Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

From the Ground Up

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


June 2, 2023 | 13 Sivan 5783



This message has about 862 words and will take about 4 minute to read.

The weather was perfect when our community celebrated the official opening of the Jewish Community Garden--a partnership between Vancouver Talmud Torah (VTT), Congregation Beth Israel (BI), and Jewish Family Services (JFS).

Located on the roof of the VTT/BI parkade, the garden is a place to share Jewish teachings, promote collaboration, and address issues of food insecurity. The 1,600 people who receive food from JFS each month will benefit from the harvest. The garden will also provide apples for Rosh Hashanah, floral bouquets for Shabbat, and spices for Havdalah.

It also provides opportunities for children to connect with the earth, to learn how to grow food, and to understand the issue of food security while helping impact it positively.

It takes a community to grow a project like this.

We want to acknowledge the incredible vision and collaboration of Rabbi Infeld, Emily Greenberg, and Tanja Demajo in bringing this to life. Already, 900 people have volunteered to help alongside dozens of community professionals, including Noy Mika and Sara Karby who we are told “made magic behind the scenes.” We are also very proud to see Ilana Labow, who worked with us and with JFS on food security a few years ago, engaged in the garden’s design.

The Diamond Foundation played a unique role in making this possible, leasing the land and allowing it to be used for the garden. We are proud to be among the seed donors alongside the Jewish Community Foundation and the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation. Find out more in this CJN podcast and this CBC video.

There’s a lot happening this June.

As we move from Jewish Heritage Month (May) into Pride Month (June) JQT launched the latest phase of The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project, which collects the stories and lived experiences of Jewish queer and trans elders in Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities across the province. If you missed it, you can watch it here or listen to a CBC interview here.

It always takes a lot of supporters to bring a long running program like this to life, and we are proud to have supported the story collection phase of this project through a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation.

Speaking of spending time in a beautiful garden, last night we celebrated the Ben Gurion Society (BGS) at the home of Rob and Sue Hector. Young adults who giving $1,000 or more to our Annual Campaign, are the foundation of BGS and the future leaders of our community. It was a wonderful evening filled with wine, food and lots of inspiration from Lucy Samuel, Tori Segal, Sue Hector and Lana Marks Pulver. This year the group has grown tremendously in both numbers and leadership roles within our community and they each received Noa Tishby’s book with the generous help of Candace Kwinter and JNF.

Two things to looks forward to in June...

This Sunday, 40 young adults are off on a Birthright Israel trip staffed by Grace Miller-Day, our associate director of community engagement, and Tamir Klarsfeld. Our Israel and Global Engagement department hosted an orientation session where we were able to host the group and get to know participants.

Speaking of Israel, our partnership region is getting a new community centre, thanks to the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation!

The new Roadburg Community Center will be located in the newly developed neighbourhood of Yuvalim in Kiryat Shemona. Yuvalim is the first new neighbourhood being constructed in this small city in many decades. With the development of the Roadburg Community Centre in Yuvalim, our community has extended its deep involvement over many years in the community center network in this town, which also includes the Arthur and Ancie Fouks Center, and Beit Vancouver. Investments like this help build a stronger future for the region and all its residents.

On a final note, I want to highlight the volunteer award winners we will honour at our AGM.

  • Catherine Epstein – Dennis Frankenburg Award 
  • Lana Marks Pulver – Harry Woogman Award 
  • Stan Shaw – Bob Coleman Award
  • Brent Davis –Young Leadership Award 

And, of course, we will celebrate Shelley Rivkin and feature a keynote by Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America. So, mark your calendar for June 27 and join us at King David High School.


Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Vancouver Jewish Community Garden

Ben Gurion Society Event

Stephen Gaerber, director of the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation, at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the Roadburg Community Center in Kiryat Shemona