"The first hostages are heading home"

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


November 24, 2023 | 11 Kislev 5783



This message has 1,614 words and will take about 6 minutes to read.


The first hostages are heading home

The countdown to Hanukkah is on in the Shanken household.

With the emotional turmoil that we have all been going through lately, the joy of Hanukkah—especially with three very excited little boys—is something we are looking forward to even more than in previous years. We all need the light, the warmth, and the celebration. We have created a list of Hanukkah events here. If you are planning an event that is not listed, please submit it here.

This year, we are taking full advantage of being together with friends, family and community, as we saw at Women United.  

Last Sunday, over 500 women gathered for Women United, which was spearheaded by Megan Laskin and sponsored by The Diamond Foundation. We were thrilled to partner with JNF, Stand With Us, and Schara Tzedeck on this program, which made for an afternoon full of powerful and thought-provoking conversation around the war in Israel and the rise in antisemitism. Gathering our community and our friends at times like these has never been more important and we would like to extend our deep gratitude to the Laskin family for their dedication to this event.

Speaking of gathering, we invite you to join us at the Vancouver Art Gallery as we light the Silber Family Agam Menorah on Thursday evening, and then rally and march for Israel. Let's show that we are proud, that we stand together, and that we are determined to bring light in dark moments.

Bring your friends, bring people from outside of our community, and let’s be together in big numbers for all to see. You will hear from dignitaries who support us, and there will be music, a spoken word artist, and treats, of course.

There is also the National Rally for Israel in Ottawa coming up on Monday, December 4, and there is still time to join us. Lana Marks Pulver, who is our board chair, and I will be there with a number of other community leaders and Dalia Ohayon, whose sister, Silvya z"l who was murdered by Hamas. Everyone is welcome and we would love to have you there as we show our solidarity and love for Israel.  

On last week’s national leadership mission to Israel, we were joined by Hodie Kahn who shared her reflections with us.  

Hodie is a member of our board and chair of our Day School Council, and she has been in Israel since before October 7th. Rather than returning to Vancouver, Hodie has stayed in Israel and clearly feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to be there and to bear witness.


She is an incredibly compelling writer, and we are grateful that she has been sharing her reflections with us, so that we can share them with you. Here is an excerpt about the mission’s visit to Kfar Aza, and a link to the full piece, which I encourage you to read so that you, too, can become a witness.  

As I exit the unit I am struck by a new wave of conflicting emotions. I feel as though I am violating the sanctity of this place of death by being here, entering the homes of the murdered and walking in their place of death. But I have been exhorted by everyone we meet to bear witness. I believe these victims call out to me, too. I have to touch the walls inside the homes of the massacred and wade through the remnants of their lives. I have been charged with the responsibility of being their story keepers. It dawns on me that the very expression of “bearing witness” suggests the carrying of a load. I must bear the weight of these horrors and these experiences so I can bring them to others. To bring them to you. Click here to read more.  

Amazing Happens when young adults support community together.  

Last Friday night a group of young adults hosted a Shabbat dinner for Israel that raised over $37,000 to support people affected by the war. Thank you to the organizers, including Bella James, Carly Glotman, Tara Peretz, Mira Lutsky, and Rebecca and Rachel Azeroual who brought together 150 of their peers to celebrate Shabbat and support community. It is inspiring to see young leaders take the initiative to create this kind of opportunity to come together and to raise funds. We were also very grateful to learn that partial proceeds will support our Israel Emergency Campaign.   

Yesterday, members of our Ben Gurion Society joined young adults from our partner, Jewish Family Services, to bake challah for Jewish families in need. While there has rightly been a lot of focus on Israel recently, the needs in our own community remain a significant focus of our work and that of our partners.  

When it comes to food security, the cost of living continues to take a toll. One in six Jewish children lives in a low-income household, and families rely on the full network of programs and services to make ends meet and to stay actively connected to the community. Guided through the program by Alex Shafran, young adults made over 50 challahs. Events like this showcase our partner agencies and the important work that they do. 

Help make this important work possible. Come work with us!  

We are hiring for a key senior role: Vice President, Community Planning, Partnerships & Innovation. This new role includes important aspects of the work previously led by Shelley Rivkin, and it is your opportunity to make a lasting difference for our community through your career. We are at a critical moment for our community and our Federation has never been stronger and better positioned to make an impact. This is the perfect time to come and work for your community and your Federation. Apply here or forward this to someone you know.  


Shabbat shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken

CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Hodie Kahn

The Fed Four

The Whistler Jewish community sat down with local MP Patrick Weiler to share the impact that Canadian Jew-hatred has had on the Sea to Sky community.

The Whistler Jewish community sat down with local MP Patrick Weiler to share the impact that Canadian Jew-hatred has had on the Sea to Sky community.

To find a Hanukkah event happening near you, click here. If you are planning and event that isn’t listed, fill out this form.

Join the largest Shabbat dinner celebration in North America on January 19th, 2024 to experience the sacred joy of Shabbat. Learn more here.