Click here for web version
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

March 24, 2017 | 26 Adar 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 7:14 p.m.

This message has 759 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

Let’s start with what has been on all of our minds since yesterday, the arrest of a suspect in the JCC bomb threats. We are relieved he has been caught, and we are grateful to law enforcement from around the world who worked together to achieve this outcome. Much has been made of the reports that the suspect is an 18-year-old who is Jewish, who holds dual US-Israeli citizenship, and who was deemed unfit for IDF service. Hearing these things was a huge shock, and there are a great many questions that will need to be answered in the coming days. We will continue to take any threat made against our community seriously. In addition to continuing our proactive, preventative work, the best response to those who would sow hate in our community is to participate in Jewish communal life without fear.

On that note, I want to share with you some of the wonderful things that have been happening in our community.

Together with the JCC we helped make Israel a little more accessible to all of our community through the recent JCC Inclusion Services trip to Israel. Eleven participants with diverse needs just returned from what was a first trip to Israel for all of them and they had some very powerful experiences. You can read about it in their own words here.  According to Leamore Cohen, JCC Inclusion Services coordinator, “What is particularly special is the unique disability advocacy and cross border community building… that (were) part of this journey.” Through our Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) program, we contributed to the cost of going to our partnership region in the Upper Galilee, and through our Israel and Overseas Affairs Committee, additional funds were provided to reduce the overall cost of the trip. The group made quite an impression everywhere they went, even capturing the attention of the Jerusalem Post which published this article.

The second is the Spark a Mitzvah event that took place on Wednesday evening and featured Karen James, our Israel and Overseas committee chair. She shared her incredibly personal story of how competing at the 1972 Munich Olympics and witnessing up close the terrorist attack that killed 11 members of the Israeli team, changed the trajectory of her life and how her Jewish journey evolved as a result. One aspect that caught my attention was how she said it transformed her into the kind of person who recognizes the importance of speaking out against something that isn’t right. If you’re not familiar with Karen’s story, you can read about it here, although the article doesn’t capture the emotion of hearing her words in person. Our thanks to Judith Cohen, chair of the Spark a Mitzvah committee, and to Deborah Youngson for hosting. Admission to Spark events is by donation, and guests raised enough funds to provide two Shabbat dinners for residents of the Yaffa houses and other Jewish adults with diverse needs. We appreciate the support of our Lion of Judah and Spark a Mitzvah sponsor, Garry Zlotnik of ZLC Financial.

On a final note, I’d like to shine a light on the tireless work Gary Segal has done with Dr. Rick Hodes of our trusted overseas partner The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to change the lives of children in Africa who are suffering from cancer, heart disease, and spinal conditions. Gary was instrumental in creating the gala Bring Back Hope a few years ago, and a second event is planned that promises to be even bigger than the first. In conjunction with that we are teaming up with the JDC to present a symposium highlighting their important work, so mark your calendars for June 8th. You will have a chance to hear from three world class humanitarians: JDC executive vice president emeritus Allen Gill, and JDC assistant executive vice president Will Recant alongside Dr. Rick Hodes.

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

P.S. We want to hear from Jewish Millennials!  If you’re aged 18-40, complete this short survey for a chance to win one of six $250 travel vouchers. Share your ideas, priorities and concerns to help build the community you want to see.