Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

An Impact Beyond “Greater Vancouver”

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


February 11, 2022 | 10 Adar 5782



This message has about 665 words and will take less than 3 minute to read.

One of the highlights of my week was the conversation I had with Will Schneider of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which runs PJ Library. Currently, our Federation sends over 1,000 books each month to families with young children—something you support through the Annual Campaign.

We looked at a map that showed where they send each book, and it was exciting to see how many PJ families are in remote areas of BC. Our conversation then turned to how we might extend our reach to include every PJ family across the province.
After all, our reach already extends far beyond what our name might suggest.
From micro grants to Jewish communities on the Sunshine Coast and Salt Spring Island, to the regular outreach programming we support in the Fraser Valley and farther east, we have been making a local impact that goes well beyond “Greater Vancouver” for years.
PJ Library also sends books to Jewish service members who are deployed around the world. One such PJ dad, of blessed memory, was awarded the Medal of Honour posthumously. Among the many things for which Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz z’l, was remembered was reading PJ Library books to his daughter, Shannon. If I understand correctly, he is one of only 17 Jewish Medal of Honor recipient since the Civil War. You can watch his wife’s speech at the 1:12:30 mark.
Nothing is more important than our children.
And nothing is more important than keeping them safe. We are proud to have partnered with Schara Tzedeck and Beth Hamidrash to present a program focused on creating “safe spaces” and preventing sexual abuse and harassment.
Keynote speaker, Rahel Bayar, a former assistant US district attorney (child abuse and sex crimes bureau) helped us understand the context of how and when abuse happens. She was joined by Rabbi Gabbay, Rabbi Rosenblatt, moderator Ellen Wiesenthal, and Shelley Rivkin, our vice president, local and global engagement, who first began working in this area in 1986.
Watch the video here.
Staying safe takes many forms, and during the pandemic 26% of British Columbians experienced or witnessed a hate incident.

You can take a stand by completing the BC Human Rights Commissioner survey. It is essential that the perspectives of Jewish British Columbians be reflected in the inquiry, and to ensure that our experiences with hate incidents during the pandemic are recognized in the final findings. That is why we advocated for the Jewish community to be included and for the materials to be translated into Hebrew.
Is it important to you to be counted as Jewish?

If so, then please insert “Jewish” in the “Other ethnic or racial category” field in Question 6. And if Section G is part of your survey, please choose “Jewish” to describe your spiritual affiliation. 
Diversity is one of our community’s greatest strengths.
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and on Monday, Leamore Cohen, the JCC’s inclusion services coordinator, led a powerful event with the Jewish Book Festival: a conversation with Golem Girl author, Riva Lehrer, whose work focuses on issues of physical identity and the socially challenged body. 
There are a number of programs happening across the community that celebrate, educate and engage during JDAIM, from the JCC’s first annual sports day to their fourth annual Community Longing and Belonging art show, and more.
A final note of thanks—and an invitation for you.
For decades, we have co-presented the Public Speaking Contest for students, but last night was the first time we have helped our volunteers polish their skills. I want to thank Ryan Barrington-Foote and co-presenters Mona Lamarche and Manuela Salguero Garcia of Toastmasters for developing a bespoke session for our leadership last night.
I encourage you to sit in on the chapter’s next regular session as a guest on February 17th. (Don’t worry–you won’t have to present a speech!) Just email Ryan for the Zoom link, or find out more here.  


Shabbat Shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

Rahel Bayer

Ryan Barrington-Foote