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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

February 22, 2019 | 17 Adar 1 5779 | Candlelighting at 5:26 p.m.

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We hope you had a great Family Day on Monday. Families, of course, play a central role in shaping the next generation and the future of our community. So do schools and teachers, summer camps and counsellors, and the madrichim who help our kids build personal connections to Israel, and that is what we have to share with you this week.   

We were proud to be a part of “Family Day is Camp Day” at the JCC on Monday, which introduced parents and kids to the incredible variety of Jewish summer camps that we are fortunate to have in, or close by, our community. Camp is an incredibly powerful experience. Results of a study called Camp Works, which was conducted in 2011, show that adults who attended Jewish overnight camp as children are more likely to feel being Jewish is very important; more likely to light Shabbat candles; and more likely to feel very emotionally connected to Israel. Your gift to theFederation Annual Campaign not only supports camp, it supports camperships for 115 children whose families cannot afford the full fee.  

When wildfires raged across California last year, many Jewish neighbourhoods – and summer camps – were affected. Our Board approved $15,000 from our emergency and disaster reserve fund to support the efforts of Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles as they worked to help people and organizations that had been affected. You can read about the role individual Federations and the Federation system played in this article. As our emergency fund chair, Bruce Cohen, so aptly put it, “It really highlights the incredible importance of the work organized by a federation in difficult and tragic circumstances…. I think we can be very proud of the fact that the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver has recognized this important element of creating and maintaining emergency funds.”  

Just as we are connected to other Jewish communities, we are connected to our Jewish homeland. We are reaching out to many of the families, teens and young adults who live in the regional communitieswith a Birthright Israel, March of the Livingand Masa Israel Journey information session on February 27th at 7:30 p.m. at the White Rock/South Surrey JCC. Birthright Israel provides Jewish young adults with a free seven-to-10-day trip to Israel, and Masa Israel Journey provides gap-year study abroad, intern and volunteer programs that are also immersive Israel experiences. On March of the Living, high school students visit Holocaust sites in Poland, and then spend a week in Israel over Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Speaking of Israel, we were delighted to present Ambassador Dani Dayan, Israel’s Consul General to New York, as the guest speaker at our annual event for major donors in Palm Springs last night. We’ve been holding this event for many years in the desert, because many of our longtime donors spend their winter months in sunny California. Ambassador Dayan is a regular commentator in the international media, and it was great to hear directly from someone with the inside track. Many thanks to Ruby and Gerry Gales for generously hosting this event at their home.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said that teachers are “the text students never forget,” and when we hear those words, inevitably each of us recalls a teacher who made an impact on us. There were two programs that happened in the last week for teachers that we want to tell you about.

The first was last Friday, when our partner, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC), hosted the 11th Shafran Teachers’ Conference titled, “Holocaust Education: Current Challenges – New Strategies,” for approximately 75 teachers and educators. Just a few weeks ago you may have seen this article and others like it that reported one in five Canadian youths don’t know what happened in the Holocaust. Education is the key to changing this and we are proud to support the VHEC’s ongoing work in this area.  

We were also proud to co-sponsor the Jewish Day Schools Professional Development Day with the Consortium of Jewish Day Schools on Tuesday. It was great to see 150 educators from the six local Jewish schools and the Jewish Community Centre’s early childhood program turn up on a snowy day for stimulating presentations and discussions about education. Among the speakers was Larry Thompson, who presented on responsibility-centred discipline. Lev Stark spoke to school administrators about how Jewish schools can connect to the community in a digital world. And Tal David, from the Centre for Israel Education, talked about how to understand Israel’s history, culture, religion and architecture by exploring the idea of water from Biblical through modern times. There were many other educators from our local community who led amazing sessions, as well. Many thanks to the Consortium of Jewish Day Schools, and to King David High School (KDHS) for hosting.  

Josh Shipp, who addressed KDHS students a few years ago, is fond of saying that "every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story." Whether that is a family member, a teacher who shares their inspiration, a camp director or counsellor, or a madrich who guides a youth trip to Israel, we are here to support them as they support our community’s next generation.  

Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

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