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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

June 2, 2017 | 8 Sivan 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 8:52 p.m.

This message has 766 words and will take about 3 minutes to read.

“May the source of strength, who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.” – Mi Shaberach

I hope you had a chag sameach and enjoyed Shavuot as much as the Shanken family did. I take great joy in celebrating this holy day, and not just because I like cheesecake. When we celebrate the giving of the Torah, we are also celebrating the gift of being able to pass what the Torah teaches us to those who come after us, so they too may make their lives a blessing. Rabbi Bregman said in Monday night's Federation board meeting that one of the most powerful things that binds us is our shared history.

How fitting then that Congregation Schara Tzedeck celebrated their 110th anniversary of doing just that only a few days before Shavuot. Considering that Vancouver is 131 years old, Schara Tzedeck’s depth of history is quite something. They took the occasion to announce that Rabbi Rosenblatt has accepted a contract extension and will continue to lead our city’s longest standing congregation. We are thrilled that he will keep bringing his level headed, collaborative approach to the work we do together on behalf of the community. There are a lot of great anecdotes about Schara Tzedeck, including one that was told to me when I first moved here. There were about 250 Jewish families here when Schara Tzedeck was founded, and given their German roots one might have expected them to found a Reform synagogue. Even at the time they understood that the majority of immigrants who would come later would be from Russia and Eastern Europe, and that these newcomers would need an Orthodox synagogue. And so Schara Tzedeck was founded in large part for what was to come, not just for what was in the moment. It shows incredible vision and is an example of serving the greater community ahead of oneself.

Our Federation tries to take a similar approach, determining what the community’s future needs will be and planning for them while it is early enough to make a difference. Most recently, we have used this message to write about the issue of Jewish affordability, which has an impact on just about every aspect of Jewish community life on the Lower Mainland. As an important part of our 2020 Strategic Priorities, making sure everyone can afford to access Jewish programs and services guides much of our work at hand as well as our future planning.

It also guides the work of our partners, such as the Jewish Family Service Agency (JFSA). I am very pleased to tell you of the success they are seeing in their new low cost counselling service, which is available to members of our community. People seeking counseling will be eligible for up to 15 sessions with JFSA counsellors to address a range of concerns, including depression, anxiety, loss, bereavement, relationship or family issues, personal growth and wellness, health-related concerns, trauma, and stress.

Richard Fruchter, CEO of JFSA, tells me that many of the community members who are seeking counseling through this program are young people who might not otherwise have sought counseling at all. Yet it is crucial that they can access the help they need to navigate difficult times in their lives.

JFSA has always provided initial counselling to anyone who walked in the door, but to offer additional counseling at only $10-20 a session – especially at a time when people are feeling the squeeze - is a game changer. JFSA and Federation both know the importance of making services like this affordable, but that’s not enough. It still takes courage to walk through those doors and ask for help. To take that first step, please contact Alan Stamp at JFSA at 604.637.3309.

Every one of us has faced challenging times of one sort or another, and it’s something Mark Zuckerberg mentioned when he delivered this year’s commencement speech at Harvard. He said that he recites Mi Sheberach when he has faces challenges, and that he sings it to his daughter when he tucks her in at night. “May the source of strength, who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.” It was beautiful to glimpse both this meaningful personal practice and how he recites this blessing with his daughter. Not only that, but he sent the Harvard Class of ’17, potentially some of the biggest influencers of the future, out into the world with this same blessing. And being Mark Zuckerberg, the speech has been liked and shared on Facebook alone more than 480,000 times.  Talk about sharing our teachings, our values and our traditions with the next generation.

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.