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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

November 24, 2017 | 6 Kislev 5778 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 4:03 p.m.

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Have you answered the call? You know the call I mean - the one from your volunteer canvasser asking you to support the community through the Annual Campaign.

We’re in the final stretch of the official campaign period, and now is the time to get your gift in. If you have already made your gift, I thank you on behalf of our partners and the thousands of people who rely on Federation-funded programs and services each year. If you haven’t yet made your gift, it is no exaggeration when I say that every single gift matters. The community is made of individuals, and each one of us has a role to play in helping those in need. Click here to make your gift before Shabbat.

Volunteers like our canvassers are the backbone of our community, and that includes Maya and Diana, our ShinShiniyot emissaries from Israel who are volunteering for one year with Federation, the JCC, Temple Sholom Hebrew School, Vancouver Talmud Torah, King David High School (KDHS), Richmond Jewish Day School and Beth Israel Hebrew School.

Maya and Diana helped lead the first meeting of the new Teen Club program that our Connect Me In initiative launched with Habonim-Dror Camp Miriam and Burquest Jewish Community Association. Participants met their peers and their counselors, and enjoyed fun activities and a taste of the Israeli cuisine. If you know of any teens that live in the Tri-Cities area, encourage them to check the program this Sunday for their next meeting. And follow Connect Me In on Facebook for more about programs happening outside of Vancouver, like their Community Hanukkah Celebration in Squamish.

Here in Vancouver, teens from KDHS were busy engaging in Random Acts of Chesed (RAC) as part of RAC Week, which was started by students after the loss of Gabi Isserow z”l to continue her legacy of giving and kindness. This year they paid tribute to Gabi’s life, with the theme “Turning the stigma of mental health inside-out”. Kol hakavod to the students for reaching their goal of performing 1,000 mitzvot!

In case you missed it, last week was the opening of The Canadian Jewish Experience, celebrating the rich history of Jewish life in Canada. Two of our partners, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC are presenting this free exhibit at Vancouver Public Library (VPL) Central Branch. We are proud to have supported the launch event in partnership with the VPL. It is on until November 30th.

The exhibit includes the history of Jewish migration and traces Canadian Jewish communities’ roots from pre-Confederation to today. One of the significant periods of immigration was post-WWII when 40,000 Holocaust survivors settled in Canada. This brings me to the work of our partner, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC), which was founded by a survivor who settled in Vancouver after the war.

On Thursday evening more than 200 guests celebrated the VHEC’s work at their Looking Back... Moving Forward gala with Marissa Roth, a Pulitzer Prize-winning freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer. We learned more about an exciting exhibition of photographic portraits of VHEC Holocaust survivor volunteers that she is creating to be showcased at the newly renovated VHEC in 2018. Building on the VHEC’s achievements as Western Canada’s foremost Holocaust teaching museum, the current renewal project will reconfigure the Centre’s space to honour the legacy of Holocaust survivors, and ensure the community’s ongoing dedication to education and remembrance of the Holocaust.

This time of year, when Shabbat comes earlier and the weather turns colder, those who are already vulnerable are hit even harder. Every year, Mayor Robertson gathers leadership from across the faith-based communities to talk about the City’s plans to support the most vulnerable during the coldest times of the year. I often say that these are our partners in purpose, as we are all connected by a common desire to help those in need. It was wonderful to see such a diverse group of community leaders come together for this important cause. You can read more here.

When members of our community find themselves in a position of vulnerability, they tend to need assistance on multiple fronts from multiple organizations. The campaign plays a unique role in that it supports the breadth of need, be that on a personal and individual basis or in broader terms for the community as a whole.

No one knows this better than those who volunteer their time to make the campaign a success. I am speaking of our canvassers, of course. They come from every corner of our community, but what unites them is their deep love for community and their understanding of the important difference each one us has the opportunity to make.

Shabbat shalom,

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver