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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

March 1, 2019 | 24 Adar I 5779 | Candlelighting at 5:37 p.m.

This message has 779 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

There are many moments in which the understanding that as a collective, we are part of the bigger picture of the Jewish world rings true. We had a stark reminder this week when we heard the shocking news of the attack on the Chief Rabbi of Argentina, Gabriel Davidovich.

Our partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), has reached out and offered support and refuah shlemah from people around the world. Nikki Holland, CEO of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, let us know that “JAFI is currently providing security services to the rabbi and his family and his home through the JAFI Security Fund. This fund is possible in part because of the core dollars that the Canadian Jewish community transfers to the JAFI.”

She also reminded us that our “local community donors and generous collective support of the national community for JAFI are playing a significant role is assisting the Davidovich family and the Argentinian Jewish community.” We want to make sure you know that, because when something like this happens it’s important to understand that as a supporter of our work and that of our partners, you are helping.

From far away to here at home, you are making a difference on a very personal level. This is a time of year when we all start gathering the forms and receipts we need to complete our taxes. Imagine how difficult completing Canadian tax forms must be if you’re new to Canada or English is your second language. That’s where our Gesher Welcoming program, and its coordinator, Miri Tal, come in. This past Monday, 19 Israelis who are new to Canada took part in a seminar offered in Hebrew about how to navigate the Canadian banking and tax systems that was organized by Gesher. Making life a little easier for people who are new to our community, helping them navigate Canadian systems, and giving them opportunities to build personal connections are part of the value Gesher brings. Many thanks to Shuli Ben Moshe and Irina Sander, who volunteered their time and shared their professional expertise. You can follow Gesher on Facebook.

In Richmond, Courtney Cohen, co-founder of Rose’s Angels, and a past recipient of the community’s Young Leadership Award, together with co-founder Lynn Fader, gathered dozens of people at Richmond Jewish Day School to create 1,200 care packages with personal essentials, like toiletries and items for kids, for people in need. The care packages were distributed to 23 organizations including the Jewish Food Bank. Kol hakavod to all involved, including our partner, the Kehila Society of Richmond

In Vancouver, we heard the disappointing news that Pacific Torah Institute (PTI) has made the difficult decision to leave the community. PTI has operated for 16 years and we are grateful to their leadership, faculty and students for their myriad contributions to our community. We are sorry to see them go, and will miss having PTI as both a partner and a neighbour.

Over at UBC, Hillel's tradition of the Wednesday Hot Lunch continued with a remarkable twist called “A Taste of Coexistence.” This semester our partner, Hillel BC, is collaborating with two restaurants, Aleph and Chickpea, one Palestinian and the other Israeli, to offer lunch to the UBC community. They served about 1,000 students, faculty, staff and community members, and I was delighted to join them.

Rabbi Bregman said they “had the tremendous good fortune to listen to the restaurant owners, Haitham (Aleph) and Itamar (Chickpea) encourage and even challenge everyone to find new ways to interact with people that they may have previously decided were the ‘other’.”

Ariela Karmel, Hillel’s program director, tells us that they “want to model how dialogue and collaboration can happen and are happening every day. In order to move forward people cannot dismiss, denigrate or ignore one another, but work together to resolve conflict.”

Hillel does tremendous work on campus, and this is just one example of how they are making a positive impact.

Since this week’s message has taken us around the community and around the world, let’s close on a topic that’s literally out of this world. One week ago, Israel launched its first lunar spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Earth. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride so far, but Israel is set to join an elite group of countries – Russia, the United States, and China – who have landed on the moon. You can watch Beresheet’s progress live here and be reminded of some of the wonderful ways that we are each a part of the bigger picture of the Jewish World. 

Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

P.S. Mazel tov to King David High School’s senior boys team on winning the Senior Boys Lower Mainland "A" Zone Basketball Championship. Next up for the Lions is the BC Senior Boys Provincial Championships at the Langley Events Center on March 5-9! Read more about the team and Coach Aram here.