Shabbat Message from Ezra S. Shanken

Reasons to be proud

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


December 10, 2021 | 6 Tevet 5782



This message has about 801 words and will take less than 3 minute to read.

This week, our community lost a leader with deep ties to our organization, Helen Coleman z”l. She was instrumental in founding the Jewish Community Foundation, which has grown to become the centre of philanthropy and legacy giving for the Jewish community. Her husband, Bob Coleman z”l, was the first president of our Jewish Federation. Together, they ensured that our community has in place two organizations that are vital to our present and our future. We hope that the announcements we are sharing today would make both of them proud.

The first is that your BC Flood Relief donations are now helping foreign farm workers affected by the floods.

A vital resource to our agricultural industry, BC welcomes over 10,000 agricultural workers per year. This year has been particularly challenging, as the close quarters they live in while working on farms have been prone to COVID-19 outbreaks. As a result of the floods many have lost their housing and their income, as well as their travel documents. Yesterday’s report from the auditor general highlighted the lack of protection for this vulnerable group.

Consistent with the strategic approach we established early on, we are working with partners to maximize our collective impact. This time, it is PearTree Canada, who matched donations to our fund up to $25,000, and GiveClear Foundation Canada, who are headquartered in Abbotsford and so have their finger on the pulse of needs in that area.

The first $12,000 of this partnership will help workers from Mexico to replace their belongings, including their passports, so they can make it home to their families.

This is just the first portion of funds from this partnership, and we will continue to update you.

As important as it is to see where the dollars are going, there is another significant positive outcome to note here. We are building on our strategic strengths as an organization—work we do on behalf of the community as a whole, and which only Jewish Federation is positioned to undertake.

It often takes networks both within Federation and beyond to nurture these relationships, and much of what you see now is the result of many years of ongoing efforts. I want to thank Shelley Rivkin and Rabbi Bregman from our office, and Nico Slobinsky and Etti Goldman at CIJA for the invaluable work they have done in this area.

Next week, we will be sending our e.Yachad newsletter and we’ll give you a behind the scenes look at some of this work. You can subscribe to e.Yachad here.

Speaking of partnerships, we are very proud to announce one that aligns with our organizational value of tikkun olam.

When the City of Vancouver reached out to faith leaders to endorse its climate change plan it sparked a conversation between local rabbis and our Federation about the need to engage in the climate change conversation shaped by Jewish values and traditions.

We offered to convene these discussions and invited representatives from each of the synagogues along with several community members who are passionate about the issue. The group has since expanded to include Hillel, the JCC, Jewish Family Services, and the Peretz Centre. 

Conversations have focused on the connection between Jewish values and the goals of the climate change movement, the importance of taking some meaningful actions, and the need for each organization to go at their own pace to address the issue, as well as on concrete actions that can bring us all together.

This has led to an exciting new partnership with Hazon, the Jewish lab for sustainability, to collaborate on our own climate change initiative. We have identified funds that will enable organizations to participate at no cost to them.

These are the key elements of the process:

  1. Leadership training and awareness: training and customized assessment tools for organizations to identify impactful greening opportunities and take action in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, waste management, food sourcing, building infrastructure, and more.
  2. Monthly roundtables: to form a community of practice to share best practices and helpful resources.
  3. Green grants: to support participating organizations with small grants to implement some of the recommendations from their environmental audits.

Today, we’ve touched on many of the central aspects of our work that we are able to do because of the unique vantage point we bring. Just as I hope it would make the Colemans z”l proud, I hope you feel proud, too. If it does, I also hope that you will support our work. If you’ve already made your gift, I want to say a big todah rabah! If you haven’t, well, you know I am a fundraiser at heart, so of course I’m going to remind you that the countdown is on to get a tax receipt for this year.


Shabbat Shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken

Chief Executive Officer