Shabbat Message - July 24, 2020


This message has 819 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.


As the weather warmed up this week, it really felt like summer was in full swing. For children in our community that often means one thing: camp! We are very happy to announce that we’re helping to bring Jewish day camp to families in the Tri-Cities area, thanks to a collaboration between our Connect Me In outreach program and Camp Gan Israel. The week-long program will take place outdoors in the central Coquitlam area for kids aged three to 10.

As the Jewish population spreads out across the region, it is of particular strategic importance that we continue to work with partner organizations and residents to build community life together. Having access to Jewish programs and services is a big part of that. The camp builds on the very successful Regional Communities Hebrew School program that we are also proud to support.

Three of the components that must be in place for a community to be successful are generous donors, active volunteers, and capable communal professionals. This week we had the opportunity to connect our staff with one of the most inspiring and long-standing Jewish communal professionals in the world: Ted Comet.

At 96 years young, Ted has seen and done it all. He has been involved in Jewish communal affairs since the end of World War II, when he served in France as a student volunteer in a program of our partner, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), to rehabilitate war orphans. He pioneered young adult engagement and leadership programs and founded the Celebrate Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City. His full life and career are characterized by service to the Jewish community. To this day, he remains an honorary associate executive vice-president of JDC.

If you’ve been reading this message for a few years now, you’ve probably heard me say that a career as a Jewish communal professional is more than a job—it’s a calling. There is no better example of that than Ted, which is why we asked him to address our team at our recent staff Zoom meeting.

In each person’s inner core, he told us, there is a yearning for a sense of meaning and purpose—an acknowledgement that our life has value and that we have value. In his case, the answer to that search lies in knowing he has made a difference by being a drop in the 4,000-year history of the Jewish people. Whatever line of work you’re in, if you’re part of this community, this is something I’m sure you can relate to.

A great way to pursue this sense of meaning is by volunteering, and our partner, Jewish Family Services, has an opportunity for you. They are looking for additional assistance in areas such as driving and providing support for older adults and seniors. Click here to sign up. Our neighbour on Oak Street, Canadian Blood Services, is working to fill the growing need for blood across Canada. Click here to help.

Speaking of volunteers, we want to say todah rabah to Candace Kwinter, chair of our Israel and Overseas Affairs Committee for helping set up a Zoom meeting on Sunday with Eran Shayshon, CEO of the Reut Group. Before we tell you more about that, we want to give you a quick update on our partnership region. Like all of Israel, they are experiencing a rise in the number of residents infected by the COVID-19 virus. The region has adapted and is working hard to address issues related to the pandemic. We are keeping a close eye on how communities in the area are being impacted.
The Reut Group has been an important collaborator in our Israel work for the last 10 years, from developing a working cluster cabinet in our partnership region, to Gidi Grinstein presenting at FEDtalks, to leading the strategic planning for the Israel and Overseas Committee.

The Reut Group is an Israeli non-profit organization that deals with the most acute challenges to the State of Israel and World Jewry, using a unique research and strategy methodology and an innovative impact model. They recently received a grant from The Genesis Prize, which is enabling the organization to lead a “grand pivot” of the pro-Israel community fighting anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic campaigns.

Eran Shayshon’s talk focused on the confluence of the George Floyd protests with the coronavirus pandemic, and how this may herald a global ‘paradigm shift’ and change the map of threats facing Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. Find out more here.
As we gear up for another gorgeous weekend, we want to leave you with an important reminder about staying healthy from Dr. Henry. “We are no longer having safe interactions,” she said. New COVID-19 modelling shows an upward trend in BC that could lead to explosive growth if we aren’t careful. So, as she has famously said: “Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.”

Shabbat shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer