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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

March 31, 2017 | 4 Nissan 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 7:24 p.m.

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By now I am sure you have heard the fantastic news that our campaign has closed with a record $8.5 million to address community needs, including $300,000 for community security initiatives. Thank you to everyone who made a gift this year. You helped ensure that our partner agencies will be able to continue to provide the programs and services on which thousands of people rely. At the same time, you helped make an impact in an area that is of great importance to our community right now. We are truly grateful for your support.

Stephen Gaerber, our board chair, and I would like to take this opportunity to say kol hakavod to our incredible team of volunteer leaders, led by campaign chair, Alex Cristall. The result they have achieved for our community is unprecedented, and it wasn’t an easy task. Not only were they charged with raising funds to support the full depth and breadth of community needs, they had the additional challenge of responding to the concerns our partners, donors and community members expressed around community security. You may recall that we identified security as an area of strategic opportunity our 2020 Strategic Priorities. They responded by developing a security match, funded by a group of generous donors, that generated $300,000 for community security initiatives. These funds are already at work addressing critical security needs faced by some high traffic local Jewish organizations, including security guards and specialized security assessments, as well as additional security for several high profile community events.

Both Stephen and I have had the privilege of sitting at the campaign cabinet table and this group deserves huge kavod for their work on behalf of our community:

Alex Cristall - Campaign Chair
Neil Pollock – Past Campaign Chair  
Harvey Dales – Past Campaign Chair
Jonathon Leipsic and Andrew Merkur – Co-Chairs, Major Gifts  
Lisa Pullan – Chair, Women’s Philanthropy
Howard Kallner and Shay Keil – Co-Chairs, Men’s Philanthropy
Jody Dales – Strategic Philanthropy 
Bram Glotman – Chair, Young Adult Philanthropy
Al Szajman – Chair, Marketing and Communications
Alvin Wasserman – Campaign Advisor
Sue Hector and David Waterman – Canvasser Development
Catherine Epstein – Agency Liaison
Michael Nemirow – Sponsorship 

I’d also like to thank our 261 volunteer canvassers. We often refer to them as the backbone of the campaign, but they are its heart and soul, too. Every single gift really does count, and they carve time out of their busy personal and professional lives to make sure no one misses the chance to help make our community a better place. Some of our canvassers have been doing this for as long as our Federation has been around – including 64 people who have been doing this for 20 years or longer!

Last but not least, we have team of high performers on our staff to recognize: Michelle Pullan, our incredible campaign director; Marcie Flom, vice-president, financial resources development; Anna Vander Munnik, campaign manager; Eva Bach, campaign manager; and Anna Chernishova Cohen, campaign coordinator. This is a highly skilled group of professionals with a deeply held level of care for our community.

The closing of the campaign coincided with an important initiative that illustrates some of the key issues the campaign helps Jewish Federation and our partners address. Led by our Planning Council co-chairs, Penny Gurstein and Eric Bulmash, we were proud to present the Jewish Community Affordability Summit Wednesday evening in partnership with Jewish Family Service Agency, Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver, CIJA, Tikva Housing Society, and the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver.

We identified the dual issues of affordability and accessibility as key areas to address in our 2020 Strategic Priorities. With a provincial poverty level of 13.2%, with one in five children in this province living in poverty, and as the only province in the country with no overall poverty reduction strategy, we cannot ignore the impact. Add in the lack of affordable and supportive housing in Metro Vancouver, and the concerns are magnified.

We know that these issues are not unique to the Jewish community, but what is unique is that they have a direct impact on our overall community sustainability. If community members can’t afford to participate in Jewish programs or provide their children with a Jewish education because all of their income is spent on the essentials (food and shelter) our community is negatively impacted. Over the coming months, you will be hearing more about some of the exciting ideas and suggestions that were generated, but one of the outcomes of the evening that I would like to share is the establishment of a task force on food security to be jointly implemented by Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Service Agency. Food security is knowing where you next meal is coming from. For many of us our next meal will be Shabbat dinner with our families, but many others aren’t sure what or when they will eat next. This is what those broader community issues look like when we drill down to how they are affecting families on a day to day basis, and it’s a great example of how your campaign commitment is already helping Federation and our partners respond. 

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver