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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

April 28, 2017 | 2 Iyar 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 8:07 p.m.

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This week provided ample opportunities for reflection, starting with the Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) memorial on Sunday night, presented by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. Survivors, members of the second and third generations, and hundreds of others – more than 400 in all – learned some of the Holocaust history of Jews in France through the experiences of the family of Claude Romney, the keynote speaker. Events like this provide an important opportunity for survivors to remember and mourn, and for all of us to recommit to our promise to never forget. We’re proud to support this event through our Annual Campaign.

One thing that struck me about the event was the number of young people – many of whom are the grandchildren of survivors – who sang in the choir. Their beautiful voices lent depth, youthfulness and hope to the commemoration. It started me thinking about the ways in which we choose to serve our community, and the importance of supporting and encouraging the involvement of younger generations.

For many people choosing a Jewish education for their children is part of that. We are incredibly fortunate in this community to have top notch options where you don’t have to compromise on any of the other aspects you want a school to have. You can find great facilities, great teachers, great students, great curricula and great opportunities all within the day schools. Case in point is the completely new Learning Lab and Counselling suite that King David High School unveiled Thursday evening. Whether taking a quiet moment to read a book or work collaboratively with a group to complete a project, students now have a new space to suit all their needs.

Earlier that day I was honoured to address the grade seven class at Vancouver Talmud Torah, as I do every year. As they become B’nei Mitzvah, they learn about their responsibilities to the community and the world around them and participate in the Mitzvah of Valuing Philanthropy (MVP) program. Through research and personal fundraising, students work together to assess community needs and, as a class, decide how to allocate their pooled funds to their selected non-profit agencies. I presented them with a finite amount of funds and four different projects to consider supporting, and they were tasked with challenge of prioritizing the needs.  

Other day schools and Jewish educational programs have similar focuses on the mitzvah of tzedakah and the values of chesed and tikkun olam. At Vancouver Hebrew Academy, for example, students discuss as a class what they have learned about the motivations behind tzedakah as well as how an individual determines their specific obligations and priorities when offering tzedakah and, using that information, choose a charity to support.

These budding philanthropists can grow up to be anything they want to be and to change the world in ways touch their hearts. Maybe, just maybe, they will be inclined to put their talents to use in the not-for-profit world. Every Jewish communal professional can tell you about the defining moments in their careers when the positive impact they make crystalized for them. We have two incredible opportunities open where you can advance your career while making a real difference. (To top it off you also get to work with some pretty fantastic people, if I may say so myself.)  Click the links to apply for the position of campaign manager or the position of database manager.  

If the way you want to make a difference is through volunteering, there are plenty of opportunities to do so by volunteering on a campaign in the upcoming provincial election. Our partner, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) is here to connect you with the candidate or campaign of your choice. Email Kara Mintzberg, CJPAC’s BC regional director, or call her at 604-343-4126 to sign up. In this day and age, when so many people around the world long for an open democratic process in which to participate, volunteering in this way takes on added significance.

The democratic values we hold dear are held in the same high regard half a world away in Israel. On Sunday we will commemorate those who lost their lives in wars and terror attacks in Israel at the Yom HaZikaron memorial, followed by our Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration on Monday night. I would like to share with you the Yom Ha’atzmaut greetings sent by the Prime Minister.

There is one more local-Israel connection that I want to share with you before Shabbat, and that’s the official opening of Shalva’s Gordon and Leslie Diamond Family Center in Jerusalem. Shalva is “one of Israel’s largest disability groups” in Israel and the facility “is the largest and most advanced facility for children with disabilities in the world.” Kol hakavod to the Diamond family for making a difference in a way that promotes inclusion, and for giving us the opportunity to reflect on how we can find our own ways to embrace diversity and make our lives and our community more inclusive.

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver