Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Ukraine Emergency Fund and UAE Update

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


February 25, 2022 | 24 Adar 5782



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

We have two big pieces of news for you this week.

The first is that I am currently in Israel with our board chair, Candace Kwinter, for the meetings of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) Board of Governors (BOG). In an increasingly interconnected world, it is more important than ever that we not only play our part, but that we have a voice. Fortunately, we have local leadership who are willing to dedicate their time, talents and resources to serving on the JAFI BOG, including Candace and our past board chair, Karen James.

This week, before leaders from across the globe gathered in Israel for these meetings, Candace took part in a pre-mission to the United Arab Emirates for JAFI governors. We asked her to write about this unique experience. We will get to that in a moment.

But first, we have opened the Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund. Click here to give.

The Executive Committee of our Board approved a $20,000 disbursement to it from our Overseas Emergency Fund to get the ball rolling. 

While your Annual Campaign gift is already helping Jewish communities in Ukraine through Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC, and World ORT, immediate and short term needs are accelerating. These already total $16 million USD and include:

  • Helping people make Aliyah to Israel;
  • Securing the local community and its institutions;
  • Maintaining critical welfare services;
  • Assisting internally displaced people in multiple locations;
  • Launching an emergency hotline;
  • Securing temporary housing for people in transit;
  • Purchasing satellite phones to maintain communications across the region; and
  • Securing five Jewish schools and training staff to manage crisis needs.

As with any situation that is evolving quickly, following us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter is a good way to get updates on our work. You can also read CIJA's statement on Twitter. Now, I’m going to turn it over to Candace.

Message from Candace Kwinter, Board Chair

The Jewish Agency has a remarkable 100-year history of keeping Jewish communities around the world connected, and in the fall of 2020 they embarked on an exciting new chapter: supporting the Jews of the United Arab Emirates.

The normalization of the relationship between Israel and the UAE gives me hope for greater prosperity and security in the region. As ties between the countries have strengthened, opportunities have opened up for the country’s Jewish population, which is centred in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The job of the Jewish Agency in the UAE is to help the Jewish community thrive in every area, including education, culture and community, and deepening their special connection to Israel.

Among the places we have explored here is the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding, which is dedicated to promoting greater understanding of Emirati culture, and to building bridges between cultures in accordance with their motto, “Open Doors, Open Minds”.  The UAE is even building a beautiful interfaith campus. The Abrahamic Family House, designed by renowned architect David Adjaye, will feature a mosque, a church, and a synagogue.

Our few days here have been a whirlwind, one of the highlights of which was meeting with local Jewish community leaders, including Sarah Benchimol, who have helped us understand more about the richness of diversity among their members, many of whom come from different parts of the world.

They are contributing to UAE society as teachers, technicians, software developers, nurses, businesspeople, and more, but they have long craved the interconnectedness as Jews that we perhaps take for granted. Thanks in part to the work of the Jewish Agency, they are now beginning to experience that.

Being able to speak directly with officials has given us a deeper understanding of the work and the people behind it. We have met with His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister of Tolerance; Ilan Sztulman, Consul General of Israel in Dubai; and Canada’s ambassador to the UAE, Marcy Grossman. It is remarkable to see Ambassador Grossman, a Jewish Canadian, representing our country in the heart of the Arab world and at the epicenter of these historic relationships.

Being able to represent our community here, and now in Israel for the BOG meetings, is truly a privilege. I look forward to Ezra sharing more about our work with JAFI and in our partnership region in next week’s message. Until then, I wish you all a Shabbat shalom.

Candace Kwinter
Board Chair


Shabbat Shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer


P.S. You can take a stand against antisemitism and hate by sharing your experiences and filling in the BC Human Rights Commissioner survey on the rise in hate during the pandemic.

Meeting with His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan

Candace Kwinter and Ambassador Marcy Grossman