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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

November 17, 2017 | 28 Cheshvan 5778 | Holiday Candlelighting at 4:10 p.m.

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I would like to start this week’s message with two huge kol hakavods.

The first is to Joe and Rosalie Segal on receiving the much deserved Lifetime Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Through their lifelong commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam, the Segals have made an indelible impact not only on our Jewish community, but on the entire Vancouver community and beyond. His Order of British Columbia biography reads in part: "It has been said of Joseph Segal - if there is a good and noble cause, he is there."

And kol hakavod to Shelley Rivkin, our vice president of planning, allocations and community affairs, who was recently appointed to the Provincial Multicultural Advisory Council. Considering her longstanding involvement in our community and the strength of her relationships with other faith based and ethno-cultural communities, she will undoubtedly make rich contributions in this role. Read more here.

It was truly a privilege for Shelley and me to spend time with our leadership, partners and fellow Jewish communal professionals at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly (the GA) earlier this week. The GA is where thousands of top Jewish communal changemakers from across the Federation system and our partner agencies gather to learn from one another, share best practices, and look ahead to where we as a continental Jewish community are headed.

Our Vancouver leadership was front and centre at the GA, with our Board chair, Karen James, speaking at the closing plenary and representing our Federation at the JFNA Board of Trustees and Federation Members meetings. Karen is an extraordinary leader, and at the GA it was clear to see how widely respected she is on the continental and international levels. We are incredibly fortunate to have someone of her calibre at the helm of our Board. In case you missed it, take a few minutes to read more about what drives Karen in this interview she did with the Jewish Independent.

Joining us at the GA were Bryan Hack, chair of young adult initiatives, Eric Bulmash and Penny Gurstein who co-chair our planning council, Alex Jacobs-Hajian, and Melanie Samuels, past president of the JCC. They had the chance to learn from the many thought leaders there about ways to help us better understand what opportunities exist  for our community today and tomorrow.

At the Board of Trustees meetings, JFNA passed a resolution addressing the issues of egalitarian prayer space and conversion that have been hot topics for several months. You can read the resolution here. The breakout sessions provided the opportunity to delve into topics from welcoming diversity in our community to learning how different communities are handling security. And the plenaries featured addresses by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin.

What we learn at the GA has a direct benefit to our community. A couple of years ago I participated on a breakout panel that informed the beginnings of our regional communities strategy. The same breakout session also gave us the opportunity to learn about Philadelphia’s innovative approaches to addressing food security, which will likely be helpful to the new Jewish Food Security Task Force that we are jointly leading with the Jewish Family Service Agency.

I have said many times that being part of a collective is about getting involved, and that is true whether you’re attending a community event locally or internationally. It isn’t always easy to attend gatherings like the GA, but it’s important. Our volunteers take time out of their busy work schedules and away from their families, and make their own way to the GA. Their willingness, even eagerness, to prioritize Federation, community and philanthropy is inspiring. In 2018 the GA will be held in Israel, as it is every fifth year. We’d love for you to join us. Please email me or register here.

Shabbat shalom,

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver