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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

July 28, 2017 | 5 Av 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 8:39 p.m.

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I’ve long considered the work Jewish communal professionals do on behalf of the community to be holy work. Many of us have devoted nearly our entire careers to serving our community. It is important that we find ways to maintain fresh perspectives, build our relationships with each other, and keep up with an ever evolving Federation system. That is what I spent the last few days doing with CEOs of similar sized Federations to ours from across North America. Not only that, but I had the honour of co-chairing the annual program this year.

We had an opportunity to meet with the leaders of three continental and international organizations with local presences in communities across North America: our trusted overseas partner, the Joint Distribution Committee; our long standing partner in Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel; and the Anti-Defamation League. They shared their organizational vision, with a particular focus on the interrelationship with Federation.

Our group also did a deep dive on leadership, designed to make us all better CEOs when we returned home, and explored the changing landscape of CEO roles in non-profits. Not only did we have time to personally reflect in these areas, but we left with new tools to add to our belts. Federations are built to be locally focused, with each Federation reflecting the community it serves. The experience of gathering with CEOs from so many different cities affords a unique opportunity to see the similarities and differences around challenges facing Jewish communities today. It was humbling for me to be reminded of how large our system is and how much impact we have collectively on the world around us.

We also heard from the professional leadership of Jewish Federations of North America, who provided top level briefings on their Israel & Overseas efforts, their financial resource development and marketing initiatives, and where they are going in the areas of Jewish education and engagement and programs for young adults.

Speaking of young adults, the Axis Summer Social was last night, and it was incredible! Our Board chair, Karen James, and I attended the event and were blown away by the energy. If you are out there looking to meet young Jewish professionals this is clearly the place. Click here for photos. Kol hakavod to event co-chairs Brent Davis and Jon Samuel and their committee for planning such a fun party, complete with a food truck and the most spectacular views of the sunset and False Creek.

Like every Axis event, it was planned by young adults for their peers, and so it serves a dual purpose. On one hand, it was a super fun party that drew 125+ young Jews on a hot summer night. On the other, it is an opportunity for Millennials to get involved, take on leadership roles, and shape our community in ways that work for them. That’s the real beauty of our Axis program – nothing about it is top down.  

Engaging young adults (and young families) is one of the five areas of opportunity that we identified in our 2020 Strategic Priorities. While Axis has grown by leaps and bounds since we launched the program in early 2013, it is not the only way in which we are helping young people find entry points into community.

If Israel and travel are what interest someone, we have options for them, too. We provide funding to send more than 200 young adults on high school, gap year and peer group Israel experience programs, which I wrote about last week. These experiences last a lifetime, and we are proud to foster deeper connections to Israel.

Recognizing that many young people make their first connection with our community during their college and university years, we support programs on campus. If you read our Annual Report you will have seen that since 2012 we have steadily increased funding to our partner agencies, one of which is Hillel BC. We are proud to support Hillel’s work, and we are thrilled that Eric Fingerhut, CEO of Hillel International, will be presenting at our campaign opening event, FEDtalks, on September 13th. Buy your tickets today and join us!

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver