Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Building a diverse and inclusive community

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


June 9, 2023 | 20 Sivan 5783



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

Hearing new perspectives and voices is essential for our continued growth as individuals, as an organization, and as a community.

This week, our staff and volunteer leadership met with Sarah Mali, the new director general of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA in Israel, and separately with Ilana Kaufman, CEO of the Jews of Color Initiative. They opened our eyes to the work we are doing and the work we need to do.

We were Sarah’s first stop on her tour of Canadian Jewish communities, and our discussion focused on engaging the diaspora Jewish community in our Israel impact and the common bond we share with everyday Israelis, and how we bring our community in to the shared needs between us and our "extended family" in Israel. 

An overarching goal of JFC-UIA is getting all the Jewish federations across North America to work together. Because of our steadfast commitment to this work, to our partnership region in Israel, and to everyday Israelis and their day-to-day lives and needs, we are able to set a strong example of working together and building relationships across the entire federation system.

She also stressed the importance of bringing people together in moments of disagreement rather than pushing them away, of convening conversations, and of cutting through the noise to the issues that matter most, despite our differences–for today, and long into the future.

The diversity of our community has long been one of our strengths.

Ilana Kaufman, CEO of the Jews of Color Initiative, helped us better understand the nuances and diversity of the JoC community and how systems of inequality are perpetuated in our own community. It was eye-opening and clearly something that needs ongoing attention and learning from each of us individually and at the organizational and community levels. We were also pleased to host meetings with congregational rabbis, agency professionals, educators, board members, community members of colour and allies where Ilana shared the results of a groundbreaking survey conducted by her organization.

Born to an Ashkenazi Jewish mother and an African American father, Ilana draws on her personal experience as a queer Jewish woman of colour to advocate for diversity and inclusivity. Her work sits at the center of Jewish community, racial equity, and justice, and is anchored by the voices and experience of Jews of Colour. Find out more here.

Speaking of diversity, you can shape anti-racism legislation by making your voice heard.

Our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), is encouraging all of us to share our thoughts on new legislation that will hold the B.C. government accountable for addressing systemic racism within its programs and services and for providing supports for those who have been negatively impacted.

We want to ensure that future legislation will combat antisemitism and improve the quality of Jewish life in our province. The questionnaire is available in 15 languages, and takes from seven to 12 minutes to complete. Click here and make sure Jewish voices are heard.

Before Shabbat, let’s celebrate philanthropy!

This week, we combined our annual Lion of Judah and Pomegranate Appreciation Events, where we welcomed new Pomegranates and Lions of Judah—women who give $3,000 and $5,000 or more, respectively, to the Federation Annual Campaign. Todah rabah to our speakers, Debbie Lazarov and Shelley Robbins, Lion of Judah co-chairs from the Memphis Jewish Federation, who spoke about their legacy and the impact that endowing your Annual Campaign gift makes. I also want to welcome our new Lion of Judah co-chairs, Catherine Epstein and Jacquelyn Hayes, who were introduced alongside Jackie Cristall Morris, our incoming Women’s Philanthropy chair.

The lessons of tzedakah start early at all of the local day schools, and I had the privilege of joining Vancouver Talmud Torah students for their Mitzvah of Philanthropy (MVP) Ceremony of Giving, where I saw the impact of teaching giving at a young age. Kol hakavod to students across our community who are making tzedakah a priority!


Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Sarah Mali, director general of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA in Israel

Ilana Kaufman, CEO of the Jews of Color Initiative

Lion of Judah and Pomegranate Appreciation Event