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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

September 29, 2017 | 9 Tishrei 5778 | Holiday Candlelighting at 6:36 p.m.

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As we prepare to gather as a community for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur, we are reminded of how finite time is and how fragile life is. It is also a time when we think about our capacity to make real change in the time we have. That includes reaching out to those who need our help in times of crisis.

I am very pleased to announce that our Executive Committee has approved $10,000 from our emergency fund to support victims of the devastating earthquakes in Mexico. This is the maximum that we usually designate from the fund, and it will support the efforts of our trusted overseas partner, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The JDC was on the ground immediately, supporting the search, rescue, and emergency aid efforts of CADENA, its Mexican Jewish humanitarian partner. In addition, the Israeli government and IsraAid both deployed search and rescue teams to Mexico City.

The JDC provides non-sectarian humanitarian relief in more than 70 countries around the world, and we are proud to support their efforts. They have deep ties with the Jewish community in Mexico, and their initial response was concentrated on immediate rescue and relief efforts, including digging people out of the rubble, emergency psychology services and medical aid. If you would like to support their efforts, please click here and contact Elizabeth at our office to make a donation.

Simultaneously, JDC is supporting victims of Hurricane Irma with hygiene kits, safe drinking water, psychosocial support for children, access to safe educational facilities, and assisting the Jewish community in Cuba with food supplies and recovery aid.

At Yom Kippur we are also reminded of our capacity to build a community worthy of future generations. It is a value that is dear to the heart of Leon Glassman, and I am very pleased to announce that he has contributed an additional $1 Million to support Jewish education in our community. One year ago, he established The Leon Glassman Fund for Jewish Continuity through Education with an initial $1 Million gift. His recent contribution brings the fund total to over $2 Million.

Leon’s generous support of Jewish education reflects his life-long commitment to fostering Jewish continuity and Jewish identity. One of his intentions was for this endowment fund to spark the tzedakah of others, so that the fund would become something the entire community could both participate in and benefit from. In that way, it speaks to our ability as a community to build for those who come after us. To contribute to the fund, click here.

You can read more about The Leon Glassman Fund for Jewish Continuity through Education in this article which appeared in the Jewish Independent and in our Shabbat Message. We will be bringing you more on this fund and its impact in the coming days and weeks.

When we think about the generations that will come after us, one of their responsibilities will be to keep our history alive, including the memories and stories of  the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Last Sunday, more than 100 community members gathered at the Schara Tzedeck cemetery to observe the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre’s annual High Holidays cemetery service and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of our community’s Holocaust monument. Local Holocaust survivors wanted a place to mourn for their loved ones who perished during the Holocaust – that wish became a reality on Yom HaShoah 1987. Jack Kowarsky, chair of the Monument Committee and a child survivor of the Holocuast, spoke about the conception for the monument and thanked those instrumental in its creation.

This week also saw the official opening of the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa. Our community was represented there by a group of local Holocaust survivors and Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) Outreach Speakers – Rita Akselrod, Alex Buckman, Mariette Doduck and Dr. Robert Krell. Dr. Krell was a keynote speaker at the sold-out public program following the inauguration organized by the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship at Library and Archives Canada. The Monument, entitled "Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival," is now open to the public.

Tonight, I will have privilege of speaking about our community and its needs to those of you who will be attending Kol Nidre at Har El. Many more of you will hear from our volunteer leadership at services tomorrow. There is nothing more poignant to me than the way we come together at Yom Kippur, our synagogues bursting at the seams. In my eyes it is one of the ultimate expressions of ourselves as a community, in large part because of the potential we have to change our community and the world around us for the better through our actions.

Shabbat shalom and g’mar chatimah tova.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver