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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

May 26, 2017 | 1 Sivan 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 8:45 p.m.

This message has 693 words and will take about 3 minutes to read.

Looking back on the week I am struck by how we and others in our community were focused not only on improving the workings of our own organization, but on doing the same on a municipal, Canadian and continental level.

Last Sunday and Monday our Israel and Overseas Affairs Committee (IOAC) engaged in a strategic planning process to maximize how we are leveraging funds in order to make the greatest possible impact. It is something that Karen James, chair of the IOAC, takes very seriously, and we know it is something you expect of our Federation. We are thrilled to have Gidi Grinstein from the Reut Institute lead this process with us. I look forward to being able to share more with you once we complete the next steps.

In the meantime, there are two things we wrote about earlier this month that I would like to update you on.

The first is the newly restored Jewish Cemetery at Mountain View, which we are proud to have supported. The Jewish Cemetery Association of North America hosted their annual conference here in Vancouver this week and it was a huge success. They toured the Jewish Cemetery at Mountain View, the newly renovated Schara Tzedeck Funeral Chapel, and Temple Sholom where they were hosted by Cornelia Oberlander. I was honoured to speak at the opening session of the conference, and Shelley Rivkin, our vice president of planning, allocations and community affairs was one of the featured speakers. Kol hakvod to Shirley Barnett, Howard Jampolsky, Joseph Marciano and Myra Adirim who were instrumental in putting this together.

The second is the opioid crisis. This week, leadership from the Jewish community brought a meal to firefighters at the busiest fire hall in Canada. Located on the downtown eastside, they respond to dozens of overdose calls a shift. The work is beyond intense and burnout is an issue. Providing a meal is such a basic way in which we show that we care for one another. Who hasn’t brought a meal to a friend, family member or neighbour in a time of need? It’s just what we do.  

The importance of food, delivering meals, and sharing meals isn’t unique to Jewish culture. When the Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould met with Jewish community leaders after the JCC bomb threats, she remarked that it is a strong part of her First Nations culture. You can imagine the impression it made on her yesterday when students from Vancouver Hebrew Academy presented her with challot they baked with their own hands. She also met with students at King David High School, who showed an impressive level of interest in public affairs and the political process. Staff and leadership of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) toured her through their current exhibition: Canada Responds to the Holocaust, 1944-45.

The Minister also met with Stephen Gaerber, our Board chair; Bob Pekeles, chair of our Allocations Committee; Eric Bulmash, co-chair of our Planning Council; Shelley Rivkin and me. We had a very open discussion about issues that are important to our community, such as affordability, geographic spread, and how we’re transferring our Jewish values from one generation to the next.

The Minister’s visit was organized by our advocacy partner, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), in coordination with our Federation, KDHS, VHA and the VHEC. It is one of a number of visits she’ll be making in the coming months, as way of continuing to show her support of and friendship to the Jewish community members and institutions in her riding. Considering the scope of her portfolio, it’s wonderful to see her genuinely engage with Jewish communal life in Vancouver-Granville. After all, we are an important part of the cultural fabric of the city and the country.

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

P.S. Prior to our upcoming Annual General Meeting, we are hosting an information session for anyone who has questions about the proposed replacement bylaws and proposed amendments to our charitable purposes. This information session will take place on June 6th at 7:00 p.m. at our office. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Lauren Segal.