Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Celebrating diversity through the arts and friendship

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


March 10, 2023 | 17 Adar 5783



This message has about 923 words and will take less than 4 minute to read.

Shabbat Shalom from Palm Desert! Last night, I had the privilege of joining 45 major donors to hear from two powerhouse women in the Jewish community, Julie Platt, chair of Jewish Federations of North America and Marcy Grossman, former ambassador to the UAE, at our major donors' gratitude reception in the desert. A big todah rabah to Garry Zlotnick and ZLC for sponsoring this event.

Supporting Jewish arts and cultural events have long been a strategic priority of ours.

Not only do these events and festivals showcase outstanding Jewish artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers and other creators, they fill us with pride and provide an important pathway into community for everyone, including those who may not be connected through other organizations and institutions.

There have been several such events lately that we would like to share.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Senator Jack Austin’s memoir at the Jewish Book Festival. A true BC legend, it was an honour to meet someone who has made such an incredible impact on the province and country.

Our partner, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC), held a powerful online Q&A last night with author and Holocaust survivor, Mariette Dodeck, discussing her memoir, A Childhood Unspoken. If you didn’t get a chance to join last night’s inspiring conversation, VHEC provides numerous educational opportunities throughout the year in various formats. Click here to see what’s coming up next.

The fifth annual Community Longing and Belonging Exhibit at the Zack Gallery at the JCC is on now. This exhibit provides a platform for artists in the Jewish and larger Disabilities Arts community to showcase their art and I encourage everyone to check it out. During pandemic restrictions, the exhibit was online, so it is great to be able to walk through the gallery and see them up close.

Speaking of the pandemic, we know all too well the rise in hate crimes and hate related incidents that individuals and communities like ours experienced during that time. That’s why we were proud to participate in the Inquiry into Hate During the Pandemic report in BC.

This week, the BC Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender released the results of the Inquiry into Hate during the pandemic.

Jewish Federation, our advocacy agent the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), and the VHEC, participated in this inquiry by speaking to experiences of antisemitism in BC and ways we could address it together. I am proud to report that some of our suggestions were included as part of the final recommendations.

As our community is part of the vibrant, multicultural fabric of the region, it is important that our voice is heard, both on issues that affect the Jewish community specifically, and as allies and friends of other communities.

That’s why I was honoured to attend the 50th anniversary gala dinner for the Ismaili Centre and Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISS of BC), along with CIJA’s Shirley Berelowitz and Karina Vertlib. Our community has long had a close relationship with ISS of BC, working on several projects together. This was a special opportunity to celebrate our friendship and highlight the importance of work with immigrant communities of all cultures and ethnicities.

Speaking of the power of interfaith community relationships, The Other People, led by our interfaith liaison Rabbi Philip Bregman, visited Gladstone High School to give students the opportunity to meet “the Other” and hear first-hand lived experiences of racism.

As Rabbi Bregman said on CBC’s The National this week “Racism is not going to be dealt with words, slogans or posters. We need to have specifics as to how to break down [these constructs].” That is why the Other People have been giving students across the Lower Mainland the opportunity to meet leaders from multiple ethnic and religious backgrounds.

For some exciting news to kickstart the weekend...

Save the date! We’re celebrating 75 years of Israel’s independence.

To mark this major milestone, we have joined forces with partners across our community to bring you a three-week community-wide celebration. Details will be coming to your inbox on Monday. If you don’t yet receive our community updates, sign up here—and stay tuned!


Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Launch of Senator Jack Austin’s memoir at the Jewish Book Festival