Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Strengthening Jewish Community Together

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


March 3, 2023 | 10 Adar 5783



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

While we have a lot of updates about our local work to bring you today, I want to begin with two things that have weighed heavily on me this week. From Huwara to Hartford, my heart is broken.

Many of us have been watching Israel intently and we are feeling the strain and pain as we try to make sense of it. These are just two of the things that have personally impacted me.

I saw the news coming out of Huwara, with people acting in a way that is so counter to how I believe we should be acting as individuals, and it broke my heart. 

I saw the community of Hartford mourn the loss of a young man who was on his way to a wedding, and it broke my heart. This is a community where I went to university, where I grew from a teen to a man, and where I still volunteer with their Hillel.

When I see the impact on people’s lives I’m heartbroken again. This is a country that is deep in our hearts as a people, as a community, and as individuals. We care about what happens there and we are often affected by it, too.

As a Federation, we are here to convene and educate around a place we feel so strongly about, and it is a topic on which Jewish Federations of North America is continuing to be active on our behalf as events unfold and evolve.

As we turn to local happenings, last weekend I was privileged to attend our Major Donor gratitude event in Whistler. Hosted by Daniel and Laura Frankel, who graciously opened their hearts and home to host us, where we heard from Marcy Grossman, former Canadian ambassador to the UAE in a fireside chat. Marcy shared incredible insight with us into the Abraham Accords and the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world. A big thank you also to Garry Zlotnik of ZLC for sponsoring this event.

Yesterday we welcomed MP Melissa Lantsman, Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition.

In partnership with our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), and with support from CJPAC, she joined us to discuss community priorities and areas of mutual interest. We toured the JCC and attended a community briefing with key partner agencies, a lunch with lay leaders graciously hosted by Jason Murray, chair of our Community Security Advisory Committee, and visited The Kitchen with JFS.

1 in 6 Jewish children in BC live at or below the level of poverty.

Yesterday evening, community members and partners came together for our second Jewish Community Affordability Summit. Thank you to our panelists, those who led workshops, and to our amazing keynote speakers, Adrienne Montani, executive director of First Call BC, and Izzy Waxman, executive director of Mazon Canada, who shared some startling statistics as well a message of hope by sharing best practices and ideas on what can be done. Kol Hakavod to our VP of local and global engagement, Shelley Rivkin, Renée Katz, the Federation planning council, and our partners for spearheading this.

The Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation is supporting our growing work in the regional communities.

With about half of our community living outside of Vancouver, it has long been a strategic priority of ours to make Jewish community life accessible to people where they are. With that, we are pleased to share that our Connect Me In program has received generous support from the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation to help us continue to foster thriving Jewish communities across the province.

Deborah Folka, chair of the regional communities committee, said that “we are extremely grateful for all the support to date and just as grateful to all our volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure Jews are connected to other Jews in their own neighbourhood.” And I agree!

With our strategic approach now focusing on building local capacity in the regional communities and strengthening their Jewish connections, the funding from the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation enables us to expand local capacity through more robust community building activities and engagement grant opportunities.

This funding has also allowed us to hire three local community connectors to support the growing Jewish communities in the Whistler/Squamish and Surrey/White Rock areas. Please help us welcome Helen Thomas Mann, Lyssa Anolik, and Eliana Mandel to Jewish Federation team as our new community connectors!

If you or someone you know is looking to connect to the community in your area, please reach out to our Connect Me In team!

In other grant news, Jewish Community Foundation announced their 2022-23 grant recipients!

I am pleased to congratulate the grantees of the Jewish Community Foundation's 2023 grant program and look forward to our community benefiting from the long-lasting impact of their projects. Every year the Foundation receives requests that exceed the funds available for distribution through the program—and each year the needs of our community organizations keep growing.

These grants are funded by distributions from Unrestricted Funds at the Foundation, which ensures that urgent and emerging needs are met, and innovation can thrive in our community. If you would like more info on how to establish or donate to an Unrestricted Fund, please click here or contact the Foundation.

With Purim right around the corner, Axis, our young adults program, started celebrating early by preparing mishloach manot baskets for residents at Louis Brier last night at our partner JFS’s The Kitchen. Purim festivities are taking place across the Lower Mainland this weekend, check out our list of community events here to find one near you.

Shabbat Shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Marcy Grossman speaking at the Major Donor event in Whistler

MP Melissa Lantsman at the JCC

Jewish Community Affordability Summit

Axis prepared mishloach manot baskets for residents at Louis Brier