Shabbat Message - April 3, 2020


This message has 890 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.


Are you ready for some good news? We have been able to add to the initial funding we are releasing to community organizations. The new total is more than $500,000!


We were able to do this by working closely with generous donors who have provided support – above and beyond their Annual Campaign gifts – to fund special projects that align with high priority community needs, and by collaborating with the Jewish Community Foundation, our community’s centre for philanthropy.


For many of our donors, the Annual Campaign is what they associate most strongly with Jewish Federation – but it is not the only way we generate support. Over the years, we have been proactive in diversifying our revenue streams. That strategy, in combination with the prudent steps we took to create an emergency reserve after the 2008-09 economic downturn, has made it possible for us to increase our COVID-19 response now.


Here is how the $500,000 will make an impact:

  • Jewish Family Services: $170,000 for food security, housing support, seniors, and counselling services.
  • Jewish Community Centre: $130,000 for program subsidies, daycare scholarships, and seniors services.
  • Jewish Day Schools: $115,000 for tuition deferrals for families hit hard by COVID-19.
  • Supplementary Schools: $30,000 to transition to online learning.
  • Tikva Housing Society: $30,000 for housing subsidies to support those renting in the private market.
  • Seniors Services: $20,000 for food deliveries and emotional support.
  • Kehila Society of Richmond and Chabad Richmond: $10,000 for food security.


We are committed to moving these funds out quickly. Most of the agencies will receive these funds early next week. This was a tough week for many people, with rent, tuition, and many other bills due on April 1st. We hope this funding will help ease the burden that individuals and families are experiencing, and help our partners continue to serve the thousands of community members who rely on them.


There are other bright spots, too.


Organizations in the regional communities have also quickly adapted to these changing times and have found innovative ways to respond. There are online Hebrew school classes at Beth Tikvah and Har El, a virtual seder being organized at Burquest, and virtual classes with guest speakers at the Bayit.


Kehila Society of Richmond, Chabad of Richmond and Beth Tikvah are caring for our community’s most vulnerable with prepared meals and emotional support. Chabad and Kehila have doubled the number of people to whom they are providing Shabbat meals, from 50 to 100 recipients, and have gone from bi-weekly to weekly deliveries, while Beth Tikvah is delivering nourishing soup to seniors during the week. All are spending more time connecting with congregants and members to maintain important social connections. Hannah Yerington, one of our outreach workers with our Connect Me In initiative, drove up to Squamish to personally deliver Passover packages and food to families there.


Highlights of the week from Vancouver include the delivery of 250 bunches of daffodils to Louis Brier and Weinberg residents, thanks to the generosity of one of our donors, and the packing and delivery of hundreds of grocery bags to Jewish Food Bank clients. Vancouver Talmud Torah shared a great photo with this caption: Due to strict social distancing protocols, the Jewish Food Bank now has personal shoppers building bags, and then volunteer drivers to drop them off all over the Lower Mainland. Thanks to Donna Riback's exceptional logistical skills, just three people were able to pack all these bags.


Parents with children at home right now have some specific challenges these days, one of which is addressing more frequent than usual complaints of "I'm bored." PJ Library is looking to solve this problem and help you prepare for Passover. 

All your kids need to do is create anything that can be used at your seder, using materials you already have at home. Anything goes as long as it has some connection to the Passover seder and is actually usable. There are lots of prizes up for grabs in each age category, including a $100 KidsBooks gift certificate grand prize. You do not need to receive PJ Library books to enter. Click here for details.


This year, Passover is going to feel very different. For some, it will be the first time they lead a seder. For others, it will be the first seder with electronics on the table, as they connect online with family and friends. We can’t control the circumstances we find ourselves in. All we can do is choose how we respond. 


On a Zoom call this week with Federation executives from across the US and Canada, we recognized that Jewish Federations must be the stabilizing force in our communities. We must maintain our optimistic outlook, not because the situation isn’t serious – it is very serious – but because we believe in our ability to work together to strengthen our community. Passover reminds us that we have found ways to thrive and to redefine what it means to be a community, even in moments of crisis. The time we are in now is our moment, not just to support one another and our community during COVID-19, but to redefine what being a community will look and feel like in a post COVID-19 environment.


Shabbat shalom and chag Pesach sameach.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

P.S. Look for our Shabbat Message on Wednesday, April 8th, since our office will be closed on the 9th and 10th for Passover.

Bunches of daffodils sent to Louis Brier & Weinberg add a burst of cheer.

Hundreds of bags of groceries at the Jewish Food Bank, ready for delivery.