January 8, 2016 | 27 Tevet 5776 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 4:14 p.m.

This message has 431 words and will take about 2 minutes to read.

What comes to mind when you think of the issues facing our community? Do you think about how to help new Jewish immigrants, or how to engage the 46% of our community who live outside the increasingly expensive City of Vancouver? How about what Jewish education could look like over the next decade?

It’s our role as a Federation to think about all of these things and more, and to plan for ways to turn these challenges into opportunities. So, we were especially proud to be one of the organizations that contributed to an article published this week by the Canadian Jewish News which shone a light on many of the complex issues our community faces.

I was particularly pleased to see our planning processes highlighted. Our Planning Council identifies new and emerging community needs and works collaboratively with stakeholders and subject matter experts to generate recommendations that guide future planning and funding decisions.

Our Jewish Education Task Force recently concluded its work, and the Regional Communities Task Force will begin theirs this month. The CJN article made note of the 850 children who live in underserved Jewish communities outside of Vancouver, and we are committed to reaching them with innovative Jewish educational programming. This is a great example of an area where the work of these two task forces will dovetail.

While we are immersed in these issues and many others, we realize that they aren’t always immediately visible to everyone. This brings me to a special series of Shabbat dinners Rachel and I, along with some of our community’s leadership, are hosting for Members of Parliament who represent ridings in the Lower Mainland.

Organized in conjunction with The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and The Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), these are opportunities to engage in conversations about Jewish life. For some of these MPs it will be the first Shabbat dinner they’ve ever attended, and it’s an important step toward raising their awareness of the issues facing of our growing community.

Celebrating Shabbat is a time when we feel close to our community, when we take time to contemplate, and when we are especially immersed in the values we hold dear. Those of you who have enjoyed Shabbat dinners with your non-Jewish friends and neighbours have seen their reactions to being included in these special moments. Everyone feels like family and learns a little more about who we are.

For millennia our people have been breaking bread and building community, and this Shabbat is no different.

Shabbat shalom,

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

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