Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

The Power of Partnership

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


January 20, 2023 | 27 Tevet 5783



This message has about 682 words and will take less than 3 minute to read.

This week the JWest project received a momentous matching gift commitment from the Roadburg family.

The two Roadburg family foundations, the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation and the Al Roadburg Foundation, announced a $36 million matching challenge for JWest. They have partnered to inspire others to give so that together – the foundations and individual donors whose gifts match the challenge—can maximize their impact. Their support is also a meaningful way to create a new facet of the Roadburg family’s legacy.

Once the challenge is fulfilled, the Roadburg family’s gift will mark the biggest donation to the JWest project. On behalf of JWest, our Federation, and our community, I want to thank them for their support and for leveraging their generosity to inspire others. 

The success of this project relies on all of us coming together – organizations, donors, community leaders, and many more. By partnering on this challenge the Al Roadburg Foundation and the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation are leading by example. I want to give personal thanks to everyone involved in this important milestone, including Robert Matas, chair of the Al Roadburg Foundation, and at the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation: Bernard Pinsky, chair, Jack Bogdonov and Stephen Gaerber, directors, and Mark Gurvis, CEO. 

What happens next?

The JWest team has already started meeting with a select group of donors across our community to secure their gifts so that we can meet this challenge. There is a lot of work ahead, but we are confident that this incredibly generous match will indeed be met. When it is the result will be an astounding $72 million in combined support for JWest. At this stage, as is typical in capital campaigns, the JWest team is meeting with major donors first. However, this is a community-wide project and there will come a point when each of us has the opportunity to contribute.

Part of the vision for JWest that we hope will come to fruition is an expanded space for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC). Yesterday, the VHEC, along with the Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), our Federation, and Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island, partnered in marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Government House.

Entitled, “Reconciliation & Holocaust Remembrance: Conversations on Intergenerational Trauma and Healing in Jewish and Indigenous Communities”, the event was made possible by the relationship building of CIJA and Jewish Federation.

The initial idea for it came up last year in our conversations and tours of our community with Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, The Honourable Janet Austin, who is also honourary patron of our Federation, in which we discussed alignment between experiences of Holocaust survivors and residential school survivors.

The event featured esteemed speakers and community members, including Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, a residential school survivor, Lillian Boraks-Nemitz, a Holocaust survivor, and Nina Krieger, executive director of VHEC.

The lieutenant governor moderated an impactful dialogue.

Panelists Marsha Lederman and Hayalthkin'geme (Carey Newman), who are second generation survivors of the Holocaust and residential schools, respectively, explored experiences of healing that have echoed across communities that have suffered intergenerational trauma from the Holocaust, residential schools, and racism.

It was truly an honour to attend this event alongside members of staff, our colleagues across the community, our partners, leadership and donors. I would like to express our gratitude to the survivors who shared their experiences so that those in attendance could learn. I would also like to thank the lieutenant governor and her staff team for hosting us.

As we get closer to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th, I encourage you to participate in both the #WeRemember and the #NeverAgain campaigns on social media to help raise awareness of Holocaust remembrance. We recently received a letter from Mr. MacPhail’s grade seven class at St. Dominic’s Catholic Elementary School in Oakville, Ontario who are trying to get 100 people to make a #NeverAgain pledge on Twitter. I’ve done it and I hope you will, too. Be sure to tag @OakvilleGr7s so the class can track their results.


Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Roadburg Family taken in 1973

L: Al and Lola Roadburg R: Ronald S. Roadburg

Reconciliation & Holocaust Remembrance Event in Victoria

The letter from Mr. MacPhail’s grade seven class at St. Dominic’s Catholic Elementary School