Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken


Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken

October 7, 2022 | 12 Tishrei 5783



This message has about 845 words and will take less than 3.5 minute to read.

I hope you had a meaningful Yom Kippur and are gearing up for Sukkot. We are also looking down the road to Choices, the largest celebration of women’s philanthropy in our community.

Choices offers the opportunity for all women to gather and engage in issues relevant to the Jewish and broader communities. This year’s event is less than a month away on November 3rd at Beth Israel and will feature Ellen Schwartz, founder of Project GiveBack.

Here is an update from the Choices co-chairs, Jaclyn Dayson and Lisa Averbach:

We are delighted to invite every woman in our community to join us for an evening of inspiration, connection, and empowerment! Choices will be held in person this year. There are many new and exciting additions to this evening. One of the biggest is that not all tables have table captains. You don’t need to be invited to sit at someone’s table this year. All you have do is register and tell us who you’d like to sit with. We’ll make sure that you’re sitting with your friends. 

Choices is always a great opportunity to connect with community and see old friends and new faces. Register here and we’ll see on November 3rd.

Speaking of new faces, we want to introduce you to Maytal Kowalski!

Maytal is our new manager, marketing and communications, and she will be focusing on the Jewish Community Foundation. Maytal has worked in the not-for-profit sector for the entirety of her career, with positions at The Miles Nadal JCC, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Vancouver Foundation. She is the co-founder of Press Pause Collective, a fundraising and marketing consulting collective focusing on inclusive and equitable fundraising and marketing practices. Maytal also serves on the board of directors for the New Israel Fund of Canada and was a 2021 Israel Policy Forum Charles Bronfman Convener.

Born in Winnipeg, Maytal made Aliyah with her family in the 1990s and lived on a kibbutz, a moshav, and in the mixed city of Nof HaGalil. She, her husband, and their dog and cat moved to Vancouver in the spring of 2021. Maytal is eager to continue exploring Vancouver and connecting with the local Jewish community.

Our local community has a history of rallying to help those in crisis, and we are doing so again.

Our board approved a $10,000 disbursement from our Emergency and Disaster Fund toward our Hurricane Relief Fund. This fund supports both the Jewish Federations of North America’s Hurricane Relief Fund and the Atlantic Jewish Council to ensure our community is aiding those impacted in both Atlantic Canada and the United States.

Destructive weather events are often linked to climate change, and tikkun olam (repairing the world) is one of our organization’s guiding values. Last March we launched our partnership with Hazon to engage our partners in activities to address climate change. As a first step, participating organizations were asked to form a “green team” and undertake activities to promote environmental sustainability.

Recently, some of the green teams reported on their progress. Here are a few highlights:
  • JCC is expanding their compost program and their daycare has acquired worms to teach children about composting;
  • Jewish Family Services will undertake sustainability education for their clients;
  • Richmond Jewish Day School is planting a rain garden;
  • Vancouver Talmud Torah is asking students to bring reusable containers for their afternoon snacks;
  • King David High School is engaging students in a sustainability audit;
  • Schara Tzedeck will conduct an energy audit and host a Tu B’Shevat dinner with locally sourced food;
  • Camp Miriam ran a series on Jewish perspectives on the environment and the intersections between climate change, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and food insecurity. They have also set up a successful compost system.
Climate change is a massive global issue, but every step we and our partners are taking is worthwhile. As we are taught in the Pirkei Avot, we are not obligated to complete the work, but nor are we free to desist from it.

I want to thank everyone who filled bags with food for Project Isaiah, the annual food drive of our partner, Jewish Family Services. If you missed the drop-off window you can still take your donations of nutritious, non-perishable pantry items to The Kitchen or donate online.

Inflation is taking a toll on more than families and individuals. It is hurting organizations that serve thousands of people in need in our community. We recently surveyed our partners to find out how they have been affected and we will bring you those results in next week’s message. In the meantime, you can support the work of all our partners and everyone they serve here.

Finally, I want to say mazel tov to Dr. Mark Rosengarten, who was honoured as the first Women’s Health Champion for supporting the philanthropic work of BC Women’s Health Foundation. Many of us at the office have especially close (and cute) connections with Dr. Rosengarten—you can see them in this photo!

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach.

Ezra S. Shanken
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Maytal Kowalski