Shabbat Message - March 13, 2020


This message has 839 words and will take about four and a half minutes to read.


As concerns about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continue to grow, I want to assure you that Jewish Federation is committed to providing leadership and service excellence to our partners, donors, staff, volunteers, and community members.
The health of everyone in our community is of the utmost importance. While much has changed in the last 24 hours and the situation is both unprecedented and highly fluid, it is important to recognize that according to the BC Centre for Disease Control, “the risk to Canadians remains low.”
We have been and will continue to follow health authority recommendations when it comes to decisions about how we operate, from community events to our office environment to our work with partners. We have been in regular contact with health authorities and we participated in the conference call that the Premier, BC Minister of Health, and Dr. Henry had with leaders of faith communities.
The federal government and Canada's chief public health officer announced new measures today, including broader travel restrictions, and advised people to increase social distancing and avoid non-essential gatherings. Read more here.
Here are some updates:

  • Jewish Federation events are canceled through the end of March. We will reassess as new recommendations are made by health authorities. This includes all Jewish Federation, PJ Library, Axis, Connect Me In events.
  •  We are providing greater flexibility for staff to work from home and we are increasingly holding external meetings by phone or video. 
  • We are updating our business continuity plan so that you can continue to rely on us as the situation with COVID-19 evolves.

Many people have asked how COVID-19 is affecting schools. The heads of schools are in communication with each other and with us, so we can take a coordinated approach. The Ministry of Education is aware that the Jewish day schools are not on the same spring break schedule as other public and private schools, and they have been asked to take that into consideration as they make decisions.
This is the time of year when many community organizations hold their fundraisers, and we have a call scheduled early next week to talk with them about their plans and how we can best support them. More information will come from us and from individual organizations after that.
A number of organized international trips have been affected, and complicating that are the different approaches that different countries are taking when international travelers arrive. March of the Living has been postponed, and we are working with our national and international partners to get parents of local participants the answers that they need and to keep the lines of communication open.
The King David High School grade eight trip to Israel has also been postponed. We have assured them that all additional financial aid that we provided to families will be there for them to use when the trip is rescheduled, and we are working on their behalf with partners in Israel to deal with the postponement arrangements.
The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) announced today that they are recalling North American shinshinim, so they can complete Israel’s mandatory 14-day quarantine in time to enjoy Passover seders with their families. We are working with JAFI to bring Omer and Camille back to Vancouver after that, but, as with everything, the situation is fluid. It’s not easy to say l’hitraot on such short notice, so we had a little bon voyage party for them in our boardroom today.
COVID-19 is impacting people in different ways. The Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver (HFLA) has established a $2,000 emergency loan program to meet the needs of individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19. Contact Joanna Wasel, HFLA's executive director, at or 604.428.2832.
We are in regular communication with stakeholders locally, nationally and internationally to get answers, make decisions, share information, and provide support. We are committed to ensuring our communications and our actions are open and transparent.

We consider information hygiene crucial. Each of us has a role to play, both in spreading reliable information and preventing the spread of COVID-19. When you share information, make sure it is accurate and reliable. Check the Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Centre for Disease Control websites when you need health-related information.

Many synagogues and other community organizations are being very proactive and providing information in their bulletins. If you are connected with them, please check the emails they are sending.

Thank you for your flexibility, your understanding, and your support as we and our partners work closely together during this challenging time.

Shabbat Shalom,


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

Our shinshinim Camille and Omer