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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

April 7, 2017 | 11 Nissan 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 7:30 p.m.

This message has 815 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

The last few days before Passover always feel like a mad dash to the finish line, and this year is no exception. It’s been a busy week, both in our homes and in our community.

I’d like to start off by welcoming home the 52 students and seven staff who just returned from the King David High School (KDHS) grade eight trip to Israel. It’s the largest program of its kind in North America, and we are proud to support it through both our Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) program that builds people-to-people connections between our community and our partnership region in Israel helps make the program accessible to all students. One of the highlights is the home stay with students from their sister school, Har Vagai, where students get to spend in-depth time with their peers and learn what it is really like to live in the Upper Galilee.

People-to-people connections were also being built last Shabbat, as representatives from our Federation, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the JCC and other community organizations gathered with The Honourable Harjit Sajjan Minister of National Defence and MP for Vancouver South. Minister Sajjan talked about how important it is to him that he can show his children that being from a minority ethnic group or faith doesn’t prevent you from leading in society, which resonated around the table. The role he has now is an example to all of us in minority communities who look for routes to lead. We found much common ground that evening, and the Minister had the opportunity to learn more about us and about our community.

As part of our ongoing conversations with local law enforcement about how we can become a safer, more security conscious community, we had the opportunity to meet with Vancouver Police Department Chief Palmer and his senior management team. Our board chair, Stephen Gaerber, VP Planning, Allocations and Community Affairs, Shelley Rivkin and I were joined by members of the JCC’s executive team; Bernard Pinsky, chair of our Jewish Community Advisory Committee; and Jason Murray, chair of the Local Partnership Council of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – Pacific Region.

Speaking of our Jewish Community Security Advisory Committee, kol hakavod to committee member, Terry Yung, who received the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship for his exceptional long-term service and outstanding contributions to the community. We are so proud to see Terry’s incredible work honoured in this way.

On a final note, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize someone who meant a great deal to all of us here at Jewish Federation. We were all devastated to hear the very sad news of the passing of our colleague at Tikva Housing, Susana Cogan z”l, a few weeks ago, and I’ve struggled with how, when and what to write about this. Now that Passover is nearly upon us it feels like the right moment. I’ll tell you why shortly, but first I’d like to share with you remarks that Rozanne Kipnes, a part board chair of Tikva Housing, delivered at the funeral:

When we first hired Susana z”l she was clear, her job description was not to include fundraising, lobbying, nor populating the board. Just wasn't her thing.

But that was not Susana's z”l way. Since it had to be done, she did all three with grace and humility, year after year, project after project. She engaged her friends and colleagues, who got on board to support Susana z”l, (or rather to be supported by Susana z’l). She was 'no fuss, no muss'.

Through Susana's z”l quiet influence, strong relationships, and dogged determination, she inspired families who became Tikva's "founding families" from the Guinchers to the Barnett/Dayson's and the Diamond family.

Based on her personal relationships at BC Housing and CMHC, Susana z’l leveraged resources to develop an affordable housing legacy for our community that continues to go from strength to strength. That was Susana's z”l way.

Susana z”l had built not just strong working relationships with her fellow Jewish communal professionals at our Federation and across the community, but real friendships, too. We miss her and have been feeling her loss deeply.

At the Shanken home, when we sit down for our Passover seders, we sometimes set an open seat for all those who are not yet free and all those that we have lost. I will personally be thinking about Susana z”l when I look at that seat at my seder table.

One final note, there are so many newcomers to our community, some of whom will be joining Rachel, the boys and me for the second night. If you have extra room at your table, please consider inviting someone who may not have a seder to go to. If you’re looking for a seder, here is a list of Passover events taking place in our community.

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach.


Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver