Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

A week of international connections

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


February 17, 2023 | 26 Shevat 5783



This message has about 886 words and will take less than 3.5 minute to read.

We have news from around the world for you today, as well as from here at home.

First, I am attending the Jewish Agency for Israel’s leadership mission for a few days with our current board chair, Candace Kwinter, and our past board chair, Karen James, both of whom have been committed leaders with the Jewish Agency for years. Candace serves on the Unity of the Jewish People, Aliyah, and Antisemitism committees, and Karen is a voting member of the Board of Governors, serves on the Unity of the Jewish People committee, and is chair the Marketing Committee. The mission is taking place in Mexico City, and we will be doing a deep dive into the rich history of this Jewish community and how the Jewish Agency is making an impact here.
Among the many highlights today was our visit to the youth movement hub with Jewish Agency shlichim (emissaries) who coordinate Israel's engagement activities with Jewish youth movements in 30 diaspora countries, and circle time at a day school that uses the same Reggio Emilia learning approach that our JCC’s daycare employs. Tonight, we will welcome Shabbat with a community founded in 1912 by Jews from Syria and Lebanon.
We had some other great international connections this week, when we hosted Canada’s ambassador to Israel, Her Excellency, Lisa Stadelbauer.
We brought Ambassador Stadelbauer to meet with business and community leaders, Hillel UBC, the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver. We last spent time with her when she joined us in our partnership region last fall, and it was an honour to show her our community.
The City of Richmond took a stand against racism this week.
Richmond City Council adopted the terminology and definitions in Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022 and became the latest Canadian jurisdiction to adopt or commit to using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. Racism and hate are experienced differently for different communities and to effectively combat any form of it, it must first be clearly defined.
I hope you will take a moment to thank Mayor Brodie, Councillor Alexa Loo, and the rest of the city council for their leadership on this issue. It only takes a minute to send the letter.

We also want to thank the organizations that collaborated on this: the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Bayit, Congregation Beth Tivka, Chabad Richmond, Kehila Society of Richmond, and Richmond Jewish Day School. Todah rabah!
We also commend RBC for standing up to antisemitism.
A valued and long-standing corporate partner of ours, RBC engaged in antisemitism training at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC), and I had the privilege of joining them to say thank you. RBC employees joined regional president of British Columbia, Martin  Thibodeau, for the seminar, which was led by Nico Slobinsky, CIJA-Pacific Region’s senior director, and David Berson, a member of CIJA’s Local Partnership Council. As our advocacy agent, CIJA is available to provide this training to other companies and organizations. Just reach out to Nico.
Speaking of the VHEC, the Ben Gurion Society (BGS) partnered with them to have an evening in the museum for young donors.
Together they heard from Lillian Boraks-Nemetz, a local survivor, who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto as a child. Members of BGS also explored the In Focus exhibit, comprised of artifacts donated by local survivors and their families.
In other important local work, this past week saw the start of a two-part series designed for community professionals and volunteers working with pre-teens and teens.
The sessions are intended to better prepare staff for the challenges they may face. Spearheaded by the JCC in collaboration with our Federation, Jewish Family services, and Project L'Chaim, the first session explored establishing healthy boundaries and child protection. The second session, which is scheduled for February 28th, will explore trauma and trauma informed practice and having difficult conversations.
Tackle child and youth poverty with us on March 2nd.  
We are very proud to announce the stellar group of presenters who are now confirmed for the summit:

  • Viveca Ellis, Single Mothers Alliance
  • Alisa Farina, Jewish Federation
  • Grant Goodman, Mazon Canada
  • Marc Shutzbank Consulting and founder of Fresh Roots
  • Jordana Halpern and Alex Sipos Kocsis, Affordability Initiatives, UJA Toronto
  • Dr. Ariella Zbar, medical health officer, Fraser Health Region

In addition to the keynote speakers, there will be a panel titled Sharing our Stories and five workshop choices ranging from food programs in the schools to proactive responses to child and youth mental health. If there is sufficient demand, childcare will be provided. Community is made of people who get involved, so register here and join us and our partners as we embark on an important planning process.
On a final note, it is Shabbat Mishpatim, which is a time when we shine a light on the unique role that the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver plays in our community. They provide interest-free loans so that community members can overcome financial challenges and build better lives. Whether you need help paying for dental work, fertility treatment, a life cycle event, or a security deposit on an apartment, HFLA can help. Find out more here.  


Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Ezra with Roi Melemed, Doron Almog, Karen James, Candace Kwinter, and Alan Kwinter

Circle time at a day school

Nina Krieger, Lillian Boraks-Nemetz, Lucy Samuels, Tori Segal