Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Happy Hanukkah!

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


December 16, 2022 | 22 Kislev 5783



This message has about 798 words and will take less than 2.5 minute to read.

Hanukkah is nearly here, and it is a time of joy and light. In addition to the light of the candles that remind us of the miracle of oil and the rededication of the temple, mitzvot and acts of chesed and tzedakah bring light into our lives and the lives of those around us. We saw that across our community this week, and that’s where we want to shine a light.  


Let’s start with the Dayhu Group's $5 million gift in support of JWest! 


I would like to thank Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson and their families for their generous support through the Dayhu Group of Companies in association with the Ben & Esther Dayson Charitable Foundation. We are deeply grateful for their support and for being among the first to step forward with a commitment to this project. Their gift helped meet the $25 million Diamond Foundation match. 


Over the years, it has been a true pleasure to get to know members of this family who are so dedicated to our community. Shirley and I have had hundreds of conversations (and debates!) about issues close to our hearts and of importance to our community. I have learned a lot from those talks and value the relationship we have built.  


Shirley is a member of the JWest Capital Campaign Cabinet, and the families were among the earliest supporters of this project. Many organizations, including our Federation, Tikva Housing and Jewish Family Services, have benefitted from the foresight and leadership of Shirley and other family members over the years. Now, the family will be part of an exciting new community legacy: JWest. We want to thank them for continuing to bring light into our community! 


Students brought the light this week, too. 


One of the themes of Hanukkah is religious freedom, and central to that is promoting greater understanding of the traditions and beliefs that different people hold sacred. That was on display on Monday when Richmond Jewish Day School hosted an inter-cultural and interfaith event called "Shine a Light".  


Schools along the “Highway to Heaven” came together to showcase what wintertime celebrations look like in their respective cultures and traditions. Az-Zahraa, Richmond Christian School, and Cornerstone Christian Academy Elementary all attended. Honouring the unique identities of students and teachers, and bringing people together through a program like this, is key to promoting understanding and co-existence.  


One student, Hassan Rizvi, summed it up: "I want them to know about how our tradition works so that they can get to understand us better, like how we want to understand them better. That is important because sometimes they think bad things about us. We think bad things about them, so I want both of us to know about each other so that we don't think that way."  


Lions of Judah are shining bright on their 50th anniversary. 


Sue Hector, chair of Women's Philanthropy, along with Jody Dales and her daughter Rebecca, joined nearly 1,000 Lions of Judah who attended the 50th anniversary of the Lion of Judah conference in Arizona this week. Lion of Judah is an international recognition society for women who give $5,000 or more to their Federation’s annual campaign. Here in Greater Vancouver, Lion of Judah is co-chaired by Karly Leipsic and Josephine Nadel. 


At the conference, discussions focused on mental health in our communities, the rise of antisemitism, and the needs of Ukrainians, with Katie Couric, award winning journalist and author, delivering keynote remarks. 


Our ability to bring light to people’s lives is fueled by our partnerships. 


Last night RBC hosted a Hanukkah reception at which they presented us with a $25,000 contribution to the Federation Annual Campaign. RBC has been supporting our community through the Annual Campaign for many years, and this gift brings the grand total of their support to $400,000—talk about making Amazing Happen!


I would like to acknowledge the central role that Sam Shamash z”l played in establishing this relationship and give a heartfelt thank you—to Eli Joseph and Martin Thibodeau for continuing it.


In attendance were representatives from many of our partner agencies, and I said in my remarks that we exist because of them—and I meant it. Our partners are the heart and soul of our community, and without them we would not be able to make Amazing Happen.


I say the same to you.


More people than ever are turning to our partners, and they rely on the Annual Campaign to do their important work. If you haven’t yet had a chance to make your gift, this Hanukkah is a great time to bring light to thousands of people.   


Shabbat shalom and chag Hanukkah sameach! 

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver