Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

A deep connection with Israel

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


January 13, 2023 | 20 Tevet 5783



This message has about 591 words and will take less than 2.5 minute to read.

This Shabbat our thoughts are with our extended family in our partnership region after the tragic car accident earlier today that killed three local teens — Daniel Porat z”l, age 16, Uri Malul z”l, age 17, and Ariel Stern z”l, age 17 —  and seriously injured two adults.

We have especially close ties to the family of Ariel Shtern z”l. His father, Asaf Stern, is a participant in Galil-Up, a program we fund that cultivates the next generation of leaders in the region, and we work very closely with his uncle, Avihai Shtern, mayor of Kiryat Shmona, the largest town in the region. Our hearts are with the families of the boys and with the two injured adults whom we wish refuah shlemah.

It’s hard to segue into happier news, but there is plenty of that this week.

Keeping on the topic of Israel, we welcomed home 23 local Birthright-Israel participants and their two trip leaders on Sunday. Connecting young adults with Israel on programs like this is an important way that many of them establish long-lasting, personal connections with the country. You can register for the Birthright-Israel summer trip here.

Our connections with Israel and its residents run deep—and transcend the politics of the day.

Many people have concerns about Israel’s new coalition government and specifically about proposals that some of the members of this coalition have put forward. We hear you; we share your concerns and will get into that more in a moment.

First, I want to assure you that our work in Israel remains focused on improving the quality of life for residents in our Upper Galilee partnership region. In Canada our work continues regardless of the party or parties that form government, and we do not fund political parties, the government, or the military. The same is true of our work in Israel.

The needs of people in the Upper Galilee are not so different from those here at home. From food security to youth mental health to crisis support, we provide crucial support to individuals and families.

Food Security

During the pandemic there was a concerning 20% increase in food insecurity in the region, where well-paying, stable employment is low. Through allocations and additional donor support we have directed funds to the Mevo’ot Hermon and Galil Elyon municipalities and to Kiyrat Shmona to support direct, monthly food distribution, with additional deliveries on Jewish holidays.
Mental Health and Crisis Support

When teachers reported a rise in emotional and behavioural issues in their students during the pandemic, municipalities began facilitating collaborations between organizations in education and the welfare system to generate a coordinated approach to support students who suffer from anxiety and trauma. Through allocations and additional donor support we directed funds to municipal organizations to enhance services, and to the Community Stress Prevention Centre to hold lectures and recruit and facilitate support groups for principals of elementary schools to help them better address this issue, and to the Golan Galil Rape Crisis Centre to expand their reach and services in order to provide the utmost care to impacted individuals, for prevention education programs promoting social change, and training for new facilitators.

We and our partners are also voicing our concerns.

I want to share with you the letter that the leadership of our partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel, sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and this statement from Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in which they voice their “significant concerns over statements and positions held by some members of the incoming coalition, which have serious implications for our Jewish communities.”

None of us are quite sure what the future will hold, and there are some good resources available to explore the issues, including webinars from JFNA. Please click here for a recording of the session co-hosted by JFNA’s president and CEO Eric Fingerhut and Israel Democracy Institute president Yohanan Plesner.

Thursday’s webinar focused on LGBTQ+ rights, and the February 9th webinar will focus on the relationship between religion and state, including which changes may be made and the possible ramifications. Register here. As conversations progress and we start to see what will remain as rhetoric and what the government will actually do, we will circle back on this.

Here at home, we were honoured to host the leadership of our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO, and Gail Adelson-Marcovitz, chair, met with members of our board, local CIJA leadership, the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver, and our major donors. During their briefing we learned about the current advocacy landscape and key stakeholders were able to gain new insights and ask questions. I want to thank Shimon and Gail for taking the time to travel here and meet with us.

We always end our Shabbat message on a high note.

Kol hakavod to our partner, Tikva Housing, on the opening of Dogwood Gardens, a new 138-unit affordable housing residence, which will be operated by S.U.C.C.E.S.S in partnership with Tikva. The residents who will make this their home will live, work and play close to Jewish schools, recreation centres and synagogues.

In other great housing news, Premier Eby’s announced a $500 million rental protection fund to preserve affordable housing throughout BC. Anat Gogo, executive director of Tikva Housing considers this “an essential component of an affordable housing supply plan.” Thank you to Premier Eby, BC’s Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon and the BC government for their commitment to this important issue.

We have supported Tikva from the beginning and we are incredibly proud to see their growth and impact on our community and the region!


Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver