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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

November 8, 2019 | 10 Chesvan 5780 | Candlelighting at 4:22 p.m.

This message has 852 words and takes about 3 minutes to read.

On Sunday evening we hosted 500 women at one of our biggest events of the year – Choices. The event celebrates the choices women make to support our community. Once again, it was a sell-out, which is reflective of the stellar reputation Choices has earned over the past 15 years and of the terrific work done by the event co-chairs: Courtney Cohen, Leanne Hazon and Sherri Wise. Kol hakavod!
A big todah rabah goes out to the Choices committee, table captains, volunteers, and Sue Hector, who represented the Annual Campaign cabinet. We were especially pleased to see so many young women from Axis and Hillel in attendance.
Choices highlights always include the speakers, and this year was no exception. Grace Miller-Day, a young woman in our community who refused to back down when confronted with antisemitism as a student at McGill, was riveting. Now she is a program coordinator with our partner, Hillel BC. The keynote was delivered by Dr. Sima Goel, author of Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman’s Escape From Iran, whose courageous quest for freedom was emotional and inspiring.
These two women had very different journeys, but one thing they had in common was that they were both supported, in one way or another, by Jewish Federation.
A few nights later, at Vancouver Hebrew Academy’s annual general meeting, we were thrilled to see one of our colleagues honoured. Shelley Rivkin, our vice president planning, allocations and community affairs, was celebrated as VHA’s volunteer of the year. She spoke beautifully and eloquently saying that whatever contribution she has made to the school community, she has gained so much more from them. Shelley’s commitment goes well beyond her work as a communal professional, so to see her honoured as a volunteer was wonderful.
One of the areas Shelley oversees here at Jewish Federation is the local allocations process. As we prepare for the 2020 allocations cycle, we are pleased to see several new members join the committee, willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. We have a great cross-section of committee members from various parts of the Lower Mainland and they have diverse professional and volunteer experiences.
While allocations from the Annual Campaign remain an important way in which we and our partners address community needs, it is only one of the ways we generate funds. Throughout the year, we work with donors to generate special project funding and with fund holders at the Jewish Community Foundation. Our partners often receive funding from multiple sources, not just allocations from the Annual Campaign.
Speaking of our partners, we’re proud to support the supplementary schools’ recent professional development days and to extend the learning opportunities to staff at other partners. We brought Rabbi Yonah Schiller, executive director of Tulane Hillel, here to work with approximately 50 educators and Jewish communal professionals at two sessions focused on using design theory to engage students and to create the programs and services their constituents want to see.
One partner we would like to highlight this week is the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. Last night they held our community’s annual Kristallnacht Commemoration, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Michael Hayden, MC, OBC, who detailed the story of the Hahn family and their collection of Jewish art before, during and after the Holocaust.
Head down the spiral staircase at the JCC and visit the VHEC’s latest exhibition, Treasured Belongings: The Hahn Family & the Search for a Stolen Legacy, which features the Hahn family’s rich artifacts and documentation that speak to timely themes of cultural loss, reconciliation and intergenerational legacy.
As survivors age, it becomes increasingly important that we invest in creating the next generation of witnesses. That’s why we support March of the Living, an immersive experience on which teens (and separately young adults and adults) spend a week in Poland visiting historical sites and concentration camps, followed by a week in Israel connecting with our homeland.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the message this week, and it feels right to leave you to start Shabbat with the fantastic news that we have received 42 applications for the 2020 March of the Living. It is by far the largest group of teens we have ever had sign up for this trip. Find out more here. 
This past week has also been marked by communal events commemorating Yitzhak Rabin z'l, spearheaded by the Shinshinim and the youth leadership and Shlicha of Camp Miriam. On Sunday, they put on a joint memorial activity in cooperation with the Hebrew schools at Beth Israel, Temple Sholom and Beth Tikva, with over 80 students participating. In another successful collaboration, they arranged  a Rabin community event night at the JCC.
When we see young people step up, remember those who came before them, and honour their memories and their legacies, it fills us with pride and with hope.

Shabbat shalom and we hope you have a meaningful Remembrance Day.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver