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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

June 9, 2017 | 15 Sivan 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 8:58 p.m.

This message has 935 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

Back in our younger days, most of us lived by a school schedule that ran September to June. As adults in the work world (other than those who work in the education system) it can be easier for the years to slip by. Kids don’t wonder where the time went, but adults do. Maybe that’s because of age, but maybe the loss of the rhythm of the school year contributes to it. Graduation season is upon us. Seeing our boys celebrate their first birthday this week, I am already feeling those years slip by rapidly.

First, let me give you a top level summary of our national Federation meetings and the success we’re having on the national level in three priority areas.

Israel Programming: On a national level, we are committed to improving the educational quality and the affordability of the experiences we currently offer, like March of the Living and Birthright-Israel, and introducing new programs. There will be a full strategic plan rolled out for March of the Living.

Young Adult Engagement: Our national system is in the early stages of reviewing the results of the Millennial Survey we conducted nationally in partnership with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. The results are expected to inform what we do next as a system. Locally, we hosted our Shabbat Diner en Blanc last Friday that drew 90 people in their 20s and 30s. I had the pleasure of joining the group and I can attest that the venue was as beautiful as the turnout. It is the precursor to an even bigger event, the Community Hackathon on June 25th, where young Jews will shape the future of our community – and the top three ideas they generate will receive $2,500 each in start-up funding. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, register here and join us.

National Jewish Community: Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA’s hugely successful Engaging with Aging conference that brought 120 professionals together from across the country will be followed by another in April on inclusion and disabilities. I look forward to providing more information as it becomes available.

We marked two big milestones this week.

The first is the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War. A group of young people from our community, under the leadership of Lior Noyman, interviewed local community members about their Six Day War experiences and created a documentary that was screened on Monday to more than 120 people. My father was an American volunteer during the Six Day War, so I am especially proud that our Federation helped make this project possible, alongside The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, The Jewish Museum and Archives, and The Jewish Independent. You can watch a clip of the film here.

The second is the end of an era at Shalhevet High School for Girls, where they publically thanked and said goodbye to Mrs. Rivka Abramchik, who was the inspiration behind and the founding principal of the school. Rivka brought her leadership skills, boundless energy and deep commitment to Jewish learning to the role and ensured that the young women took an active role in Jewish community life. We thank her for her 10 years of commitment to Jewish education and we know that she has created a strong foundation for the future growth of the school.

It was a very busy week and on Thursday we dived into our international work with our trusted overseas partner, the Joint Distribution Committee. We co-hosted a symposium called “Doing Good: Vancouver” – the first of its kind in Canada - that drew over 60 people together to learn about the JDC’s life-saving work in 70 countries. In the evening, there was the wildly successful Evening to Bring Back Hope event chaired by Gary and Nanci Segal that raised over $1.8 million to help Ethiopians suffering from challenging medical conditions and honoured the JDC’s medical director in Ethiopia, Dr. Rick Hodes. Gary and Nanci, and indeed the entire Segal mishpacha are to be commended for leading the way in their support of the JDC’s work. We are proud to be a part of the first Evening to Bring Back Hope five years ago, and we are proud to be a part of it again.

Across town, another big event was taking place that same night: the King David High School graduation. With grads starting this week, families across our community are marking big steps in their children’s lives, celebrating the young adults they’ve become, and, of course, wondering where the time has gone. Grad is such an emotional experience because we look back across the years while at the same time savouring the present as much as possible, and simultaneously getting excited for what the future holds. We feel all the feelings on these nights. It was Shmuel Rosenblatt’s job to tap into that in his Grad D'var Torah, and it is his inspiring words I shall leave you with:

“Every one of you has the power to give to someone else, no matter who you are or what you do. And no act of giving is too small. …Whether I go into computer science, medicine, psychology, (or) arts, I know that I can take anything that I do and use it to make a positive impact on the world, to give. I urge you to do the same, go out, do what you want to do, but whatever you do please make sure to never stop giving.”

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver