Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

A place of belonging

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


December 9, 2022 | 15 Kislev 5783



This message has about 660 words and will take less than 2.5 minute to read.

This was such an exciting week for our community with the fantastic news of the Government of Canada’s $25 million contribution to the redevelopment of the JCC—and we will start there—but there is even more to celebrate.  

I would like to start by thanking Minister Sajjan, who made the announcement on behalf of Minister Pablo Rodriguez; MP Noormohamed, who spoke on behalf of our riding of Vancouver-Granville; and Salomon Casseres, who delivered remarks from the JCC and who, as past president of the JCC, has been involved in this project from its very early days. 

Minister Sajjan, who has brought his own children to the JCC for lessons and programs, told the audience that “ in cultural infrastructure like this one helps us to celebrate, preserve and honour the culture of our Jewish Canadian communities while strengthening a diverse and inclusive Canada."  

MP Noormohamed, a proud new father who said that he is hoping to send his son to the JCC daycare, said “this is a project that signifies the contribution and the commitment of the Jewish community to all of us and all of Vancouver.” We agree! 

One of the most memorable moments of the morning took place on a tour of the JCC, led by Alison Cristall, associate executive director. She took us to visit the preschoolers, who sang a welcome song in Korean... and then in English, French, Hindi, Hebrew, and Japanese. They know it in Cantonese, Spanish, and German, too! It wasn’t a staged performance; this is a song they typically learn in multiple languages as part of the regular curriculum focused on honouring each child, their background, and their identities. 

This announcement was many years in the making.

It is the result of extensive work that involved many people. These efforts were led in large part by Nico Slobinsky, senior director of our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Pacific Region (CIJA). Nico played an instrumental role in getting us to this point with the federal government. Those of you who have had the pleasure of working with him know just what an asset our community has in Nico. We also want to praise the team at CIJA’s national office for their leadership and guidance throughout the process. 

I want to acknowledge and thank Alvin Wasserman, president of the JCC, and Eldad Goldfarb, executive director of the JCC for the leadership and professionalism they have brought to this process over the the years. The timing of the announcement was such that none of them were able to attend, and so we want to be sure to shine a light on them here. 

The JCC has been a place of belonging for over 90 years. 

The Government of Canada’s generous $25 million dollar contribution will touch the lives of thousands of people of every life stage and from all walks of life. Together, we will be able to address pressing issues, including providing greater access to childcare and seniors programming. The new, state-of-the-art JCC will be at the heart of a broader redevelopment that will include two towers of rental housing, a portion of which will be offered at or below market rates. 

Serving more people in a distinctly Jewish space is important. 
We are proud that the Jewish community has long played an important role in the multicultural fabric of our city, our province and our country. The JCC is one of the most diverse cultural and recreational centres in the region.  

The support from the Government of Canada joins the support we announced previously from the Province of BC and the Diamond Foundation, as well as private donors who matched the Diamond Foundation gift. 

Speaking of the Diamonds, Keren Hayesod is celebrating Gordon and Leslie Diamond! 

Gordon and Leslie will receive the 2023 Yakir Keren Hayesod Award in recognition of their committed leadership and unwavering devotion to Israel and to Keren Hayesod through their generosity and leadership with our Federation.  

The Yakir Award - Keren Hayesod’s highest honor - is bestowed upon individuals whose sense of mission, dedication and perseverance on behalf of their homeland and their nation have made an outstanding, long-term contribution to the State of Israel, the Jewish people, and Keren Hayesod. The Hebrew word Yakir means beloved, notable, worthy, and accordingly, the Yakir Award reflects the ultimate devotion and clarity of vision that a community leader can show.  

This is the first time in two decades that a Western Canadian leader has been selected for this award. We are exceptionally proud to have nominated the Diamonds, who could not be more deserving of this prestigious award. The official ceremony will take place in Israel on the country’s 75th anniversary of independence. Mazel tov! 

Speaking of Israel...  

On Tuesday we held the first Birthright pre-trip orientation since the pandemic began. We got to know more than 40 young adults from BC who will be departing on their Israel experience in the coming winter months.  

Visiting Israel, seeing the history, and meeting the people cannot be replicated in the diaspora. That is why, every few years, the JCC leads a communal professionals’ trip to Israel, which we are proud to support.  

This week, organizations across our community welcomed home key members of their staff who participated in this experience. As part of their experience, they visit our partnership region of the Galilee Panhandle. Here is a photo of the JCC daycare team teaching children in Israel as part of their mifgash with Israeli educators.  

We’re celebrating Hanukkah from Salt Spring to the Sea-to-Sky! 

We are proud to be supporting many of the 40 Hanukkah events and can’t wait to connect with our community outside the city of Vancouver. With the support of our Connect Me In team, we have been privileged to be supporting our regional communities in helping them flourish, with many of them creating Hanukkah experiences for the whole family. Click here to see all the Hanukkah events in our community. 


Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Government announcement on funding the redevelopment of the JCC

Tour of the JCC daycare

Rendering of the new JCC redevelopment

Leslie and Gordon Diamond

JCC ECE team visiting children daycare in our partnership region in Israel