Creating space for dialogue and learning

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


September 29, 2023 | 14 Tishrei 5783



This message has about 928 words and will take about 3.5 minute to read.

What else could we start this message with than the shocking and completely unacceptable honouring of a Nazi SS veteran in Parliament, in front of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy no less. It is beyond comprehension that something like this could happen, even unintentionally, and yet it did.


It is not lost on us that today marks the 82nd anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre where more than 33,000 Jews were murdered. The incident in Parliament highlights the need for Holocaust education in public schools across the country, and the importance of continuing to fight antisemitism.


I want to thank our advocacy agent, the Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs for taking the lead on responding to this on behalf of Federations across the country. Please listen to CIJA’s CEO Shimon Fogel’s interview on CityTV Ottawa.


I also want to acknowledge the apology and resignation of the Speaker of the House and the apology issued by the Prime Minister.


Do you want to take action? Then join us in Ottawa at Face It Fight It.


Register for Face It Fight It today and join us in learning to advocate effectively and then head to Parliament Hill to meet with elected officials to share our community’s concerns as a united voice.


I also encourage you to look at the terrific work being done across our community. The Other People are doing important work in schools under the leadership of our interfaith liaison, Rabbi Bregman. Our partner, The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre is an established leader in Holocaust-based anti-racism education, and I hope you will visit them the next time you are in the JCC.


I want to commend CIJA and Tikva Housing for their work together.


Nico Slobinsky, VP Pacific Region at CIJA and Anat Gogo, executive director at our partner, Tikva Housing, addressed the severity of the housing crisis in BC for racialized and ethnocultural communities and how, by exempting non-profit housing providers and communities working on creating affordable housing from B.C.’s Property Transfer Tax, the province can assist those most in need. Their Op Ed in Business In Vancouver is a timely read for Sukkot.


Speaking of Sukkot, there are celebrations across the region.


It was inspiring to see volunteers from our Squamish Jewish Community joined the Squamish Multifaith Association to support the BC Thanksgiving Food Drive by distributing flyers and picking up donations.


It is always heartwarming to see emerging Jewish communities not only growing and thriving but creating opportunities to support one another. Kol hakavod to the Squamish community for participating in this mitzvah!


This week we were proud to host Professor Michal Muzskat Barken and Ora Peled Nakashto for a briefing with our leadership.


Michal and Ora have been instrumental in leading the protests in Israel and they are in North America to meet with diaspora communities. On Tuesday evening they spoke at an event at Temple Sholom—the first of its kind in Canada—which was organized by a group of community organizations.


The next morning, we hosted them for a breakfast meeting with our leadership, staff and donors, as well as representatives of a number of community organizations. We had a very engaging conversation about the situation in Israel, the need to sustain the protests, and the complexity of leadership in these times. I would like to thank David Berson for bringing this opportunity forward and Rabbi Dan Moskovitz for his leadership in hosting Michal and Ora at Temple Sholom the evening before.


Michal asked a great question: “Is it win/lose or can we think more creatively?”


I see a real parallel here between this question and the dialogue we are supporting through the Time to Talk program and how we are trying to listen and share ideas and perspectives. You can find more about what we are doing as well as a list of resources from across the spectrum here.


Ora asked us to find ways to work together on the things we can agree on: “Whatever you do, do it together.”


We are living at this time where we’re being pushed to create an adversarial role, where people across the spectrum present their positions as, “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” But there are a multitude of opinions across the community and as a Federation we continue to be committed to bringing different voices together, and to creating space for learning and dialogue through civil discourse. If you feel like your voice isn’t being heard by Federation, I encourage you to reach out to me.


Switching gears to the Annual Campaign, I want to commend young adults for their leadership.


Last night I joined 20 members of the Ben Gurion Society, at past board chair, Karen James’s home to hear about her experience of the Munich Olympics and how that has shaped her life as a leader in our community.


Karen shared how the power of speaking out has led her to her current engagement and leadership roles in our community. The evening was an inspiring one and the takeaway that stuck with me was that we truly are better together.


We have a double celebration tonight, with Shabbat and Sukkot starting together. As you gather in the sukkah, I encourage you to engage in meaningful conversations about Judaism, Jewish values, Israel, and community, and to stay curious and open when there is disagreement. Just like we bring together the etrog and the different branches of the lulav, we, too, can come together in all our differences.

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach.


Ezra S. Shanken

CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Squamish Jewish Community joined the Squamish Multifaith Association to support the BC Thanksgiving Food Drive

Breakfast meeting with Michal and Ora

Ben Gurion Society event hosted by Karen James

The Fed Four + Four 

Tomorrow is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Here are ways to observe near you.

Our community leader Gary Segal in the Jerusalem Post about giving makes life more enjoyable.

Sign up for the poker tournament on October 22.

Early bird ends on October 4. Purchase tickets today.

Register for Israel consular services on November 6 and 7 at the JCC.

Vegetarian Pot Luck Sukkah Party in Whistler tomorrow.

Connect Me In & Kulam Ba’Valley wild west Sukkahfest is on October 1.

Join the South Delta community on October 2 for a Sukkot event.