Shabbat Message - March 6, 2020


This message has 706 words and will take about 3 minutes to read.


It’s nearly Purim, and if the holiday teaches us anything, it’s that we have the ability to handle whatever comes our way, even when the world seems topsy-turvy. There always have been, and always will be, times of uncertainty and anxiety. Purim teaches us that not only must we confront and deal effectively with serious issues, we must also balance that by seeking out a measure of levity. The need for both is what strikes me about this quote from a town in Texas that’s been making the rounds on social media: “Wash your hands like you just got done slicing jalapenos for a batch of nachos and you need to take your contacts out."
So, it’s in that context of balance that we want to give you an update on how we are approaching COVID-19 in terms of supporting our partners and the community. First, we are taking our lead from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). According to VCH, the risk of contracting the virus in BC remains low. That said, we feel it is sensible to take a proactive approach so that we are as prepared as possible.
We have been in touch with community organizations to let them know that we are here to help them as they determine their needs and respond to what is naturally a complex and fluid situation. We are not scientists and not a health advisory resource, but we can collaborate to ensure that the community receives consistent and reliable information. We want to work together to prevent the spread of inaccuracies and rumours, which can result in unnecessary anxiety.
To that end, we are establishing a COVID-19 Working Group of volunteer leadership, including a physician with public health expertise and a communications professional, among others. The group will act as a sounding board and an additional layer of support for community organizations and the COVID-19 Staff Group that we are also setting up.
The COVID-19 Staff Group will be comprised of Jewish communal professionals who represent multiple organizations, including senior Jewish Federation staff, our director of community security, and a congregational rabbi. The Staff Group will better position us to take a coordinated and comprehensive approach in terms of how the community responds to and communicates about situations as they evolve.
In the meantime, we are handling a few related issues, including providing support to our partners and staff, and working with international partners to understand the impact on organized trips to Israel, such as March of the Living.
We’re taking it step by step, and while it’s important to be prepared, it is equally important not to overreact. The risk remains low, and for the most part, it is business as usual. Kids are at school, programs are on, and so are community events.
So, let’s switch gears and focus on some of the joyful things that are happening throughout the community, like the warm welcome we gave to members of the Hockey Academy of Israel who are visiting from our partnership region in Israel. They brought 24 athletes and three coaches to Vancouver and they’ll be here until next Friday. We’re proud to support this visit as part of our commitment to building people-to-people connections between young people in our local community and their peers in the Upper Galilee.
Speaking of Israel, we are so excited for Yom Ha’atzmaut on April 28th and we can’t wait to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. We are planning to have a performance full of ruach (spirit). In addition to the songs we all love to sing along to, the Base Band will be presenting some humourous skits that follow the journey of a new IDF recruit on his way to becoming a member of an army band. Those bands played an instrumental role (both puns very much intended) in popularizing many of the songs we have come to associate with Israel and Yom Ha’atzmaut. Click here for more information and for tickets.
From programs in the regional communities to a special Shabbat dinner for young donors, there is much more that we look forward to sharing with you in next week’s message. Good thing Shabbat comes every week.

Shabbat shalom and chag Purim sameach.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

Athletes from Hockey Academy of Israel