November 10, 2023 | 26 Cheshvan 5783
This message has 830 words and will take about 3 minutes to read.
This week we marked two solemn anniversaries: one month of captivity for the hostages taken during the Hamas attack, and 85 years since Kristallnacht. It has been hard and it has been emotional, but that makes it all the more important to look for the lights of hope—because they are there.
We took strength from each other at several gatherings. Hundreds of women who support our community through the Federation Annual Campaign, came together for Choices, which featured Eve Barlow. I want to thank Lisa Averbach, Jaclyn Dayson and their committee for making this a huge success.
More than 1,200 of us gathered for the vigil on Tuesday and hundreds more came out for the Kristallnacht commemoration last night at Beth Israel, where we were joined by Deputy Mayor Sarah Kirby-Young, who presented the City of Vancouver proclamation in commemoration of Kristallnacht and Premier Eby, who honoured Holocaust survivors and denounced the rise in antisemitism. MLAs George Heyman and Michael Lee were also present. We thank them for their steadfast support of our community.
On Wednesday, we announced the formation of the Antisemitism and Israel Crisis Response Team (AICRT) to ensure a coordinated and sustainable community response to the ongoing challenges during this difficult time.
The team is co-chaired by Rabbi Moskovitz of Temple Sholom and Nico Slobinsky of CIJA and operated under the auspices of Jewish Federation. The team includes representatives from various community organizations and is moving quickly to solidify its objectives and scope, and we will have an update for you next week. If you have any suggestions or would like to volunteer please email us here.
We will be sending weekly Israel emails on Wednesdays, and you can sign up here.
The Shabbat message covers a lot of ground, with Israel being only one of many topics we cover here. The Wednesday Israel updates will touch on the work of the AICRT, Israel related events, such as vigils and rallies, ways you can help, and resources. We have also developed an Israel Resources page here, which we will add to regularly.
Our Israel Emergency Campaign total is now at $16.3 million.
We have already distributed $4.9 million to address the most urgent and immediate needs. $2.1 million for the immediate needs of the people directly affected and who continue to be at highest risk as the war continues, and $2.8 million for the needs of survivors and evacuees.
Community security remains our highest priority.
We are deeply concerned about the incidents in Montreal this week, which included an altercation at Concordia University, an attempted firebombing at two Montreal Jewish institutions, and shots fired at two more. Our director of community security has been in touch with local law enforcement and there is no increased threat to BC Jewish communities. You can read our security update here.
We welcomed the federal government's announcement this week of an additional investment of $5 million in the Security Infrastructure Program (SIP), which we will examine carefully to determine which organizations in our community may qualify.
This is one of the key priorities that CIJA has advocated for, and it was a focus of our meetings with MPs and senators during the Antisemitism: Face It Fight It conference two weeks ago.
Our Community Security Advisory Committee, chaired by Jason Murray, has been reviewing applications for our local security grant program, and we will bring you more information on that in the coming weeks.
While on the topic of security, as tensions are heightened, I would like to remind everyone to not engage with counter protestors when at a vigil or any other time to ensure everyone's safety.
Another advocacy priority is securing federal government support for the condemnation of the Hamas attacks and demand for release of the hostages. We are pleased to report that the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion on this that was brought forward by MP Anthony Housefather.
Last night, Alberta joined BC and Ontario in making Holocaust education mandatory.
Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of education, made the announcement at Edmonton's Kristallnacht commemoration. I want to commend Premier Smith and Minister Nicolaides and thank CIJA and my Federation CEO counterparts Stacey Leavitt-Wright in Edmonton and Adam Silver in Calgary for their tireless advocacy.
Speaking of community professionals, I want to give them all well-deserved kavod.
Jewish communal professionals are the (often unsung) heroes of our community, and many of them have been working around the clock for over a month now. At the same time, many of them are also dealing with personal trauma resulting from the attack and the war. These are highly skilled professionals who would be successful anywhere, but they have chosen to serve this community. Please be sure to express your gratitude to them.
At times like this, it's natural to feel loss and loneliness. But there is great strength, too.
We feel it at community events. We see it in the effective long-term advocacy and in government support. We build on it with the coordinated response through AICRT, through the dedication of professionals and volunteer leaders, and through the tremendous tzedakah this community generates.
I truly believe that ours is a community that is strong, that is united, and that will keep building for a better future.
Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver