have fueled her passion and continual commitment to this cause. Just starting a project and seeing it to completion is a personal triumph.

In 2005, the Women in Black, a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence, had a conference in Jerusalem. There were 700 female participants from around the world. It highlighted the occupation but didn’t make the news. However, it was such a powerful and meaningful experience to be around so many brilliant women who came to share their perspective on the occupation.

The next triumph came when the movement planned the Gaza Freedom March and 1500 people came to Cairo to attend the march. The Egyptian government locked them down – but they worked together. It was a catalyst for the movement. Then after the massacre of the Mavi – they went to the street and started a hunger strike in front of the Israeli consulate in Toronto. Every media in Toronto came out to cover it. It was a great awareness event. Did it take 9 people to be murdered? Yes, but it got the word out about the atrocities. Within a month, they announced the Canadian Boat to Gaza. Massacre on the Mavi – was in May 2010. They announced the boat in June/July – raised $400,000 even though the original goal was $300,000.

Sandra went to Greece, figured how to buy a boat, and hired a captain who happened to be the first one to break the siege. Then she arranged for the 47 people to attend. She coordinated the logistics while in Greece – hired lawyers, listened to Greek partners – there were a lot of sleepless nights worrying about the decisions made.

Through these experiences Sandra has learned that every person must truly believe in the work they do. Then connect with people who have strengths in different areas to build upon your passion. She states that they were the only boat to get out of Greece. They made it to Turkey and then sailed to Gaza. The difference this time is that they are going to refurbish and build the boat in Gaza – which is why Gaza’s Ark is such an apt name for the project.

Essentially, the issue is that Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for over five years.  This means that the local fishers cannot feed their families or fish for trade. According to International law – Palestinians would have the rights to 12 nautical miles from shore. The Israeli government would only allow 6 miles. But, since the massacre, it is only 3 miles. This water is overfished, polluted, and their infrastructure is collapsing. Now the fishermen – are putting high powered lights on their boats to attract the fish. But, it is super dangerous – one person has been electrocuted. The Israeli army has been known to shoot anyone within 1 in a half mile off the shore.

Is the UN doing anything? Not really. According to Sandra, John Ging from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has made statement after statement but not much has been done. The Gaza’s Ark team know their boat will be captured again. But, it’s the statement they are trying to broadcast to the world – to demonstrate how Israel is not supporting the Palestinian people and making up their own rules. For example, the Tahrir was in international waters when it was captured last year. It was brought over to Israel. The authorities made their team say that they entered Israeli waters illegally when they didn’t.

The Israeli government tells the world that Palestinians want to kill all the Israeli’s. This is absolutely untrue. The Israeli government enforces what food items can go in and out of Palestine, and what people can eat – essentially they have put them on a collective diet. Some items such as chocolate and tomato sauce have been banned. It’s a form of oppression.

Gaza’s Ark will carry local trade items, and distribute them to the world for sale. This is to help the local people work around the occupation and be able to feed their families from their earnings.

If someone is interested in getting involved – Sandra suggests checking out Gaza’s Ark website http://gazaark.org/ and endorse the project. Then donate to support the funding of the boat. Are you willing to go to your MP to state you don’t support this? She says “that it is important to get the message to the political leaders as that is where the power lies. You make sure in every election – you vote. Then – join the team. Get on a committee. Find out where your strength is – and join us. You will find great pleasure in working on something that you are passionate about”.

Sandra for a Just Peace

http://inspiredactivist.wordpress.com/

Inspiring Front Line Activism – Building Hope for Palestine

By: Tiffany Goskey

A couple Tuesdays back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sandra Ruch, an international human rights activist, Coordinator for the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and a member of the Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee .

Sandra Ruch

Since 2004, she has been heavily involved in human rights work, advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people. Her involvement in social justice activities started with helping new immigrants become established in Canada. But, it was her experience in Palestine that sparked her passion for anti-occupation and anti-Zionist activism. Her involvement became very personal as the events she witnessed conflicted with her views of Judaism.

All her life Sandra was a Zionist activist, leader of a Zionist youth group at 13, later as a member of an adult Zionist organization and as a Hebrew…

View original post 1,262 more words

When Racism Rears Its Ugly Head

 This is not a travel information blog but instead about several of the people from the United States that I met when I was in Puerto Penasco, Mexico.  They call this area Phoenix’ beach. I felt sad and discouraged and realized how sheltered I am in Toronto by friends and my family and our “radical left wing ideas”.  I have witnessed so much ignorance and so much prejudice here that it shocked me. I also have to add that I have an abundance of radical and awesome friends from the USA.

I met a couple and the husband asked me, ” why do people hate the Jews.  I just don’t understand it.”  The wife agreed and said – “it’s just a religion right?  We don’t hate Jews and we like you.  We like all people.  We’re not prejudice” -(note my secret eye roll here).  I replied that there is hatred everywhere and the American president is allowing it to escalate with his rhetoric.  Husband nervously glanced at his wife.  I said I worried a lot about Islamophobia.   He said that he totally understood being afraid of Muslims and anyone who believed in the Koran.  I said the Koran is a wonderful book and told them that Mohammed the Prophet said that “heaven is under the Mother’s feet”.  I said that unfortunately, men over the centuries have bastardized religion and weakened the role of women.  I knew this whole conversation was fruitless but I felt better just saying it. On top of it, they were both many beers in and not worthy of my time.  Then they told me they were very worried about the caravan and how it would affect them.  Goddess help me – where is the sense of humanity?

The things I heard repeatedly:

  • why should I work so that others can stay home?
  • I hate paying taxes. 
  • People are getting free money from the government and driving fancy cars, wearing expensive clothes -I saw them on television protesting that their cheques would be late.
  • The government builds them houses. 
  • Natives shouldn’t get assistance now – that problem happened years ago.
  • I heard complaints about people hanging out in front of the grocery stores offering to buy your groceries with their food stamps in order to get half the value in cash.  When I hear how no one wants to work,  everyone is lazy, no one is competent, it make my heart hurt.

I suppose there are always people abusing the system but why is that the only thing they see?  Why is the story I know about people dying from lack of health care, families living in cars, in tent cities, children going to school hungry.  I have never heard about this apparently generous welfare system in America that they are talking about.

On Facebook so many of my “friends” are speaking out about Anti-semitism.  It is definitely there and the escalation is frightening.  However, I can’t help but wonder where were our voices as we see this hatred for the blacks and the browns, for the Muslims, for the Indigenous?????????????

Remember the poem by by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984).

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I was invited to join a group of Jewish clergy at the border between USA and Mexico but the logistics didn’t work out.  I wish that I had.  My Judaism is based on Tikkum Olam – Healing the world.  One of the core commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), sometimes called the Great Commandment

I am proud to be a Canadian.  I am proud to be known as a radical left wing activist.