Shabbat Message - April 8, 2020


This message has 687 words and will take about 3 minutes to read.


As we get ready to sit down at our seders, I wanted to share with you this Passover video message that I recorded yesterday. We may be spending Passover on our own, but together we are flattening the curve.


We also wanted to share with you some of what Rabbi Rosenblatt discussed with our team at our Zoom staff meeting this week. We usually gather everyone together (this year, virtually) to talk about the significance of the holiday. This year, we invited Rabbi Rosenblatt and he gave us a new way to think about the afikoman.


When someone has plenty of money to buy plenty of groceries, he said, they often eat a little of something and waste the rest. They simply have the luxury of not needing to worry about getting more of that same item later. For them, it is a given that they can get more of whatever they need whenever they desire it. Their wealth doesn’t just buy groceries; it buys them the security of not having to save anything for another time. 


When we break the middle matzah and save half for later in the seder, we are recalling a time when we didn’t enjoy the level of privilege many of us are accustomed to today. Saving half for later is a form of rationing that strikes a particularly poignant note this year, when we may have had our first-ever difficulty with finding some of the things we are used to having at our fingertips.


The most essential form of privilege is freedom. It is a privilege to help our community, to deliver groceries to our neighbour, and to carry on a millennia-old tradition in a country where we are free to celebrate who we are. So, tonight and tomorrow night, when our seders feel very different from usual, we have a choice. We are free to think of ourselves as separated or as safe, as bereft or as blessed.


We know you’re very busy today, so we will keep it short and sweet with just a couple of quick updates.


First, the majority of the more than $500,000 we released to address urgent community needs related to COVID-19 has now been distributed so it can be put to work right away. You can read about the details in our last Shabbat Message, if you missed it on Friday.


Second, we are very pleased to report that through our Community Affairs department we have partnered with several central grassroots organizations in our community that are doing outstanding work serving our Israeli, Russian-Israeli, and Arab-Israeli newcomer populations: Mamatefet, WE Women Empowerment, our own Israel and Overseas Affairs department, and the Israeli department at the JCC. Together, we will provide services, programs and resources that support these segments of our community with the information and the emotional, social and tangible support they need.  It is the first known joint effort of its kind in our community. We are currently compiling the relevant information, and the next step will be identifying gaps. From there, our work will focus on filling those gaps through the planning of joint events that leverage all the partners’ resources and areas of expertise, avoid duplication, and maximize our collective potential. 


On a final note, I joined leaders from other faith communities on a call yesterday with Premier Horgan, Health Minister Dix, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, where we discussed the increased needs that communities are seeing and how to connect marginalized community members to services where they can find help.


We also want to reiterate the need for continuing to adhere to social distancing and self-isolation rules at this time and for the foreseeable future. We take these directives very seriously and encourage everyone in the Jewish community to do so, too. In our tradition, to save a life is one of the most important and meaningful things an individual can do.


This Passover, stay home and stay safe. Our greatest wish for you and your loved ones this holiday is good health.


Chag Pesach kasher v’sameach and an early Shabbat shalom. 


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

Click here to watch a Passover message from our CEO Ezra Shanken.