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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

September 15, 2017 | 24 Elul Av 5777 | Shabbat Candlelighting at 7:05 p.m.

This message has 835 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

If you were with us on Wednesday night, you already know what a big success FEDtalks was. Thank you so much to all of you who joined us there. This year is our 30th anniversary, which was a big highlight of this year’s campaign video. It was great to have a look back and see how our Federation has grown alongside our community, just as our campaign has grown alongside our community’s needs. Many thanks to Jonathan and Heather Berkowitz, Sondi Green and Al Szajman for their work on our anniversary project. Stay tuned for more from them in the weeks and months to come. 

While we had five fantastic presenters at FEDtalks, we also heard powerful messages from a number of our volunteer leaders. I would like to take the opportunity today to focus on two in particular.

First, we are incredibly grateful to Alex Cristall and the Cristall family for generously increasing and expanding our New Donor Incentive. They have increased the incentive to $250 per new donor, and expanding it to include anyone who hasn’t made a gift since before last year. That means if you’re a new donor or you didn’t give last year, this is the year to give. When you do, an extra $250 will be donated to the campaign. I’ll make it easy for you: click here to donate.

If you made a gift every year, this is the year to invite others to contribute. Alex asked that you “please spread the word to your friends, family members, colleagues and neighbours…. With your help, we can keep our community connected.”

As campaign chair, Alex has an in-depth knowledge of what it takes to make the Annual Campaign successful. A big part of that is ensuring we have a strong donor base to address community needs. As he put it on Wednesday night, “to help our community, we need our community.” As I’ve written here more than once, community is only possible because individuals take part, whether by volunteering, participating, or in the case of the campaign, giving tzedakah. Yasher koach to Alex and his family for leading the way.

Second, I would like to shine a light on the work of the Jewish Food Security Task Force, which Renée Katz, co-chair of the task force, spoke about at FEDtalks. The task force has been jointly launched by Federation and Jewish Family Service Agency (JFSA).

In Vancouver alone, there are more than 4,200 Jews who live in poverty, and this includes 630 Jewish children. There are many more working families who struggle to make ends meet and have limited access to nutritious meals. JFSA operates the Jewish Food Bank at The Peretz Cenrtre near Oakridge Mall, and they serve about 300 people every two weeks. However, nearly half of those in need live beyond Vancouver’s borders.

The task force will be making recommendations around how best to expand the scope of those we are serving both in Vancouver and in the underserved areas of our community, such as the regional communities. They will be investigating a range of initiatives and models that have been successfully implemented in other communities. They are just beginning their work and are in the process of hearing from many different stakeholders and experts, both in our community and in the broader community. One of the really beautiful aspects of their work is that they will weave the Jewish values of preserving dignity and fostering self-reliance into those recommendations. Your gifts, of course, are what will ultimately turn those recommendations into real programs and services that help more people know where their next meal is coming from.

While we are on the topic of hunger, Project Isaiah has just gotten underway. JFSA, with the support of Jewish Women International-BC, organizes a yearly food drive to support the Jewish Food Bank. Currently, the Jewish Food Bank serves over 300 individuals including 58 children. The number of families using the Jewish Food Bank has almost doubled in the last two years. Over 100 clients use the Jewish Food Bank twice a month. Food collection through community partners (including synagogues and day schools) runs through September 29th, and I hope you will support their efforts. 

I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the wonderful work of Kehila Society of Richmond, Chabad Richmond and Beth Tikvah in preparing and delivering nutritious kosher meals to seniors and families in need living in the Richmond community.  This is another important food security initiative that is being supported through the Annual Campaign.

For the many of us who sit down each week to a beautifully laid Shabbat table, it may come as a bit of a surprise to hear just how many of our fellow Jews are unable to do the same. We are incredibly proud to be working alongside JFSA on this issue, but we cannot do it without your help. To help our community, we need our community. And with the $250 incentive on the table, there’s really never been a better time to give.

Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver