Shabbat Candlelighting 5:20 p.m.                                                Friday, February 19, 2010/5 Adar 5770

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Community Increases Giving in Time of Need
The Annual Campaign total is in, and our community pulled together to respond to the increased needs faced by many families and individuals. We heard from community members that they were truly moved by stories of increased need in our community. Even among those impacted by the economy, there was a feeling of wanting to help others affected more. The result is $7.325 million raised - an increase of $125,000 over last year. As a community, we can be very proud of this response. Together, we’ve built a strong community over the years, and this campaign result will allow Jewish Federation and its partner agencies to sustain vital programs and services, and help meet the increased needs our community is facing.

Please take a moment to watch this short thank-you video from our leadership, community partners and members of our community touched by your generosity.

Continuing our Outreach to Provincial Government on Gaming Funds
Jewish organizations across our community have benefited from almost $650,000 a year from the provincial gaming funds process, which represents an important revenue source when looked at collectively. In the context of the recession and related budget woes, the province has had to scale back some of these grants, which has led to some groups in our community losing some or all of their funding. With the social service grants due for notice of renewal at the end of this month, anxiety has been building.

This week we met a second provincial cabinet minister, Rich Coleman, minister for housing and social development, whose ministry is directly responsible for managing the gaming funds grant process. We’ve already briefed the leadership of all Jewish organizations in the community about what we learned in the meeting. Bottom line – the news on grant renewals in the social services category to be announced at the end of February won’t be as bad as everyone feared, but there will be some losses within the program, and they will likely not be evenly distributed as the province looks to sharpen its focus on certain criteria for future funding.

We continue with our efforts to keep our community’s needs in front of the government, and at the same time work to keep our local Jewish organizations informed about the changes coming in the gaming grant program so groups can maximize their chances of success.

Olympics Provide Opportunities for Community Connections
Amidst the continuing hubbub and hype, the Olympics are providing an extraordinary backdrop for nurturing existing community connections and building new ones.

•Our Women’s Philanthropy chair, Karen James’ 300 meter torch relay run last Friday finished right in front of Yaletown Brewing Company, one of a chain of restaurants owned by incoming Federation Annual Campaign chair, Mark James. What a great coincidence!

•Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Centre organized a wonderful community gathering last Sunday with the Israeli Olympic team. An overflow of more than 600 crowded in to get autographs and take pictures with Alexandra Zaretsky, Roman Zaretsky, and Mikail Renzhin. This followed a similar-sized crowd which turned out the previous week for an event co-sponsored by Magen David Adom and Temple Sholom. You can read the Jerusalem Post’s coverage of both community events here.

•Flying in to be part of Sunday’s event, was Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin. A few of our Israel and Overseas Affairs Committee leadership met with Gissin over lunch Sunday to talk about how we can continue to strengthen efforts to build connections between Israel and our community, especially beyond our Jewish community. The next few years will see the Israeli government strengthening its official consular and trade representation in Canada, which should help in that task.

•A gracious invitation from Senator Yonah Martin provided opportunities for us to visit Korea House at the Hyatt Regency. Korea is hoping to be successful in its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. A reception Wednesday night, in turn, enabled us to connect with a few members of Parliament who have, or who hopefully soon, will be visiting Israel under the auspices of the Canada-Israel Committee.

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre’s outstanding exhibit on the 1936 Munich Olympics, More than Just Games: Canada and the 1936 Olympics, has attracted international media coverage. The VHEC was host yesterday to Russian television Channel 1, which visited to tour the exhibits and to interview executive director Frieda Miller. The exhibit was also covered in the Jerusalem Post.

Parashat Terumah
This week’s parasha begins the description of the Ark and Tabernacle, a portable container and home for the two tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Reflecting the nomadic nature of the Israelites, the detailed descriptions of both are consistent with the need for portability. On a spiritual or philosophical level, the importance of the Ark and Tabernacle is that after the intense experience of the revelation at Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were able to carry with them a physical manifestation of the presence of God.

The parasha includes the commandment for the Israelites to bring gifts. The language of God’s instruction to Moses is interesting – “Tell the Israelite people to bring me gifts; you shall accept gifts for me from every person whose heart so moves him” (Exodus 5:1-2). On the one hand, the gifts are expected, and on the other, people have the choice to participate or not. This stands in contrast to the tax levied in a later period of Jewish history to maintain the Temple in Jerusalem, where each adult male had to pay a half shekel. In our day, we again operate in a voluntary context. The contributions that sustain and nurture our community and help meet Jewish needs around the world are voluntary. In that context, let me again say thank you to all our donors whose hearts were moved this year.

Shabbat Shalom!

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