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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

March 17, 2017 | 19 Adar 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 7:03 p.m.

This message has 871 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

I’m going to use today’s message to give you a glimpse behind the scenes into three important things that happened in our community this week, the inside details of which you may not have heard about.

The first is that on the same morning the second bomb threat came in to our JCC, leadership from our community (Bernard Pinsky, chair of our Community Security Advisory Committee; Karen James, Penny Gurstein and Pam Wolfman from our Board; Michelle Pollock, president of the JCC, and I, just to name a few) were on site to meet with leaders of the Muslim community. Like the Jewish community, the Muslim community is all too familiar with what it’s like to be the target of threats, and every single one of us was determined to have the meeting regardless the circumstances. If anything, we were emboldened and wanted to show that this would not stop us from going about our regular routines or from standing together in solidarity against acts of hate. To be standing together, literally shoulder to shoulder, in the face of another threat was an incredibly poignant experience for all of us. It was emblematic of the outpouring of support we have received from other faith and ethno-cultural communities, from elected representatives, and from individuals. 

The second is that the very next day, the Government of British Columbia announced a $100,000 commitment to support community security, which will be administered by Jewish Federation. It may have appeared as though this was all turned around in 24 hours, but behind the scenes it is always a little more involved than how it may initially seem. Together with our advocacy partner, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, we are involved in ongoing conversations with all levels of government to help them better understand our community, the way we are organized and work together, and the issues that are important to all of us. The government understands the proactive approach we have taken with regard to community security over the years and the steps we have taken recently, such as creating our Security Advisory Committee. They know that in us they have an effective partner with a well-established and respected leadership role in this area.

It isn’t easy for community institutions to cover the full cost of their ever evolving security needs on their own. They have come to rely on funds raised through the Federation Annual Campaign and on government programs to support their efforts. The $100,000 commitment, combined with the $300,000 we raised for community security initiatives through our Campaign, will make a very real difference. That the Government of British Columbia worked so effectively and so swiftly to commit these funds should be commended, and I encourage you to express your appreciation to them directly by clicking here.

The third is the series of JCC tours and roundtable discussions on community security that Jewish Federation, the JCC and CIJA hosted this week for Mayor Robertson and Police Chief Palmer, and separately for the Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. In addition to her Federal Cabinet position, Minister Wilson-Raybould is the MP for Vancouver-Granville, a riding that includes our JCC and many other Jewish community organizations and institutions. During both bomb threats CIJA kept Minister Wilson-Raybould personally apprised of the situations as they unfolded. We have the very strong sense that she genuinely cares about our community.

The cynical among us might expect that visits by public officials are always staged for media, but that was not at all the case this week. In fact, no media or large entourages were invited. (We took our own photos, which you can see here and here.) The Mayor, the Police Chief and the Minister of Justice genuinely wanted to convey their support, get a better understanding of the JCC’s important work, and talk with us about community and security.

It was during one of these roundtables that Chief Palmer commented on how effective and how helpful it has been for the Vancouver Police Department that we have taken a proactive, coordinated approach to community security. We knew it was the right thing for the community, but to be commended by the Police Chief – and to have that come just two days after the $100,000 commitment from the provincial government – was a tremendous recognition of the value of the work that Federation has done and continues to do. We have had a very specific and defined relationship with law enforcement for the past several years, so when we found ourselves in a time of crisis we were able to work together like a well-oiled machine.

One thing the Mayor, Police Chief and Minister all noted was how busy and bustling our JCC is. The Mayor and the Police Chief were presented with honourary membership certificates to the JCC, and earlier this week the centre played host to a beautiful wedding and reception. Our JCC always has been and will always be one of the most vibrant gathering places in our community. If you have a membership (wonderful!) now is the time to come in and use it. If you have been on the fence about whether to commit, there’s never been a more important time for you to join.

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver