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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

December 15, 2017 | 27 Kislev 5778 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 3:56 p.m.

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All of us here at Federation hope you are having a very happy Hanukkah. We were very proud to see Karen James, our Board chair, speak this week at Chabad’s Hanukkah celebration where they lit the Silber Family Agam Menorah, Canada's tallest Menorah, and at Har El in West Vancouver. Many thanks to Rabbi Wineberg and Candice Kwinter for including us in their celebrations.

Our Connect Me In initiative hosted a Hanukkah party in Squamish that drew 11 families, and our Axis program, in partnership with Beth Israel, Hillel BC, JNF, Or Shalom and Temple Sholom, was proud to co-host the annual Hanukkah party for young adults that saw more than 200 Jews in their 20s and 30s party into the wee hours. Events like these are easy invitations for community members to connect, and they offer a warm and welcoming way in for those who are not yet connected.

Speaking of Hanukkah, we said last week that we’d update you on the happenings at General Gordon Elementary School. Janet Fraser, chair of the Vancouver School Board, issued an apology and the school is “proceeding with a number of initiatives related to the celebration of Hanukkah, along with other cultural celebrations.” You can read more in the Vancouver School Board’s statement. Once again, I would like to commend the students for the ways in which they conducted themselves, and thank the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver, and others who supported them.

At Hanukkah we are reminded that size isn’t always an indication of potential impact. A small amount of oil can last a long time, and a small group of people can triumph over huge armies. Similarly, a small grant can make an enormous difference in the community. 

That’s why we are so pleased to announce the launch of our new Inspiring Inclusion micro grants. This is an initiative of the Federation Planning Council, which has identified inclusion as one of its strategic priorities. Embracing more flexible funding models and increasing our commitment to supporting grassroots initiatives were both identified in our 2020 Strategic Priorities process, and these grants are one way in which we are delivering on those commitments.  

Grants of up to $2,500 are intended to inspire greater access and participation in Jewish community life for children, youth and young adults who currently face barriers due to their physical, emotional or developmental challenges. Funding will be granted to organizations to pilot a new idea, program or event or to adapt an existing program or event to facilitate the physical and social inclusion of children, youth or young adults and their families into Jewish community life. Click here for more information.

Building community requires a shift in mindset from all of us, and this was a theme of Shirley Barnett’s address at the AGM of our partner, Tikva Housing. She spoke of the need to think in new ways about housing and how it relates to building community at micro and macro levels. At Tikva, they aren’t just building and managing new affordable housing units, they’re building new neighbourhoods.

Shirley spoke about a number of innovative approaches to housing on a broad scale, but it was what she said about thinking differently in order to create a neighbourhood that really caught my attention. In most apartment buildings your fob only gets you onto your floor, and if you want to visit a neighbour on another floor you have to go downstairs and be buzzed in. Tikva took a different approach at the Diamond Residences at Storeys, which just had their official opening. They made sure that the Tikva residents had fobs that gave them access to all three floors of units that Tikva manages. It makes it easier, Shirley said, to borrow a cup of sugar or have kids visit their friends and relatives. “That,” she said, “is building a new neighbourhood.”

Tikva’s AGM was also an opportunity to remember our colleague Susana Cogan z”l, whom we miss dearly. This idea of not just building housing units, but creating neighbourhoods reflects Susana’s approach and her warmth. It’s wonderful to see this carried on.

We and our partners are also building connections through our Partnership2Gether Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) program. We hosted our largest group ever of 25 Har Vagai students and three teachers from our partnership region in the Upper Galilee. They have been in Vancouver over the past several days as part of an annual exchange program with their peers at King David High School. Gesher Chai is specifically intended to build people-to-people connections, so that everyone in our community feels like they have extended family in our partnership region and vice versa, and it’s great to see students and staff building lasting friendships and learning from one another.

Community connections is the theme of this year’s Federation Annual Campaign, and your gift supports nearly all of the programs, partners and events we wrote about this week. If you haven’t had a chance to make your gift yet, there is still time to do so and receive a 2017 tax receipt. Even a small gift can have a big impact. Now that we are halfway through Hanukkah and it is the darkest, earliest Shabbat of the year, what better time to let your tzedakah bring light into someone’s life?

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach,

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver