Shabbat Message - February 28, 2020


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We are very pleased to announce that Ayelet Cohen Weil has joined our community affairs team in the new role of associate director, community engagement! Ayelet is working closely with Shelley Rivkin, vice president of planning, allocations and community affairs.
The ability to respond more flexibly to the Jewish community’s changing demographics and geographic spread is an integral component of Jewish Federation’s 2020 Strategic Priorities, and in this new role, Ayelet will work with community partners to respond to emerging needs. She will also lend her community relations expertise to enhance outreach programs for young adults and to revitalize our Gesher (Bridge) program for newcomers.  In addition, Ayelet will manage the day-to-day operations of our annual allocations process.
With more than 12 years of experience working with Jewish community organizations, both in BC and Israel, Ayelet brings an impressive background in non-profit management, community relations and development. Ayelet previously served as manager of women’s philanthropy and manager of major gifts for Jewish Federation’s Annual Campaign. Prior to that, she served as managing director of Jewish Federation’s partner, Hillel BC. Ayelet’s many achievements include being honoured in 2017 as one of the Jewish Independent’s “18 under 36” young leaders.
A number of our community partners and partner agencies were at the opening of the “Community Longing and Belonging” exhibition at the JCC’s Zack Gallery on Tuesday evening to mark Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month. The JCC's Inclusion Program provided more than 50 artists of mixed abilities a blank canvas and asked two questions: How do we make meaning of the concept of community, the real and the imagined spaces we inhabit? What does community longing look like and what are the possibilities for belonging in an ever-changing world? The results are thoughtful, creative, and beautifully expressive. You can bid on your favourites until March 25th.
The exhibition’s opening is where we announced the recipients of our Inspiring Inclusion grants, which are intended to promote greater access and facilitate participation in Jewish community life for children, youth and young adults with special needs who face barriers due to their physical, emotional or developmental challenges. Many thanks to Tammy Kalla, a member of Jewish Federation’s Planning Council who is spearheading the Inspiring Inclusion grant program.
This year’s recipients are:
Jewish Community Centre - Theatre Lab
The new JCC Theatre Lab will enable individuals of various abilities to co-create a special theatre production and, in the process, develop their self-awareness and self-advocacy skills.
Vancouver Hebrew Academy - Sensory-Free Classroom
The creation of a sensory-free classroom will provide a safe, comfortable space for children for whom visual and auditory stimuli are overwhelming.
Vancouver Talmud Torah - New Professional Development
This new professional development opportunity for VTT faculty and staff will enhance their skills to support students with diverse learning needs.
White Rock/South Surrey Jewish Community Centre - Hebrew School Support
This support will provide learning tools and additional teaching assistance for students with a variety of developmental challenges.
Read more in our e.Yachad newsletter, or find out about the program and eligibility criteria here.
With so many events taking place at the JCC, many of us think of it as a second home. You have probably heard that dozens of JCCs and other Jewish organizations received bomb threats this week. Our JCC was not among them, thankfully. While the threats were deemed not credible, they are designed to make us feel scared enough that we stop participating in community life. We refuse to let that happen. Click here to read the email we sent to the community, and here for the one the JCC sent to their members. We also want to share with you the most recent update from our Community Security Advisory Committee, chaired by Bernard Pinsky. Look for another update from them at Passover.
It was wonderful to see Isaac Thau, honoured at the Hillel BC annual general meeting on Thursday. Isaac will be stepping down as president of Hillel BC after having served in the role for six years. He has served that organization for far longer than that though. During his term as president, Isaac recruited Rabbi Bregman and formed a partnership that would bring Hillel financial stability and programmatic success. The future of Hillel is bright because Isaac was at the helm. In addition to volunteering his time and energy with Hillel BC, Isaac has served in many other capacities with organizations across our community, including as chair of the Jewish Community Foundation’s Board of Governors, and as chair of the Foundation’s Investment Committee prior to that. Yasher koach, Isaac!
As the community gears up for Purim, we’re so pleased to see the day schools collaborate again with Jewish Family Services, the Jewish Food Bank and their corporate sponsor, Superstore, to deliver Purim baskets filled with groceries, household items and holiday treats to families in need in our community. Proceeds will help fund food program subsidies at our day schools. When you contribute, there is also an opportunity for you to send a virtual Purim basket with holiday greetings to your family and friends, as well as to staff at the day schools. Click here and use login code OCLPI-BEZXK to access the Purim Project.
One of the traditions at Purim is to drink alcohol, typically to the point that you cannot distinguish good from evil, or Mordechai from Haman. But this tradition excludes many in our community. Shelley Karrel, manager of counselling and community education for our partner, Jewish Addiction Community Services (JACS), spoke at our staff meeting on Tuesday about addiction and the important role JACS plays in our community. The following night, we partnered with JACS, Tikva Housing and Temple Sholom to present “Optimism & Hope,” which was focused on understanding the stigma of mental illness, addiction and homelessness. If you know someone who is struggling, please connect them with JACS, or with Tikva if they need housing. They are here to help.
Speaking of help, many businesses in our local Chinese community have been impacted by the increasing spread of COVID-19 around the world. Queenie Choo, CEO of SUCCESS, and I went to Chinatown for lunch yesterday to show our support for these businesses. Anything that affects one community affects all of our communities, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Please have a look at this short video.

Shabbat Shalom,


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

"Community Longing and Belonging" exhibition at the JCC's Zack Gallery

Sam Heller, Isaac Thau and Ezra at the Hillel BC Annual General Meeting