"The first hostages are heading home"

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


November 24, 2023 | 11 Kislev 5783



This message has 1,614 words and will take about 6 minutes to read.


The first hostages are heading home

Thirteen Israeli mothers and children, and 11 foreign nationals who were held hostage by Hamas have been released as part of a deal involving a truce and the release of Palestinian prisoners held for terror offenses.

If all goes smoothly, more hostages are due to be released over the next few days. As Jews we often hold multiple complex feelings in our hearts, and we do that today. We rejoice in the release of these hostages but won’t rest until they all come home. 

Home is where I am headed, as I wing my way back from the Canadian National Leadership Solidarity Mission to Israel. 

Hodie Kahn, who is a board member and chair of our Day School Council, Geoffrey Druker, who is a member of our Israel and Global Engagement Committee and past local chair of our advocacy agent CIJA, and Rachel Sachs, the director of our Israel office, were among the 60 participants. I want to thank the five Members of Parliament who joined us: Anthony Housefather, Melissa Lantsman, Michelle Rempel Garner, Marco Mendicino, and Marty Morantz.

Led by Jewish Federations across Canada, the theme of the mission was “Rupture and Repair”. We were immersed in learning about the lingering trauma and extensive impact of the Hamas attack. In addition to the raw pain, we also saw the immense strength and resilience of the Israeli people.

There is no doubt that Israel and Israelis have been forever changed, the extent of which will become clearer as time passes. What is entirely clear already is that they need us to help them rebuild the country, their communities, and their lives.  

Being there helped the people we met with see that we really will be with them for the long term. Our community has generated an incredible $17.2 million through our Israel Emergency Campaign. We have already transferred $4.9 million to make an immediate impact, and we aren't nearly done. At the same time, the Annual Campaign is underway to support our community’s annual needs, and our partners are starting their fundraising campaigns. 

This Tuesday is Giving Tuesday, the world’s largest generosity movement, and we have a special request: Support our partners.  

Our partners do extraordinary work, day in and day out, year after year. As a Federation and as a community, we could not make the collective impact that we make without each of them.

Some are big and very well known; others are smaller and you may not be familiar with them. But each of them plays an equally important role in keeping our community strong today and for future generations.

I trust that you have already supported our collective efforts through the Annual Campaign and the Israel Emergency Campaign. Now it’s time to say, “Yes, and” by making a gift to one or more of our partner agencies. Ensuring a strong community here and in Israel is up to each of us—that's The Power of Together. 

Please don’t wait for organizations to reach out to you. This is the time to reach out to them and support their work. You can find all of them listed here.  

We have important updates for you on community security, which has been a strategic priority of ours for many years.  

First, The Vancouver Police Department released new statistics yesterday for reported hate incidents targeting the Jewish community for October 2023.

In total there were 18 reported incidents: one incident was reported before October 7 and 17 were reported from October 7 to the end of the month. That is almost one incident a day since the Hamas attack. In comparison, October 2022 saw a total of four incidents targeting the Jewish community, meaning it has increased by 350%. Our director of community security and our advocacy agent, CIJA, continue to work with law enforcement to address rising antisemitism and our community security needs. 

Next, we are proud to announce the distribution of security grants to local partners. 

With a generous contribution from the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation, as part of their larger contribution toward community security, our Community Security Advisory Committee, chaired by Jason Murray, was able to launch a new round of community security grants. We anticipate that there will be more to come.

As this new grant round coincided with the federal security infrastructure program grant application intake, agencies were encouraged to also seek funding from this program to offset some of the expenses. In order to be eligible for the Federation grants, agencies had to include their most recent security assessment conducted by our director of security, contribute one third of the costs, and commit to attending annual training sessions. Grants primarily covered security infrastructure, such as security cameras, intercoms, motion detectors, and barriers such as fencing and bollards.

Recipients of this grant round are: Burquest, Chabad Richmond, the JCC, Schara Tzedeck, Louis Brier Home and Hospital, Tikva Housing Society, Vancouver Hebrew Academy, and Vancouver Talmud Torah. 

We are proud of our commitment to community security and wish to thank the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation for their generosity, and the Community Security Advisory Committee and Daniel Heydenrych, our director of community security, for their diligent work. 

On a final note, I want to invite you to Ottawa on December 4 when Canada's Jewish community will unite for a rally on Parliament Hill. Join us to send a powerful message as we rally for the hostages, for the people of Israel, and for the safety of Jewish Canadians. Click here to learn more

Shabbat shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken

CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Calgary Jewish Federation CEO Adam Silver, MP Marco Mendicino & CEO Ezra Shanken stand in solidarity alongside Jewish Federation leaders in Israel.

Melissa Lantsman with Rachel Sachs

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