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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

May 17 , 2019 | 12 Iyar 5779 | Candlelighting at 8:33 p.m.

This message has 740 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

I have just arrived in Israel with Karen James, our board chair; Alex Cristall, our vice chair; Candace Kwinter, chair of our Israel and Overseas Affairs Committee; and Marcie Flom, the executive director of the Jewish Community Foundation. We are here to attend the official opening of the Arnold and Anita Silber Theatre, a new 1,200-seat outdoor theater in the heart of the Tel-Hai College campus that Arnold and Anita have very generously funded. We will fill you in on the details in next week’s message, after the ceremony has taken place, but we wanted you to know where we are and why. We will also be taking the opportunity to visit Beit Vancouver and other projects in the North.

In true Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) program fashion, while we are in our partnership region, our local community is hosting the current cohort of Israeli leaders from the Galil-UP Leadership Program. If you read our 2017-18 Annual Report, you’ll know that our support for Galil-UP is aligned with our strategy of building capacity in our partnership region by investing in cultivating up and coming leaders from the Upper Galilee Panhandle. The program prepares them to assume volunteer leadership and professional roles in local and regional communities in the Upper Galilee. They have already created five regional projects that are being implemented to enhance collaboration between the different municipalities in the region.

Our Jewish Federation, our donors and our community play important roles in helping the region and its residents overcome the disadvantages that come with geographic isolation and socioeconomic and security related challenges. Learning more about our Federation, our community and our partners was a big part of their visit to Vancouver. They also joined our young adult program, Axis, for a walking tour of Gastown that brought the early history of our Jewish community alive. Along the way, they gained more knowledge of how a diaspora community like ours works, and built relationships that will form the basis of valuable partnerships and collaborations for years to come.

If you’re looking for your own Israel connection, we have an update on the perfect opportunity. Last week we told you how you can host a ShinShin in your home for three months starting in September. Now it’s time for introductions to Camille Amir and Omer Shpatz, who are coming here to volunteer in our community for a year before their army service.

Camille is a theatre major who was born in Los Angeles before her family moved to Kiryat Shmona, where she lives today. She volunteers at Beit Vancouver as a counselor for Krembo Wings, a youth organization that brings together children with disabilities and their able-bodied peers.  

Omer is a biotechnology and chemistry major from Kiriat Ono, a small city near Tel Aviv. He has volunteered with the Tzofim (Israeli Scouts) for many years, and is a member of CISV, an international organization for youth that educates and inspires action for a more just and peaceful world.

We’re not going to beat around the bush here: we need families who will host these incredibly talented young people. They are old enough and mature enough to be pretty self-sufficient and we keep them very busy while they’re here, but we need families who will open their homes. Please email Shelley Rivkin or Dan Stern for more information on becoming a host family. Watch this video to get to know them better.

We have a long tradition of welcoming visitors and providing hospitality. The community has held several very large scale events in Vancouver over the past few weeks, and if you attended one of them you probably saw several police officers who were there as an added precaution. Our director of community security, Daniel Heydenrych, likes to make sure we serve them a meal before or after their shift, but that’s not always possible. So, last Friday we brought the Chickpea food truck down to VPD headquarters and fed about 130 people. Daniel got there early to get the truck into position and then spent time talking with and thanking police officers, and Rabbi Dan and I joined him.

We’d like to share with you some of what Deputy Chief Chow said in his thank-you email:

“…Your kindness helps reassure our officers how truly important our community is and how well they are supported. Although we’ve always shared a good relationship with the Jewish community, recent tragic world events have forged an even stronger relationship between us. We are forever grateful for your friendship and support. Thank you so much for what you’ve managed to accomplish with this simple kind gesture and please pass along our appreciation, your friends from the VPD.”

One final note: We are delighted to let you know that Eric Fingerhut, currently the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Hillel International, has been appointed the next president and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America. Eric presented at FEDtalks a couple of years ago, and you can watch the video here. While you’re at it, mark September 9th in your calendar and save the date for our next FEDtalks event.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver