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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

January 27, 2017 | 29 Tevet 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 4:43 p.m.

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The power to create change in a community often starts with one person who wants to make a difference. We saw a lot of that this week, not the least of which was at our canvasser appreciation event on Tuesday evening.

We celebrated the commitment of our nearly 300 volunteers who make our campaign possible. And I am not at all over stating it when I say this is the case. The majority of funds raised for our community come from the campaign. And the majority of the more than $8 million raised through the campaign to support critical programs and services is the result of a person-to-person conversation between the canvasser and donor.

Our campaign chair, Alex Cristall, noted the particularly important role canvassers play: “No other Federation of our size has as many volunteer canvassers and it’s the reason we are able to accomplish so much with so few resources.”

What is particularly impressive is that we have more than 100 volunteers who have been canvassing for 18 years or more. Some have even canvassed for more than 30 years, with multiple generations of canvassers in their families. They return year after year to make calls, book coffee meetings, and do truly sacred work. At the end of the day, canvassing is one Jew asking another Jew to help a third Jew neither of them necessarily even know. It is the embodiment of klal Israel. I would like to thank each and every one of our canvassers for making a difference in our community. If you are not currently a canvasser, contact our campaign director, Michelle Pullan, and you can make a difference, too.

I would also like to recognize Sue Hector and David Waterman from our campaign working cabinet for leading canvasser development and for their role in helping plan the event, and former campaign chair, Mark James, for welcoming us at his state-of-the-art Red Truck brewery so we could celebrate our canvassers in a special location.

Across town that same night 45 community members were sharing their views on our community's concerns and priorities at a grassroots consultation headed up by our advocacy partner, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). Their input, combined with that of community members consulted in many discussions across Canada, will directly inform CIJA’s advocacy work in the year ahead. It is not every organization that reaches out and offers to shape their priorities based directly on the input of individuals, and I am thrilled to see CIJA listening to so many distinct voices.

One way many individuals create change is through their work in a “helping profession”. Others do so through their commitment to philanthropy. When you bring two such people together, there’s no end to the good they can do. Case in point is the decade long partnership between Gary Segal who is not only a leader in our own community but who is also a member of the board of our trusted overseas partner the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and Dr. Rick Hodes, the JDC’s medical director of Ethiopia. Among Dr. Hodes’ patients are children who suffer from severe deformities often as a result of tuberculosis of the spine. One child, Tesfaye, could not be treated in Africa, and so Gary found a way to bring Tesfaye to Canada for life-saving surgery. In 2012 Gary honoured Dr. Hodes at a gala called Bring Back Hope that raised over $1 million to support his work, and our Federation was proud to be a partner.

What’s especially remarkable about the work that Gary and Dr. Hodes do together is that they recognize the value in bringing community together to amplify the good they are doing. On June 8th we will once again partner proudly with them at the second Bring Back Hope gala at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

While change may start with the individual, whether you canvass for the campaign, raise your voice about community priorities, or heal the sick, there is only so much we can accomplish alone. Having a community behind us and all around us is what gives each person the power to make a real difference. We are privileged to stand with each of you out there who are making change happen.

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver