Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


January 27, 2023 | 5 Shevat 5783



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

As you may have already heard, today—on International Holocaust Remembrance Day—we were given additional reasons to mourn. At least eight people were murdered in a terrorist attack in a Jerusalem synagogue. Our thoughts are with their families this Shabbat. May their memories be for a blessing.

Our partner, Jewish Federations of North America, summed up our feelings of horror and sadness when they said this: “Today marks 78 years of the liberation of Auschwitz, on the day the world commemorates the atrocity of the Holocaust, it is unbearable that Jews are still being murdered simply for being Jews.” 

This was a week of remembrance, and we want to highlight some of the many commemorations leading up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day today. 

If you are out for a walk tonight, keep your eyes open, because buildings across the province, including Vancouver Talmud Torah, and Richmond Jewish Day School, will be lit up in yellow—the colour of the yahrzeit candle’s flame. King David High School also joined with a light display at their school earlier today. Thank you to our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, for their work on growing this initiative each year. We will share photos taken by our friends after Shabbat. Click here for a list of buildings and organizations that have let us know they are participating. We applaud and thank them all, and apologise in advance if any where missed.

ast Sunday, our partner, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC), and the Azrieli Foundation Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Project co-presented the launch of Holocaust survivor Mariette Doduck’s memoir, A Childhood Unspoken. The program ended with Mariette’s daughters reading excerpts from the memoir and a reception at which Mariette signed over 300 books! The VHEC also presented Contextualizing and Educating about the Holocaust, which featured a keynote address by hidden child Holocaust survivor, Dr. Robert Krell. You can watch it here.  

We are very proud that the Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Society honoured our trusted international partner, the Joint Distribution Committee. On hand at Beth Israel to receive the award was community leader, Gary Segal, C.M., a long-time supporter and board member of JDC (and former board member of our Federation). 

Last night there was a screening of The Story of Kalman & Leopold, told by Richard K. Lowy, son of Holocaust survivor Leopold Lowy, Canada’s last surviving “Mengele twin”. Remarkably, this was the first time that the details of Kalman Bar-on's experience inside Auschwitz-Birkenau's hospital camp were made public in Canada.   

Earlier today, we partnered with CIJA and the VHEC on the commemoration that took place at Vancouver City Hall, which was livestreamed

We want to thank all of the organizations that work together throughout the year to make sure the lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten. There is still time to show the world that you remember by joining the World Jewish Congress’s #WeRemember campaign on social media. You can find details here

It feels consistent with our traditions and experiences that sadness and happiness collide, as they did in certain ways this week.  

Circling back to city hall, I was privileged to attend Mayor Sim’s State of the City address with our Annual Campaign chair, Lana Marks Pulver.  

Both the mayor’s office and the presenting sponsor, Air Canada (who are also a sponsor of ours) invited us to be there, which was a double honour for our community. Ken Sim is Vancouver’s first Chinese-Canadian mayor, and his first State of the City address happened to coincide with Lunar New Year celebrations. 

We want to say Happy Lunar New Year to all of our friends and family who are celebrating. 

We will leave you with this photo of the pre-reception at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which took place before the New Year parade in Chinatown. I want to extend a big thank you to chair of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., Terry Yung (and member of our community security committee and CIJA’s Local Partnership Council) for inviting us to participate. Jewish Federation was one of very few organizations there from outside the Asian community, and celebrating together means a great deal to us.  

Our communities share so much, from having histories and traditions that stretch back thousands of years to our overlapping and collaborative work on important issues like combatting racism, supporting affordable housing, and more. We see additional connections in our synagogues and schools, in our community organizations, and in our families. Together, we are building stronger communities that contribute to the mosaic of our city, province, and country—and that benefits everyone.


Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Ezra, Mariette Doduck and Nina Krieger

Ezra, Ken Sim and Lana Marks Pulver