Click here for web version
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

August 18, 2017 | 26 Av 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 8:04 p.m.

This message has 648 words and will take about 3 minutes to read.

While we had initially planned for this week’s message to focus on our FEDtalks speaker, Ruth Wasserman Lande, I must first take this opportunity to condemn the violence in Charlottesville last weekend and in Spain yesterday. I am sure you were as appalled as I was at the hate and racism, and the senseless murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville and the 13 people in Spain whose names we are only beginning to know. Many dozens more were injured.

It can be easy to feel that in Canada, where we take such pride in the multicultural fabric of our country, we are a degree removed from hate-fuelled rallies such as the one in Charlottesville. Sadly, we are not entirely immune. As you may already be aware, there is a far-right rally planned for Saturday at Vancouver’s City Hall.

Our Federation, together with our advocacy partner, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, issued a statement condemning the rally, which you can read here. We will always raise our voices in protest when we see racism and hatred, and we are heartened to see that Mayor Robertson has also been vocal in his opposition, saying that “hatred and racism have no place in this city.” We sent our statement out to community members via email earlier this week. If you didn’t receive it, click here and be the first to hear important community new in the future.

While the start of today’s message may well have stirred up feelings of outrage and upset, I also want to give you a reason to feel proud.

The message we originally had planned for today was sparked by the story of Ray Bitton and how the odds were stacked against her, not only in her quest to become a physician, but in her desire to attend a medical school based in Israel. You can read Ray’s story here. The wonderful twist in this particular case is that a medical school we helped make a reality made all the difference.

The small number of medical schools is a big issue in Israel, with many students opting to study in Europe each year. Leaving Israel to study reduces the likelihood that they will return to Israel to practice. Ray is one of the many who left Israel to study, but she was able to come back home and complete her training in the Galilee. As it happens, during her fourth year of medical school, the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee opened in Tsfat. Ray took the opportunity to finish her studies in Israel, graduated cum laude and completed a specialization in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

Our Federation is extremely proud to have funded the feasibility study that ultimately led to the opening of the medical school in Tsfat. It is now one of the major economic drivers in the area and is helping to lift up the entire region. If you attended last year’s FEDtalks event, you’ll surely remember Gidi Grinstein’s presentation about “leapfrogging” or accelerating the creation of sustainable, long-term, positive change in a region. It is a prime example of our strategic investment in the Northern Galilee.

It is something our FEDtalks speaker, Ruth Wasserman Lande, also believes in. Incredibly accomplished, she rose through the ranks at the Israeli embassy in Egypt, was an advisor to Simon Peres z”l, and is a widely respected Mid-East expert. As a “side volunteer project” inspired by the Wexner Foundation leadership program she undertook, she is committed to transforming a Bedouin village into a model for Israeli society. She sees helping minority communities improve their living conditions and better integrate into mainstream Israeli society as an expression of her Zionism. Essentially, making a Bedouin community into a model that others can emulate will contribute to making Israeli society stronger as a whole.

I hope you will join us!

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver