Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Creating Solutions as a Community

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


July 21, 2023 | 3 Av 5783



This message has about 650 words and will take about 2.5 minute to read.

With another Bank of Canada rate hike last week, news feeds were filled with headlines about the impact on families and individuals. Fifty-two percent of Canadians are $200 or less away from not being able to pay their bills and “many households have reached a point where there is nothing left to cut back on."


What kinds of supports will community members need to live here and live Jewishly?


In Vancouver, even two full-time minimum-wage workers cannot afford a one-bedroom unit without spending more than 30% of their combined income on housing. The average rent for one bedroom is $2,945, and for two bedrooms it is $3,863. This far exceeds an affordable level, leaving very little money to pay for food, prescription drugs, childcare costs, utilities, taxes, transportation, clothes, or upgrade job skills. Rentals are “now unaffordable for the middle class” according to a CTV report, putting more households at an increased risk of homelessness if forced to leave their homes.


When situations like this affect our community, we create solutions as a community.


In 2007, we helped launch Tikva Housing in partnership with generous donors. As the need for secure and affordable housing has grown, Tikva Housing has grown with the generous support of community donors, too. We asked Anat Gogo, Tikva’s executive director, to provide some insight into their work:


“Currently, Tikva provides housing solutions to over 300 individuals and families, subsidizes nearly $1,100,000 in our housing developments per year relative to what our tenants pay, and allocates $117,000 in subsidy relief for those living in rental market units facing a temporary financial crisis. Tikva’s tenants pay an average of $903 for one bedroom and $1,242 for a two bedroom unit. However, there are 319 individuals registered on the Jewish Housing Registry waiting for a home, many of whom are seniors, children, and people with disabilities.”


Tikva is constantly developing more housing units, and you can read the latest here. There are also two towers of rental housing that are a central component of the second construction phase of the JWest project plan. These will be open to everyone and will include rental units offered at below market value.


What hasn’t changed is this:


When someone needs assistance from one of our partners, they usually need assistance from several. Clients of Tikva Housing may also need tuition assistance from a day school, program subsidies from the JCC to stay connected, access to a food hub through Jewish Family Services, and more. This holistic community support system is at the heart of our work and what you support through the Federation Annual Campaign.


Speaking of the Annual Campaign, members of the Ben Gurion Society (young donors who give a minimum $1,000 to the Annual Campaign) held an exclusive event with two community leaders.


Arnold Silber and Hugo Vasquez have built real estate businesses informed by their Jewish values and shared insights into their lives as entrepreneurs with these young philanthropists. Hugo talked about balancing keeping Shabbat with being an entrepreneur and shared that on every job site he has he asks a local rabbi to join his team in blessing the site before they start any work. Arnold spoke about how his Jewish values guide the way he works with his staff and the tenants in his buildings, and how treating his team like family has allowed him to support them professionally and personally. I want to thank them both for being part of this beautiful l’dor v’dor moment and thank our associate director of community engagement, Grace Miller Day for organizing the panel to bring together these young leaders.


We’re also bringing more people together to have difficult conversations about Israel.


At this critical point in Israel’s history, in which convening of dialogue is increasingly important, Jewish Federations across Canada are helping fund The President’s Initiative – an initiative of President and Mrs. Herzog with the goal to bring diverse communities together and nurture meaningful dialogue around the core, and often divisive, issues at the heart of Israel’s future.


Part of this initiative is the Time to Talk Program, which will focus on outreach and education across Israel, in partnership with local community centres, where community dialogue hubs will be established throughout the country. The Time to Talk program brings together dialogue cohorts across Israel to help heal fissures in Israeli society.


Supporting open dialogue to wrestle with tough topics is a concrete way in which Canadian Jewish communities can play a positive role in helping to heal a strained society. Why? Because we are not only guided by our Jewish value of chevrusa (discussing, debating) but our Canadian values of creating space for dialogue that brings peace and stability. You can read more in this article in the Jerusalem Post Magazine. 

One of our core values as an organization is klal Israel, and we believe that unity is not necessarily uniformity, and so the most effective role we can play is to convene, to help heal, and to bring community back together.

Shabbat Shalom,


Ezra S. Shanken

CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Anat Gogo, Executive Director of Tikva Housing Society

Arnold Silber and Hugo Vasquez speaking at the Ben Gurion Society event

The Fed Four

Grand opening of both the Kosher Corner and Shalom Garden at Louis Brier Home & Hospital

Watch the video of President Herzog addressing to the US Congress.

Shoutout to RBC and Martin Thibodeau, Regional President for hosting “RBC Summit to Ben-Gurion University and Israel".

Mazel tov to the new UBC President & Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon.