Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Young adults tackle sustainability, Jewishly

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


January 6, 2023 | 13 Tevet 5783



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

Gaining some traction on the enormous global issue of climate change is a challenge, but we want to do our part. One of the ways we can make an impact is by bringing together our partners to create synergies and do more together than any of us could on our own.  

Last March, we launched our partnership with Hazon, the Jewish lab for sustainability, to engage 13 partner organizations in activities to address climate change. All 13 green teams—including our own—are now working toward the Hazon seal of sustainability, and we will continue to update you on their progress over the coming weeks.  

The Jewish Federation green team has been assessing each department to determine what changes we can make to create a greener organization. One thing they recommended is for each department to take on one small change this year.
For example, our Community Engagement team has developed a plan to increase the sustainability of community events. This means looking at how the venue consumes energy, working with our caterers to increase vegan and local alternatives for food, and ensuring that caterers properly compost food, utensils, and dishes after our events. 

That leads us to share an exciting upcoming event that brings together our core value of tikkun olam and our strategic priority of engaging young adults.  

On January 26th young adults will be swapping for sustainability! 

Our young adult program Axis, the Ben Gurion Society (BGS is our national recognition program for young donors to the Federation Annual Campaign), and National Council of Jewish Women-Vancouver Chapter, with support from the Jewish Community Foundation, are teaming up to shine a light on the topic of sustainable fashion for young adults in our community.  

Young adults are invited to bring gently used clothing items as their entrance fee to a clothing swap including one item that will be donated to the Dress for Success program. There they will trade their donations for some new additions to their own closets in a sustainable way. They will hear from Sophia Yang, founder and executive director of Threading Change, a youth-led ethical fashion organization to learn and practice how to make sustainable choices and hear about the impact that transitioning to a circular economy can make. The event will take place at Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, which was selected because of its long-standing reputation for sustainability efforts in Vancouver. 

If you are going through your closet and would like to contribute to the swap, I invite you to donate your clothing to a bin at the entrance of our office over the next few weeks.  

Young adults often want to get involved in volunteer and social activism initiatives but don’t know where to start.  

That’s why events like this are so crucial, as they are connecting a new generation of volunteers to opportunities that resonate with them. Fran Belzberg said it best when we asked her advice on getting involved in community, “Find your passion. What of these agencies move you the most? That’s where you’ll be the best.” 

This is one of the areas that young adults have told us resonates with them. They embrace it and they want to see community organizations embrace it, too. Tikkun olam is a core value of ours, and we see it play out in this work. In Jewish tradition, we have many examples of the importance of protecting our earth as an act of tikkun olam. Whether it is shmita every seven years, or the upcoming holiday of Tu B’shvat, the preservation of the planet is at the core of Judaism.  

This is why we are committed to helping our community organizations embrace sustainability one step at a time through a Jewish lens.

We are also partnering with the JCC daycare to upcycle old materials.  

While we do our best to reuse marketing materials, like our lawn signs over multiples years, we have accumulated some materials that are not suitable to be repurposed for future campaigns. Yet nor could we bring ourselves to direct these to the landfill. Then it hit us: let’s connect with the JCC daycare to turn these into beautiful works of art! You may have seen some of that work showcased in the header of this very message during Hanukkah and we will be sure to share more from them as it comes. I’d like to thank the teachers and staff at the daycare for their enthusiasm and for working this green opportunity into their classrooms.  

While each step may seem small in comparison to the massive issue of climate change, every effort we make is worthwhile. These small steps collectively make a difference and can fundamentally change the way our youngest community members perceive their role in the world as they make small connections over time. As we are taught in the Pirkei Avot, we are not obligated to complete the work, but nor are we free to desist from it. 

Enjoy the first Shabbat of 2023! 

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver