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We hope you had a very happy Purim. If there’s one thing we take away from the holiday, it’s that the actions of one person can make a big difference. Each one of us who made the decision to come to synagogue or a community event contributed to the absolutely huge numbers of people that we saw celebrate together, with multiple events and services that each drew hundreds of people.
There were some very successful outreach events that took place all across the region. At the Chaverot and Burquest Hamantaschen Bake, co-hosted by our Connect Me Ininitiative and Burquest, 20 children had a wonderful time baking (and eating!) chocolate hamantaschen with their moms. Together with Camp Miriam, Connect Me In and Burquest put on a sold-out Purim carnival with games, dinner, and a magic show for more than 50 children and their parents. And in Squamish children put on a Purim show for their friends and families with the puppets they made together at an earlier event.
Just a few days before Purim the federal budget was announced, and it contained some good news for our community, as the Canadian Jewish News outlines in this article. Included in the budget is a $2 million annual increase for the Security Infrastructure Program (SIP). Institutions in our community, such as schools and synagogues, have benefitted from this program in the past, which matched funds provided by our Jewish Federation. Modernization of this important program has long been a priority of our advocacy partner, the Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs (CIJA), and we appreciate their work on this file. The budget also includes $45 million over three years for the government's new anti-racism strategy. These two programs will benefit all of us.
When we say that, we aren’t just referring to the Jewish community or to Canadians in general. Institutions like mosques are able to benefit from an enhanced SIP program, too. We would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who were able to attend the vigil last Friday evening and the services at the mosque in Richmond on Sunday. The invitations for these events came directly from representatives of the Muslim community, and it meant a lot to them that members of the Jewish community were there to show support. We have heard that community members are also writing letters and sending flowers. These are great examples of how an individual’s actions make a difference on a very personal level.
Thousands of kilometres away, our trusted international partner, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), is providing rescue and relief aid in Mozambique. They are deploying a team to assess the needs on the ground and provide medical and logistical assistance, and responding with non-food items, medical supplies and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) assistance in partnership with the Afya Foundation. The JDC operates in 70 countries to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief for victims of natural and man-made disasters, and we are very proud to have them as our partner.
At Purim and in the weeks leading up to Passover, our traditions place particular emphasis on caring for people in need. In addition generating the resources to care for people in need today, our Federation looks ahead to what the future needs of our community will be. Receiving reliable information about the local Jewish community, from sources such as Statistics Canada, is crucial to our ability to plan effectively so that we and our partners are adequately prepared to address emerging needs. You have a role to play in that, which we will get to in a moment.
This past week, Shelley Rivkin, our vice president of planning, allocations and community affairs, attended a symposium hosted by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, one of the largest Jewish foundations in the US on the topic of Jewish poverty. The foundation brought together philanthropists, Federations and Jewish social service agencies to examine the nature and depth of poverty in Jewish communities, and to find innovative ways to move beyond band-aid solutions to address structural factors contributing to the issue.
The event was held in San Francisco, which has one of the highest rates of Jewish poverty and homelessness in the US due to very similar factors that we see here in Greater Vancouver: high cost of housing, growing income inequality, and mental health and addiction issues. Unlike in Canada, the American Jewish communities are hampered in their work by not having access to census data to provide a baseline understanding of the extent of the issue.
Shelley said that hearing about these difficulties reinforced the importance of supporting CIJA in their call to get community members to participate in the 2021 Census of Population Program Consultation on the Statistics Canada website. You can support their call to restore “Jewish” as one of the categories householders can select when answering the census question on ethnic origin. Just click through and complete the survey by March 31st. It is access to exactly this kind of data every decade that is critical to our effective planning function.
Ezra S. Shanken
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver
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