Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Bringing History and Experiences to Life

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


February 18, 2022 | 17 Adar 5782



This message has about 722 words and will take less than 3 minute to read.

Our partner, the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC (JMABC) does a tremendous job of bringing the rich history of our community to life. That was front and centre when I joined Vancouver city councillors, Adriane Carr, Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick, and Sarah Kirby-Yung for a tour of the archives.

I want to thank Michael Schwartz and Alysa Routtenberg of the JMABC and Nico Slobinsky of CIJA for making this happen. My favourite part was seeing some of the first pledge cards for what ultimately became the Federation Annual Campaign and recognizing the names of some of our most committed and generous donors.

On Wednesday, as part of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), we were delighted to have Leamore Cohen, the JCC’s inclusion services coordinator, speak with Federation staff about inclusion.

And yesterday, community members, advocates, and representatives from CIJA and local service agencies met online with members of Parliament and senators. They highlighted advocacy priorities, such as supporting social service agencies through COVID; reforming the Disability Tax Credit; and building more affordable housing.

Speaking of CIJA, they also hosted a conference designed to equip lawyers and the larger legal community with concrete legal remedies to antisemitism in multiple contexts, and I was proud to join the hundreds of attendees who heard from a series of prominent speakers.

I want to commend the two MPs who have recently tabled private member’s bills that address antisemitism.

Kevin Waugh, MP for Saskatoon-Grasswood, brought forward a private member’s bill that would add Holocaust denial to the Criminal Code. Peter Julian, MP for New Westminster-Burnaby, re-tabled a private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code to ban symbols of hate.

Last week, we wrote about how our Federation’s reach goes far beyond “Greater Vancouver.”

Case in point: on Tuesday we will host our first Jew It Together event for families in the regional communities who want to help shape what community looks like where they are. That is not just a reference to their geographic location, but where families are in terms of their preferred style of connection, their composition, level of observance, and so on. This is a unique partnership between our Connect Me In program, PJ Library, and the Jewish Living Lab in Montreal, and the first event is open to everyone. After that we will establish a cohort to pilot the project with us. You can register here.

Many of these communities are home to an increasing number of Israeli expats.

It is one of many topics that we covered when we–Shelley Rivkin, our vice president global and local engagement; If’at Eilon Heiber, our director of Israel and global engagement; Dafna Silberstein, our associate director of Israel and global engagement; Gabe Bloomfield, manager of our executive office; and Nico Slobinsky, senior director of CIJA-Pacific Region, and I met with Idit Shamir, the new Consul General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada, and Shani Azulai, the Deputy Consul General.

We discussed areas of collaboration, including how their consular visits help us serve local Israeli expats. We look forward to continuing our fruitful relationship and to welcoming the Consul General here in person soon.

Speaking of Israel, there are two pieces of good news to share.

The first is that we are planning to host our community’s biggest event of the year in person! It will be the 20th anniversary of our Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration, so mark your calendar for May 4th!

The second is that our board chair, Candace Kwinter, and I will be in Israel next week for the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors meetings and to visit our partnership region. It will be the first time in two years that we have been able to visit our programs in person. As a member of JAFI’s Board of Governors, Candace will stop first in the United Arab Emirates for their pre-mission.
It is an exciting time to travel and to see our international work in action. We are looking forward to sharing insights from these experiences with you in our next two Shabbat Messages, so that we can bring these missions to life for you.


Shabbat Shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

Idit Shamir

Candace Kwinter