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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

November 29, 2019 | 1 Kislev 5780 | Candlelighting at 4:00 p.m.

This message has 904 words and takes about 4 minutes to read.

What does it mean to be part of a Jewish community? Do we owe something to our fellow community members or to the community as a whole? Can a community can make demands of an individual?
One of the traditions we have at our monthly Board meetings is to welcome a different rabbi each time to deliver a d’var Torah. It’s a reminder that the work we do is grounded in our Jewish values.
On Monday evening, it was Rabbi Rosenblatt’s turn and he talked about our responsibilities to each other and the idea that a community gets to make demands of the individual.
He explained that if there are only 10 adult Jews in a community and one of them decides to travel to their mother’s house in another city for Rosh Hashanah, then that individual must first provide their replacement. Otherwise, they leave the community unable to make a minyan – they leave it incomplete or broken. The individual has an obligation to the community, and the community can demand this of them.
Rabbi Rosenblatt went on to ask how we can re-instill that sense of duty that is “so baked into us as community members.” We’ve been thinking about that all week.
Last Friday, we provided you with many opportunities to take action on behalf of the community. Thank you to those of you who did, including those stood with us and with our advocacy partner, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), to object to the auction of Nazi items, which were then pulled from the sale. It showed that we can make a difference, together.
Thank you, too, to the 24 local Jewish organizations that signed the letter asking the City of Vancouver’s Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Advisory Committee to recommend that City Council adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. We are also grateful to the individuals who wrote personal letters, and the representatives of other faith-based and ethno-cultural communities who wrote in support of the motion. We’ll update you when the committee makes their decision sometime in the New Year. 
The obligation we have to community and that community has to us was evident at the Changing Landscapes forum on Tuesday evening, which focused on the needs of our aging population.
Keynote speaker, Dan Levitt, delivered a very engaging and entertaining presentation on how innovative housing models and new methods of service delivery both enhance the wellbeing of older adults and maximize their choices about how they want to live.
Dan’s presentation was followed by a panel presentation that explored various housing models including co-housing and life-leases. These discussions are very timely given that access to affordable housing is one of the top concerns of seniors across the board.
Thank you to CIJA, the JCC, Jewish Family Services, Jewish Seniors Alliance, Kehila Society of Richmond, L’Chaim Adult Services, Louis Brier Home and Hospital, Peretz Centre, and Tikva Housing Society for organizing this forum with us.
Planning for our community’s future is an area of our work that is critically important, and we are able to undertake it successfully because of three factors. First, we are in a unique position as an organization not just to look ahead but to take a very broad view. Second, we bring together dozens of partners who each do important parts of the work. Third, we can do work like this because you support it and more through the Federation Annual Campaign. If you’ve already had a chance to make your gift – thank you! If not, please take this opportunity to make a gift that addresses needs across our entire community.
The community of our future will look different in many ways, and we’re here to give the next generation opportunities to expand their horizons. We hosted dozens of parents and young adults this week for the Masa Gap Year Info Session, where they met with popular program organizers such as Habonim Dror Workshop, Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University, and learned about not just the support Jewish Federation provides but the additional financial support available from the Hebrew Free Loan Association. If you or a young adult in your life is interested in spending time in Israel on Masa, contact Nathan Brown in our office to find out more.
Every year, Rabbi Dan invites me to speak to the Introduction to Judaism class at Temple Sholom, which is always an honour. Students learn a lot about Jewish holidays, laws, customs, prayers, and they learn some Hebrew. My job is to talk with them about community and answer their questions. Whatever it is that has drawn them to Judaism, being part of the community comes with the territory.
Our obligations to each other and to our community – and our understanding of the community’s expectations of us – are, as Rabbi Rosenblatt put it “baked into us.” How can we re-instill that sense of duty? It’s a good question. Ultimately, it isn’t simply up to an organization, nor is it just up to the community to do this on its own. It isn’t only up to each of us as individuals either. Community is about a duty of care that individuals and the community owe to each other. It isn't just the benefits that are reciprocal, the obligations are, too.

Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver