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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

August 11, 2017 | 19 Av 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 8:16 p.m.

This message has 586 words and will take about 3 minutes to read.

Did you attend Pride Celebrations on the weekend? I was thrilled to visit Yad b’Yad’s booth at Sunset Beach on Sunday. It was really great to see more than 10 community agencies, including our advocacy partner, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, having fun and educating people about Israel and the LGBTTQ community there, and what it means to be Jewish and LGBTTQ. It was a great way to start the week.

Back at the office, we are in full swing preparing for the campaign and for our opening event, FEDtalks. It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over and the campaign and High Holidays are right around the corner. It seems like just yesterday that our Shabbat message was about the grade 12 students in our community who were graduating and embarking on their next big life step.

Now that we’re in mid-August, that next step is nearly upon them (and their parents!) and their remaining days at home or at camp are filled with anticipation. Part of wondering what to expect on campus has to do with community. Not just the community of dorms or fields of study, but the Jewish home away from home that is available at a university or college.

For nearly a century, Hillel has played a central role in building Jewish life on campus, and we are proud to present a FEDtalk this year from Eric Fingerhut, CEO of Hillel International. His mandate is to fulfill Hillel’s mission to reach each and every Jewish student on campus, and to provide a welcoming environment to an increasingly diverse population. We see this firsthand with the work of our Hillels across BC, thanks to the hardworking students and professionals at Hillel BC.

For many students, Hillel is their first entry point into the Jewish community, especially if they are at school far from home. Their previous community experience may have been crafted for them at least in part by their families, their friends and their rabbis and teachers, so this is often their first opportunity to carve out a place in community that they define themselves. Hillel is often a very big part of that.

An organization as old as Hillel doesn’t remain a relevant player in young adult engagement by only doing things they’ve always done before. Hillel has adapted its approach in innovative ways that are having an impact. They are focused on what Eric calls “a new movement-wide strategy of student peer-to-peer engagement under the direction of experienced and trained Jewish educators and professionals.” Hillel “…encourages our student leaders, to train them to go out and build the communities out of their own outreach initiatives and to continue to do so under the guidance of trained, experienced, pluralistic, welcoming and inclusive Jewish educators.” You can read more here.

These days, one of the considerations students and parents have when choosing a university is what level of anti-Zionism or anti-Semitism they can expect to encounter and what supports are in place. Hillel is, of course, very active in this area by helping to build understanding and maintaining a culture of dialogue. Their engagement and community building work supports their efforts in this area. 

I realize that was a lot of detail, so let me boil it down to this. Hillel is developing the next generation of Jewish leaders who will shape the community of tomorrow. And we all have a stake in that. Join us to hear what Eric has to say. You’ve only got until Sunday to buy tickets at the early bird price.

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver