Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

More on The Other People

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


May 25, 2023 | 5 Sivan 5783



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

Last week we promised you more on The Other People.  


One of the key points Rabbi Bregman and Tariq Tyab made when they spoke to our staff was that no one can do this work alone—not one person, one community, or one agency. It takes everyone working together. 


The Other People, whose mission is to break down biases and prejudices by presenting their differences and shared experiences are visiting schools across the province to expose students to people who have experienced discrimination based on their religious, ethnic or cultural background.  

Students can submit questions anonymously and put them forward to the group to share their perspectives. Rabbi Bregman says there have been times when their answers have differed, and they’ve had their eyes opened to new perspectives by their fellow members of The Other People.  


Sometimes, what they’ve encountered is unequivocally shocking.  


One of the most appalling examples was when students at one school performed the Nazi salute at one of The Other People’s visits. I know you will be as outraged about that as I was when I first heard about it. But again, this is why The Other People are doing this work. 


You’re probably searching for an answer as to how this is possible in our own province in this day and age. The temptation to pin it on one thing is normal, but not realistic. But Rabbi Bregman did cite online hate as a broad factor, especially considering the countless hours a day that many kids spend on their phones.  


Rabbi Bregman also shared how a principal at one school wanted to make room in their Christmas celebrations to include celebrations of Kwanza and Hanukkah. Where did the pushback come from? Staff. Staff whose rationale was that Christmas is a “Canadian” holiday. They also felt that minimizing the religious significance of Christmas would be an insult to Christians for whom it is incredibly important. This is just another example of why this initiative is so important.


The Other People’s comprehensive and collaborative approach is opening doors across BC’s school systems and beyond, they have spoken to over 2000 students in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Salmon Arm and Oliver, as well as several independent schools. 


It was also one of the ways in which we connected with the Sikh community during the BC floods. When we were establishing new partnerships and looking for ways to get aid to victims, it was through The Other People that we established connections with the Sikh community who were chartering helicopters to deliver supplies. You can learn more about the impact the Other People are making here.  


Of course, the Other People, are not alone in this work.  


Combating hate, is a priority of our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CJIA).  


This October, CIJA and Canada’s Jewish Federations are hosting an advocacy conference in Ottawa,  Antisemitism, Face it. Fight it. co-chaired by Karen James. This comprehensive conference includes two days of advocacy training for Jewish leaders, students, community advocates, advocacy professionals, and other faith and ethnic community leaders and partners on the critical issues facing the Jewish community. Young adults are highly encouraged to participate. There is special programming for students and travel and attendance subsidies are available to them. You can register here. 


Another great example of working together... 


The Jewish Community Foundation, through its Unrestricted Grant Program, funded a JCC initiative to embark upon a series of organization-wide truth and reconciliation trainings with BC’s host nations, the xʷməθkʷəyəm (Musqueam), səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and Sḵwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Nations of the Coast Salish peoples. It is wonderful to see this work continuing in the coming months, with a workshop in which staff will learn about historical trauma and colonization, gaining a deeper understanding and awareness of how First Nations communities have been impacted by Canada’s Residential School System.   


Not only do Unrestricted Funds enable the Foundation to respond quickly to urgent needs in the community, they also provide funding for innovative projects like these. 


20 more units officially open for Tikva Housing! 


Before we wrap up this short week, I have to share how thrilled I was to attend the opening of Tikva Housing Society’s new building on Wednesday, the Al and Lola Roadburg residences. In March, Tikva announced an extraordinary $10 million donation by the Al Roadburg Foundation, enabling them to purchase a 4-story 20-unit apartment building in Kerrisdale and expand their portfolio to 168 units. We are incredibly proud to see Tikva’s growth in finding affordable housing solutions for our community. Mazel Tov to our partner Tikva Housing. Learn more.


Shabbat shalom.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver